Fathers have been afterthoughts when it comes to child custody. Though laws claim to uphold a father’s equal custody rights, they have been far from decisive. Courts have taken advantage of the gaps in these laws, granting mothers primary custody of children while fathers receive visitation and are forced to pay child support. Though the tables have begun turning, more change is necessary.
In the past, even if a father was qualified to serve as a primary caregiver he was typically not awarded custody. Many fathers prepared their own legal cases, which did not include strong examples of their parenting abilities. Had they retained a father’s rights lawyer the outcome may have been different. Unfortunately, many did not know that these legal professionals existed and others mistakenly assumed that they could not afford this representation.
Laws initially did not recognize father’s rights when it came to raising children alone. The role of the father in relation to his children has become murky and laws have not attempted to define this. Divorced fathers tend to have less physical contact with their children and the media often perpetuates this trend through anti-father propaganda. As mothers are encouraged to assume more roles traditionally assigned to males, fathers are not being allowed full participation in childrearing.
Increasing divorce rates led many states to assume the role of guardian of the “weaker sex.” Laws protected women with equal pay and required fathers to pay child support. Ninety percent of the time women received primary custody of children. A child support order need not account for fathers, allowing mothers to spend more time with children and exert a stronger influence on child development.
In some states, the battle to increase the custody rights of fathers waged for decades. Other states have passed legislation presuming that parents will share custody. Some state laws invoke a presumption that when both parents agree to it, joint custody serves the best interests of children. Florida legislature passed a bill in 1997 that promoted rotating custody, a 50-50 split, as a viable option.
Some legislators are calling for laws that require judges to issue specific findings regarding why one parent is being awarded primary custody. This would bring the true issues to light and reveal just how often father’s equal custody rights are disregarded. Until then, a father’s rights lawyer can increase the chance of a favorable outcome for a father fighting for custody.