According to national statistics, less than one in five fathers is granted custody of minor children in a divorce proceeding. That may seem to be strong evidence of a bias in the courts toward mothers, but it’s more often based on a number of other factors.
Was the Mother the Primary Caregiver?
In determining who will have physical custody, the courts always give maximum weight to the “best interests of the child.” One of the first questions the court will ask is “which parent was the primary caregiver?” Courts seek to promote emotional stability for minor children and generally believe that children will best thrive when they have continuity in parenting. So, if the mother spent the most time with the child on a day-to-day basis, was the one who instilled discipline and values, and met the child’s needs, the court will want to perpetuate that relationship.
If you are a father who’s not been very involved in your child’s life, it’s not too late to start. It’s unlikely that you’ll be granted custody, but you may be able to get improved visitation rights. In addition, you’ll be better able to care for your children when they are with you.
Who Stayed with the Children?
Often, a grant of custody to the mother is simply a legal recognition that, as a part of the divorce proceeding, the mother stayed in the marital home with the children and the father left. Unfortunately, this often happens before the court orders either of the parties to leave the marital home. The reality is that, though it may be difficult to stay under the same roof with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, there’s no legal requirement that you leave until there’s a court order requiring you to do so. Furthermore, if you leave the marital home, it will be difficult for you to have the same bond with your children as their mother does, since she is with them almost all the time.