Twenty years ago, even though it wasn’t written in the code, there was the presumption that a mother was going to get primary custody of children and it was hard for dads to overcome this historical bias. I think that is changing. Courts have had success in obtaining primary custody for dads for years. Most of the courts I’ve experienced are very open-minded to appointing dads as the primary custodial parent of children at any age.
This open-mindedness is a result of changes in society and the roles of parents within the family. More women are becoming professionals and more men are assuming the caretaker role within the family unit. Recently, Peer Research Centre did research on single-parent households and, based on the latest census numbers that they have, the increase in single-father households who had primary custody had risen from 14% in 1960 to almost 24% in 2011. The law may be lagging in terms of what society thinks about the gender roles within the family unit, but it’s headed in the right direction for fathers.
There are a lot of people who come through our doors and think, as a dad, there’s no way to get custody unless my wife is neglecting the children. That’s just not true. There are plenty of factors that go in to a custody agreement. If you want primary custody of your kids, regardless of if you are the mother or father, you must be an involved parent and participate in their lives. You need to engage with your children, go to their extracurricular activities, be involved with their schooling and with their physicians. When your attorney tells your story in front the court, they want to show how much you participate in your child’s life.
The point is, you want to be able to show the court that you have been involved even before the divorce situation started. If you come to court having a history of never being involved in your child’s life, then the court questions your sudden motivation to be involved now. Are you doing it because you want to reduce your child support or to get back at your spouse because you’re angry at them? The court only wants what is best for your child.