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Child custody rulings may illustrate gender discrimination

While some family law guidelines vary from state to state, many policies have become streamlined. For instance, child custody rulings decided in court typically reflect standardized procedures established in Illinois and other states around the country. The broad-stroke approach to assigning custody and visitation rights to parents is raising controversy, however, since there is evidence that legislation regarding family law issues may be biased.

There is a significant amount of research pointing to the fact that many potential issues like drug use, criminal activity, and school dropout rates can be diminished by ensuring that children have reliable access to both parents following a divorce. Current practices around the country, however, assign sole custody to biological mothers the majority of the time.

Using recent figures taken from one state as an example, it’s possible to see the gender gaps that arise in child custody arrangements. In 2011, approximately 60 percent of child custody disputes resulted in the mother gaining sole custody of the children. Joint custody was only awarded less than 30 percent of the time.
Critics of the way custody arrangements are determined in many cases argue that fit and loving fathers are being denied custody of their children because the system reflects unfounded preference towards mothers in many cases.

It’s noted that biological mothers were awarded primary custody of their children in more than 70 percent of cases that took place within the last decade in one state. Sole custody was awarded a little more than 12 percent of the time, while primary custody was only awarded to fathers in less than 14 percent of cases.

Proponents of mandating equal parenting time argue that only a small percentage of child custody cases necessitate sole custody, and that current policies equate to children only seeing their noncustodial parent for a little more than five days per month.

Source: yourhoustonnews.com, “Gender disparity in child custody awards is judicial relic that needs to end,” Jan. 20, 2014

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