It hasn’t been that long since the prevailing attitude among family law judges was that children of divorcing parents should always remain with their mothers. The bias assumed that mothers were more nurturing, the primary caretaker, and that children had a deeper bond with them as opposed to their fathers. Although this has changed over the years to where judges now consider the best interests of the child, mothers still win custody more often than fathers do.
It’s true that gender roles and the responsibilities of each parent has changed significantly over the last few decades, but mothers still complete the bulk of childcare tasks. This is one reason why primary custody still goes to mothers the most often. However, it doesn’t mean that a dad who desires full or shared custody should give up that goal if he feels it’s in the best interests of his children. He should also understand the factors that family law judges consider when deciding on custody matters.
Which Parent Acts as the Primary Caregiver?
Judges in custody cases carefully review whether the mother or father has been each child’s primary caretaker until this point. Does he or she tend to go to one parent more than the other for comfort? Does one parent complete most of the tasks associated with raising a child, such as dressing, bathing, preparing meals, getting him or her ready for childcare or school, checking homework, and other similar duties? While some parents split these responsibilities equally, it’s more likely that women take on more of them. This is true even of mothers who work full-time outside of the home.
Fathers who have traditionally completed few childcare tasks should start taking on as much as possible before the divorce case reaches family court. Whether the children lives with the father full-time or only see him a few days a month, he will need to demonstrate that he can care for them on his own. Showing a willingness to take on more childcare responsibilities also casts a favorable light on dads who wish to have as much time as possible with their kids.
How Strong of a Bond Does the Child Have with Each Parent?
The younger the child, the more likely it is that he or she has a stronger bond with the mother. This is no fault of the father since mothers can breastfeed and often take more time off work or leave their jobs entirely to care for their infants. It’s good for fathers to take on as many of the traditionally nurturing roles as possible, such as feeding and bathing their children. They should also be able to prove to a family law judge that their children feel just as comfortable coming to them for help as their mother, if not more so.
Are Both Parents Willing to Help Foster a Relationship with the Other Parent?
Family courts like to see children have a meaningful relationship with both parents when possible. Therefore, the judge will seriously consider the willingness of each parent to set aside their own differences and encourage the children to spend time with and form a deep bond with the other parent.
A mother or father who continually speaks badly of the other parent or doesn’t allow the children to see their mom or dad will have a lot of explaining to do in family court and may just lose custody for this reason. Of course, the judge will also consider whether one parent is trying to protect the children from the violent temper, drug abuse, or other serious problem of the other parent. Parents in a custody battle should always remain respectful towards the other parent regardless of circumstances, especially in front of the children.
Get Help with Your Custody Case Today
No matter what your unique custody situation, it’s crucial to obtain experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., a law firm serving Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudon, Prince William, and Stafford, Virginia, invite you to contact us at 703-361-1555 to request a consultation. We will assess your custody case and discuss the best actions to take for a favorable outcome.