Do Mothers Have more Rights to Child Custody than Fathers?

Although many people assume that moms have more child custody rights than dads, the truth is, U.S. custody laws don't give mothers an edge in custody proceedings.

Updated by , Attorney (UC Law San Francisco)
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Many people assume that mothers have greater child custody rights than fathers. However, the fact is that no custody laws in the U.S. give mothers a preference or additional rights to custody of their children. If you are going through a divorce, or have a child outside of marriage and are considering requesting custody of your child, it's imperative that you understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Although this article may provide some answers, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for help.

Why do some people assume that mothers have more rights?

There are a few reasons that it is often assumed the mother has the upper hand in custody cases. Historically, it was assumed that the mother would get custody of the children in divorce due to the fact that in most cases, the mother was the primary caretaker or main care provider for the children when the family was in tact, while statistically, the father was the one that worked outside of the home and provided for the family. Because of this, many fathers assumed that they'd have no possibility of being granted custody, and most never even contested the issue.

    Do custody laws contain gender preferences?

    No. Today, many mothers work outside of the home and earn an income, while fathers stay home and work as the primary caretakers. There is no gender preference stated in custody laws. With very young children, such as babies or infants, there may be a tendencey to give primary custody to the parent that is breastfeeding an infant through the night (which will also be the mother), with few to no overnights to the other parent until such time as the child no longer requires night feedings. However, this tendency has more to do with what's in the child's best interests (feeding schedules and sleep routines) than the parents' genders. If, for example, the father is responsible for night feedings, say if the child is drinking only formula through a bottle, then there may be no need to prohibit overnights. Judges will make these sorts of decisions using a case-by-case analysis of the facts surrounding custody and will then determine what sort of arrangment is in the child's best interests.

    What should you do if you want custody?

    If you want to fight for custody of your children, you need to get help from a qualified divorce attorney who is experienced in custody issues.

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