Texas child advocates may have noticed that changes in how family law courts apply the venerable “best interests of the child” litmus test for deciding whom that child will live with have unexpectedly given a boost for to single-dad households. The concept of shared parenting is becoming the go-to paradigm for awarding child custody. Some say the rise of shared parenting is at least partially behind more single fathers raising their children.
For the past decade and a half, states have been changing judges’ criteria for custody rulings, which for generations had been for children to be awarded to the mother because this was believed to be in the child’s “best interests.” The new ideal in the U.S. holds joint parenting as the courts’ desired outcome. In states including Maine, Oregon, Arizona, Iowa and Minnesota, judges have, whenever possible, called for an equal time split between mothers and fathers.
However, that intention appears to have made for a sharp upturn in the number of single-dad households. Analysts say that part of this change is due to fathers realizing that there is another way for divorced parents to raise children than the mother keeping sole physical custody and the father getting weekends, holidays and a few weeks in the summer. This new understanding of the courts’ recognition of the importance of fathers’ contributions in the lives of their children has apparently made many dads more willing to ask for even more.
Child custody is one of the most challenging aspects even of friendly divorces. Family law judges will always rule in favor of the best interests of the child, but what those interests are held to be may differ from state to state.
Source: The Atlantic, “The Rise of the Single Dad“, Caroline Kitchener , February 24, 2014