Father’s Rights on Father’s Day

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Saturday, June 14, 2014.

Happy Father’s Day! There is a feeling among fathers that courts assume the mother is the only real parent. Men fear losing their kids in divorce court. Many think divorce courts are biased towards women. Are they right?

As Slate reports:

There’s a real perception – even women share it – that courts are unfair to fathers,” says Ira Ellman, a custody expert at Arizona State University. But in fact the great revolution in family court over the past 40 years or so has been the movement away from the presumption that mothers should be the main, or even sole, caretakers for their children.

Cases which involve fathers who never married the mothers are relatively new to the courts, but divorce courts have a long history of trying to keep up with changing gender dynamics.

The legal presumption that mothers should automatically get custody of children what in Florida we used to call the “tender years” doctrine has been abolished. Now Florida has a presumption of shared parental responsibility.

Are men’s rights activists right when they argue mother preference still exists? According to one of the most thorough surveys of child custody outcomes, which looked at Wisconsin between 1996 and 2007, the percentage of divorce cases in which the mother got sole custody dropped to 45.7% from 60.4%.

A recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers shows that an increasing number of moms will be setting aside time to sign child support and alimony checks. Overall, 56% of the nation’s top divorce attorneys say that they have seen an increase in the number of mothers paying child support during the past three years, while 47% also note a rise in women being responsible for alimony throughout the same time period.

The real inequality in family courts these days may not be gender bias, but income bias. Wealthy men can end up paying very little in child support if they fight for substantial or majority timesharing. For poor men though, who may lack the ability to care for their children most of the time and pay a larger percentage of their salary as child support, the law may seem stacked against them.

For more on the Slate story, click here.