If you’re in the midst of a divorce or custody battle, you might have heard that men face bias in the court system. While there are times where men are unfairly treated in the outcome of divorce and/or custody, it doesn’t appear to be the norm in today’s modern society. There are countless households throughout the United States where men share parenting duties equally or even have primary or full custody of their children.
Although the court system isn’t perfect and there are some historical biases against men, the courts of Louisiana strive to base settlements and custody agreements on facts that support the best interests of children. If you are fighting for increased time with your children, an attorney can help you avoid gender bias and develop a case that demonstrates your ability to provide a nurturing environment for your children.
Where does the idea of gender bias in family law originate?
Some cases of gender bias in the past can be attributed to a concept called the “tender years doctrine”. This concept arose out of the United Kingdom in the 19th century. The “tender years doctrine” argues that mothers are best equipped to care for children—especially children four years older and younger. This doctrine is a product of its time, when men were more likely to be the sole source of income and were subsequently unable to care for their children because of their work demands. Now that most households in the United States are two-income households, child rearing duties are more equally distributed between mothers and fathers.
Today’s judges recognize that the “tender years doctrine” is an antiquated concept and doesn’t reflect the dynamics of a modern family. Instead, today’s courts operate with a standard that seeks to protect the best interests of children.
What do statistics say about men’s rights in family law cases?
Statistics give us some insight into how the court system approaches custody cases. These statistics show that the majority of custody arrangements are actually determined by parents and not the court system. According to an article in the Huffington Post, 51% of custody cases where the mother had majority custody was determined by both parents in mediation. Interestingly, about 29% of the aforementioned cases involved parents coming to custody agreements without a third party. From these statistics, we can infer that people—not the courts—tend to place more parental responsibilities on mothers.
While parents can come together to divide caregiving duties, there are instances where a parent has to petition the courts for custody. When fathers need to petition the courts, they will need to prove their merit as a person and as a parent. This means fathers must be able to demonstrate that they are a competent and fit caregiver for their children. Similarly, if a woman is petitioning for custody of her children in court, she will need to demonstrate the same merit.
Judges will look at a number of factors—beyond gender—when determining who is awarded custody. Factors such as a child’s home environment, performance in school, and access to healthcare hold importance in custody cases. The custodial parent will need to demonstrate that he or she can provide a nurturing and stable environment for their children. A family law attorney can help you develop a case that proves your worth as a parent regardless of gender. If you are fighting for custody or need to amend an existing custody agreement, contact Stanley-Wallace Law at (985) 288-4621 to schedule a consultation. Our Slidell, LA-based practice has represented men and women throughout Slidell and the neighboring communities with custody cases, divorce, and spousal support.