Are fathers' rights changing enough when it comes to custody?

There was a time when mothers had a distinct advantage when seeking custody of their children. Courts made decisions based on the assumption that mothers were positioned better to keep the kids, not fathers. Fathers who wanted to stay heavily involved in their children's lives had a difficult time after divorcing.

Fortunately, custody matters are evening out a little between the genders, although fathers' rights have a long way to go.

The historical view

In previous decades, many people assumed that men worked and provided for the family financially, while women stayed home and looked after the kids. From this perspective, it seemed logical to many that men should pay child support and women should get custody, keeping those roles in place.

This assumption made it very difficult for fathers who wanted to raise their kids, who wanted to be present as them grew up and who wanted to stay involved in every aspect of their lives. Dads wanted much more involvement than paying child support and seeing their kids every other weekend, or twice a month.

As women gained more equality in the workplace, that assumption began to change. Women didn't always want to be the primary caregivers; they had careers and professional goals. Men wanted to be more than financial support; they wanted to really forge relationships with their children.

A more modern view

Today, studies find that most people don't think custody should go only to the mother or father, but to both. They prefer joint custody, allowing both parents equal time with the kids and equal time to work on their careers.

Some argue that bias in favor of mothers still exists, and in some areas that is the case. However, studies do show a change. For instance, one study found that mothers got sole custody in 60.4 percent of cases in 1996, but that fell to 45.7 percent by 2007. Another study found that more and more mothers are actually told to pay child support. Finally, joint custody became twice as common, quickly jumping from 15.8 percent of cases to 30.5. It's still not the majority, according to that study, but that's an indisputable change.

Parental rights

As people's views on custody and support change, laws should shift to reflect societal changes. It's very important for those involved in divorce cases to know how the current laws are written and pursue their rights to child custody.

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