Good news for fathers trying to get custody of their kids during and after a divorce: your chances are winning physical custody of your children are higher than ever before, and mothers across the country are facing the reality that the “tender years doctrine” is virtually gone forever.
The tender years doctrine, around since the 1800’s, is the legal principle that says children in the tender years (ages 4-7 and under) need to be with their mother. This doctrine was abolished in most states in 1994.
That kids need to be with their mothers at young ages is simply not true claim millions of Dads in mediation proceedings and courtrooms all over the United States.
That Was Then, This Is Now
According to an article in Working Mother magazine, statistics show that there are now approximately 2.2 million divorced women in the United States who don’t have primary physical custody of their children, and about 50% of fathers seeking primary physical custody in a disputed divorce are granted it.
When parents are divorcing, both are entitled to certain rights. Many women just take control of the children as men either don’t know their rights, or they do know them and don’t put forth the effort to make sure their rights are enforced.
Historically, unless a mother was deemed unfit to care for her children, she would be awarded primary physical custody, and fathers were often given every other weekend and one weeknight each week. The parents usually split holidays.
But times are changing.
Rights of Both Parents, Not Just Mom
Many men may not even realize that they are entitled to these rights:
- Able to spend time with his kids
- Be involved in the kids’ lives
- Equal say and participation in parenting (where the kids go to school, religious beliefs, etc.)
- Equal access to medical records and medical decisions
- Discipline the child as he sees fit without mother’s approval
Co-Parenting Can Mean Two Loving Homes
While critics argue that sharing equal custody of children creates a life of living out of suitcases and having no stability, a lot can be said for parents who take on the challenge of true co-parenting.
When it’s done right, co-parenting gives both parents a fair shot at experiencing their child’s formative years firsthand.
When it’s done right, co-parenting provides two safe, stable places to call home for children.
When it’s done right, co-parenting allows the various gifts and talents of the parents to be shared with their children.
When it’s done right, co-parenting ensures the children grow up in two environments where they know they’re loved and that their best interests, safety and happiness are the primary concerns of two parents.
Shared parenting has become a trend nationwide, and fathers are working hard (often with the help of a lawyer) to win primary physical custody of their children, or, at the very least, shared/equal custody. With so many mothers working out of the home full time and many men (and women) able to earn a great living working from home, the traditional “Mom gets the kids; Dad gets to visit” mentality is slowly, but surely, being replaced with the philosophy that the children belong in the custody of the better parent, regardless of whether it’s Mom or Dad.
Attorney David Cole represents fathers and mothers in divorce proceedings and other family law matters in Vermont and New Hampshire. Please call us today to learn about your rights.