In the past it was presumed and more common that the custody of a child or children in a divorce case would fall to the mother. However, the modern way of thinking for the law and custody is that the law does not show bias towards either the mother or the father. The majority of states in the U.S. no longer dictate a presumptive position for all divorce cases, but rather allow the decision of custody to be decided on a case by case basis.
Even though the law no longer pre-decides on custody, the mother is still more likely to receive custody of a child or the children in a divorce. Specific custody laws vary from state to state, but the one commonality among all that laws is that they strive to determine the “best interests of the child (children). Most states still believe that custody that belongs to the mother is in the best interest of the children, which is why mothers remain the majority of winners in custody decisions.
As a father, you do have rights. The more fathers understand about what criteria courts consider, when deciding on custody, the better a father’s chances of achieving an agreeable and fair custody outcome. There are several levels and variations of custody that a father can push for in a custody decision. Joint physical custody, sole custody, generous visitation rights, along with other options are all possible custody case outcomes that a father can push for the court to grant.
The Child’s Primary Caregiver
One of the first things courts look at is … Who is the child’s primary caregiver? In many states the primary caregiver is the parent, who most often directly cares for the child. In some states the primary caregiver is also the parent, who is most capable, willing, and able to provide care in the best interest of the child.
Some fathers believe that the primary caregiver in a family is the person who makes the money to provide a life for the children. This is only the smallest part of what the courts consider as the definition of primary caregiver. A primary caregiver is also the parent, who is responsible for taking care of a child’s daily needs, like feeding, bathing, clothing, putting down for a nap, playing with, getting the child off to school, taking the child to the doctor, and any other activities that directly affect the child’s daily life. While more women are in the full time workforce than ever before, it is still more likely (although not always) that they are the ones by default, who are (by most definitions) the primary caregivers.
The Relationship between the Child and Each Parent
Most courts also consider the nature of the relationship or bond between the child and each of the parents. At a biological level, the younger the child, the stronger the bond is between the mother and the child. Even if a father is “father of the year”, in the first several months of life, a child relies heavily on its mother for all of its basic needs. Therefore, the bond between the child and the mother will be stronger, when the child is younger. Fathers can still play important roles in young children’s lives. The more a father is involved in a child’s life and the stronger the father-child bond is, the more likely it will be for a positive outcome in a joint custody arrangement.
The majority of states still end up granting custody to the mother; however, the gap is narrowing. The majority of states still believe that it is ultimately in the child’s best interest to be able to maintain a relationship with both parents. As a father, it is important to understand the type of criteria courts consider, when deciding on custody and hire a lawyer to help you prepare and understand. The better prepared a father is, the more likely it is that the custody decision will be agreeable and fair to both parents and in the child’s best interest.