The structure of the typical American family has changed since the turn of the century. While stay-at-home dads numbered fewer than one out of every 100 fathers before the year 2000, that number has more than tripled to greater than 2.5 of every 100 fathers living life as a full time dad. The trend toward greater male involvement in the life of children is clear; the impact this involvement will have in child custody cases is anything but clear, however.
Courts tend to be behind the times in recognizing the importance of fathers in child custody cases, so consulting with a lawyer who has extensive experience in this area is critical to any father who is faced with a divorce that could jeopardize his relationship with his children.
What factors have led to the increase of stay-at-home dads?
Two categories of stay-at-home fathers were analyzed during a recent study: fathers who stay home because they are unable to work, and those who have chosen to stay home specifically to provide care for their offspring. Fathers who have made the conscious choice to stay home often do so when the mother has a greater earning potential for the family. The male influence has been shown to have a highly positive effect on children involved, particularly when the father has chosen the path of caretaker as opposed to feeling forced to remain home due to an inability to work.
Fathers’ rights during divorce
Divorce is always difficult for all involved, but stay-at-home fathers have the unique challenge of proving their role to the court during divorce hearings. If a couple is unable to come to a childcare agreement independently, a judge will decide how both parents will share custody of their children. Stay-at-home fathers who have grown accustomed to being with their children everyday may feel excluded if visitation rights are reduced to weekends or only a few days per week. Fathers in this situation are urged to contact a lawyer with significant experience in child custody matters. This experience can mean the difference between an objective decision from the judge and one simply made from an older mindset – which inaccurately purports that mothers are always the primary caretakers of children.