To say that family dynamics have changed in the past few decades would be quite an understatement. Very few families in 2021 look the way the “traditional family” did in the 1950’s. Today, it seems like every family is different! Some families have one parent, some families have gay parents, some families have one kid, some families have adopted children from other races and ethniticities, and so much more. Some families have a wife who works full time while her husband stays at home and handles a majority of the childcare and housework. While all of these may be great for diversity and inclusion, a stay-at-home dad situation does make a divorce a bit tricker. Just like the traditional family has gone away, a traditional divorce settlement has too!
There’s two combating ideas happening in a case like this. Judges tend to award primary child custody to the parent who is already doing a majority of the child rearing. For many families, this is the mom. At the same time, the laws in many states have since been rewritten to be more gender-neutral and to more-clearly indicate that the best interests of the child are what is important. It would stand to reason then that in a divorce case where the father has been an apt, present, and competent parent, staying home and raising the children, he should be awarded primary custody.
However, there is still a lingering sense that mothers make better caregivers that is causing more family court judges to award mothers custody, even in a case like this. In addition to the notion that women simply make better caregivers than men, there is also cultural pressure placed on the mom. Often, women feel they must fight for their maternal rights and petition the court for primary or sole custody even if they have not been their children’s primary caregiver. It’s what is expected and they worry they’ll be judged harshly in their social circles if they do not.
Things have certainly been changing in the last 20 years or so, but we are not yet at a place where our court system is completely gender neutral. You should not assume because you are a stay-at-home dad who does a majority of the child rearing that you will be awarded more child custody in a divorce.
Don’t let this discourage you! There are several things that fathers can do to help increase their chances of being awarded primary custody, including hiring an expert family attorney. The judge will not automatically award you primary custody because you are a stay-at-home dad, but your Covington divorce lawyer at Ellen Cronin Badeaux will fight hard for your rights! We want you to see divorce as a new opportunity to continue your life and rebuild it, with your children heavily involved in your future.