Back in the June Cleaver era, it was generally assumed that the husband would go off to work while the wife stayed home, made dinner, raised the children, and greeted her husband at the door with a martini when he walked in at 5 PM. This, however, is no longer the norm with working mothers accounting for approximately 40% of top earners in households with children. With such dramatic shifts in home life, Courts are having to adapt their default custody arrangements away from almost always awarding primary custody to the mother. These days, Courts are now trending toward giving shared custody between parents, allowing fathers to take a more active role in their children’s lives.
Historically, courts have awarded primary custody to one person and temporary custody or visitation to the other person. This was the default when one parent, typically the father, worked the majority of the time and another parent, typically the mother, would stay home to raise the children. Today, the vast majority of US households have two working parents and are more apt to share parenting responsibilities between the two parties. In addition, there is a growing number of supporters for fathers’ rights in custody arrangements. Society now recognizes how important it is for children to have time with both parents and it is becoming increasingly acceptable for men to take on roles traditionally held only by women. With trends such as these, Courts are becoming more progressive, and trending toward awarding joint custody which gives each parent decision-making authority for matters regarding a child’s life, regardless of how duties were split up during the marriage.
Custody arrangements can be crafted in an endless number of ways and does not have to be one week with mom and the next week with dad. If two people can be creative and work together, a joint custody arrangement can be obtained without the need to go to the Court. But, if you do have to go to Court, remember that Judges don’t simply award custody to the mother because she is the mother. Courts are taking a hard look at how each person parents and consider what will be the best interest of the child. This very well may result in dad having joint, or even primary, custody.