Friday, March 7, 2014

More Single Dads?

Although traditionally fathers were the non-custodial parent in custody battles, according to a recent survey, single fathers makeup about 8 percent of current households with minor children. This reflects a 9x increase in the United States since the 1960s. Whereas, the increase of single mothers only increased by 4x in the same period of time.

What effects does this trend have on the current state of family law? Although Washington abandoned the tender years doctrine years ago, today the courts are making an effort to be more equitable in division of time to both parents in viewing that it is often in the child’s best interests to spend time with both parents.

Some state legislators have shifted their inquiry away from the traditional “best interest of the child” model, to a policy that favors more integrated, joint physical custody of the child. In particular, our southern neighbor Oregon has taken a pretty aggressive stance on the custody issue and has passed legislation that makes joint parenting the default. This thereby encourages that the child spend equal time with both parents.  However, according to the research, this may be a reason for an increase of single fathers as the custodial parent.

Some argue that this new trend functions as an empowerment tool. As single fathers are granted more time with their children, these men begin to value their parenting abilities. As such, they may be more inclined to ask for more parenting time. Further, given the reality that only a small percentage of custody cases go to trial, this allows for more opportunities to negotiate parenting schedules, thus prompting fathers to seek more time with their children.  

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