Custody and the Father's Rights Movement
The father’s rights movement began in the 1960s and became more widely known and discussed as the Internet became more widespread. The movement was formed partly as a result of father's rights advocates' perceived bias against fathers in custody issues, contending that courts typically interpret the accepted "best interests of the children" standard as a presumption that primary child custody should be with the mother.
Advocates for father's rights in custody issues have sought to change the presumption to that of a rebuttable presumption of equal custody, although there are more courts that are now looking to the totality of the circumstances in deciding which parent should have primary physical custody.
Rebuttable Presumption of Equal Custody
The father's rights movement and its relation to custody asserts the following components in support of its objectives:
- Gender roles are shifting, and more men are now stay-at-home fathers.
- Even working fathers have become more family-oriented, as sensitivities to children's needs have evolved.
- Children are better off with shared parenting and have fewer academic problems and are less inclined toward crime, substance abuse, and depression.
- If shared parenting is not agreed upon, children do better in all areas of their lives if the father is the primary custodian.
- End or modify no-fault divorce since fault is still used against fathers in deciding custody issues.
Critics of Shared Parenting
The father's rights movement is not without its many critics. Many legal observers dispute that family law courts are biased against men, and feminist groups have contended that if court-ordered, many fathers would not perform their shared custody role. Others feel that the movement is merely a counter-movement to women seeking more rights in the workplace and home, and that it seeks to reclaim male power in domestic violence and child abuse issues in which women are often accused of making false accusations to gain advantage in divorce cases.
Future of the Movement
With divorce rates around 50 percent or higher, more families are divided. Also, with advances in equality in education and the workplace, as well as a faltering economy, more women have entered the labor market, but often must come home to care for their children without a partner.
Fathers who are the primary custodians share this dilemma, so equal parenting might be one solution, so long as expenses are either shared or based on the parents' income.
Shifting a perceived presumption in favor of the mother to the father may only create resentment, and the argument that children are always better off with the father as primary custodian is not a widely shared view. What is generally acknowledged is that many factors determine how well children cope with the loss of the traditional family unit.
Children need both parents equally. Of course, children without fathers suffer, but so do children without mothers. Shared parenting is a sound idea if both parents are equally committed, practice civility, live near each other to minimize disruption of the children's social and educational circles, and place their own self interests second to those of their children.
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