There is a belief that the court system places little importance on the role that fathers have with their children and that mothers are the default primary parent in a divorce situation. While there was a time when the idea of a father having equal or even primary residential time with the children was uncommon, that is no longer true. The courts encourage both parents to have a strong bond and involvement with the children.
A Massachusetts study followed 2100 cases over a five year period where fathers sought custody. Father's received primary or joint custody 94% of the time, when they sought custody (29% of fathers were granted primary custody and 65% of fathers were given joint custody). A key issue is that many fathers do not ask for joint or primary residential time, perhaps due to the misconception that they do not have the same rights as mothers.
Societal shifts in the roles of men and women in a marriage and family affect the view of the court as well. It is recognized that many women work just as many hours outside of the home as men. Today, men are sometimes the primary caregivers at home. Changes in the law have equalized the playing field as well. In 1973, the Uniform Parentage Act was introduced, which addresses the need for equal relationships between both of the parents and the children. It also deals with the natural father’s right to obtain visitation, custody, and his decision-making authority regarding adoption.
As we reflect on Father’s Day, we acknowledge the vital role that dad’s play in their children’s lives. The unique relationships that we forge with our dads impact us throughout our lives. The court sees the value of mothers and fathers building bonds with their kids.
I grew up in a household the youngest of four children with three older brothers. We had a family tradition that whenever a child reached 13 years old, they would climb Mt. McLoughlin, which is near my home town in Southern Oregon, with my dad. It was a rite of passage that as a teenager, signaled that we were entering a new phase of life. Our young minds put great importance on this event.
On the momentous day that my dad and I began the climb, I was filled with excitement, ready to take part in the family tradition. This was especially meaningful to me, since I was the only girl, and yet he treated me equally. Unfortunately, my 13 year old self did not take into account the difficulty of the climb. No great skill was required, just perseverance. (Not a trait often found in 13 year olds.) We pushed on until we were a few hundred feet from the top.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of looking down to see how far we had come. Then I recalled that I am terrified of heights and froze in place. I promptly sat down on my butt and informed my dad that I was done. I was quietly praying for a helicopter to come and pick me up and fly me down to the bottom of the mountain, where sensible people should keep their feet firmly planted at a MUCH lower and flatter elevation. My dad, however, pushed me to continue, convincing me that I could do it and that the top of the mountain was near. His encouragement and strength got me to the summit. To this day, whenever I see Mt. McLoughlin I am filled with such a feeling of pride that
I actually made it to the top. I never would have done that without the help of my dad. That is just one experience with my dad that shaped who I am today.
We encourage you to explore your legal options regarding parenting by contacting a legal professional to advise you about your options.