Have you ever heard that mothers always get custody of children in a divorce?
It wasn’t to long ago that this was, for the most part, true. Most courts automatically presumed the mother was best suited to take care of their children. Most states no longer honor that presumption, however. (In fact, some states have passed laws stating that there is no custody preference for women over men.) No state now requires that a child be awarded to the mother without regard to the fitness of both parents. Most states require custody be based on what’s in the children’s best interests, without regard to the parent’s gender.
Despite changes in law, most divorces do in fact end with the mother retaining custody. This can be because the father automatically thinks the mother will win anyways, or perhaps that the mother knows her children better, or the belief that she has more time.
If you are a father and want primary custody, don’t let outdated gender stereotypes stop you. If both parents work full time and the child has after school care then both parents are on equal standing. It will fall to the court to decide what is in the best interest of the child.
What does a judge have to consider? This is no way a definitive list but it is a good starting point.
- Who Is the child’s “Primary Caregiver”? One factor in determining custody is which parent has been the primary caregiver for the child. Some states actually use the term “primary caregiver”; others refer to the parent who is best able to meet the child’s needs, who is most willing to accept parental responsibilities, or who has been caring for the child.
- Parent-Child Relationship: Another factor the court must consider is the relationship between parent and child. The younger the child, the more likely it is that the mother will have a closer bond to the child. The mother is typically the one to feed the child from birth through the younger years and that bonds allows for a different kind of tether than a father might have with a child.
- The court must also consider the relationship with the other parent. Believe it or not, the court wants the child to go where it will have the healthiest relationship with both parents. If one parent is constantly bad mouthing the other, or otherwise creating a negative image of the other parent, then the court must consider which parent will foster the best relationship for all parties.
If primary custody is something you are interested in, seek legal counsel. Know your options, rights and don’t let old stereotypes ruin your relationship with your children.