Research consistently shows children who have fathers who take an active role in their lives do better socially, academically, are more likely to stay in school, and are less likely to take drugs. Gone are the days when family courts completely favored mothers in child custody battles. Men throughout the United States are now seeing the courts and lawyers dedicated to making sure fathers have a level playing field when it comes to getting access and custody of their children.
But experts argue there is still a ways to go before all states have laws which are considered “father friendly.” In fact, according to a recent report in the USA Today, there are only a handful of states such as Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri and Maine who have codified certain steps to ensure gender-equal in the child custody decision-making process.
Additionally, not only do state laws differ, but decisions can also vary within county from judge to judge, making it critical to talk to a divorce lawyer familiar with the laws and statutes in your state.
Judges should focus on the parent, not the gender
So how will child custody decisions be made after your divorce? Courts are supposed to consider what is in the best interest of the child, but before making their decision they will evaluate a wide range of factors:
- How involved each parent has been with the child prior to divorce?
- Whether each parent has the means to support the child?
- What is the relationship with the child with each parent?
- What’s the educational level of each parent?
- Does either parent have a history of violence or drug abuse?
- Does the child have stronger emotional ties to one or the other parent?
- What type of extended family relationships exist?
- Can each parent provide social, moral and emotional support to the child?
The good news is courts like for parents to formulate the parenting agreement, allowing the judge to approve it. If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, however, the court will get more involved. Regardless of how your agreement is created, it should be formulated without regard to the gender of each parent.
How have child custody decisions changed?
Over the last twenty years evidence suggests more and more courts have become sympathetic to fathers. The USA Today reviewed court records in Wisconsin published online last month in the journal Demography involving minors from 1986 to 2008, totaling 9,873 cases. After the review they concluded,“Over that period, mothers receiving sole custody dropped from 80% to 42%, while instances of equal shared child custody increased from 5% to 27% and unequal shared custody rose from 3% to 18%.”
So while it’s clear the move towards equality in child custody cases is improving, if you want to be involved in parenting your child it’s important to talk to a divorce lawyer who understands your desires and is dedicated to fighting for you.
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