Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Public opinion supports equal child custody rights for fathers
In the past, we have discussed the outdated myth that child custody disputes should usually be resolved in favor of the mother. In Georgia, family law judges are required to consider the best interests of the child first and foremost. The use of the best interests of the child standard demonstrates that there has been progress made towards making custody decisions more gender neutral. However, concerns remain about how gender bias can affect fathers' rights in child custody cases and the law is often slow to change in order to catch up to prevailing views in society.
Recent studies are showing that public opinion is growing increasingly in favor of equal custody rights for both fathers and mothers.
The studies were conducted by psychology professors and students at Arizona State University. In one study, the researchers analyzed the results of elections and public opinion polls and found that there is now great public support for dividing child custody equally between both parents.
A second study went even further by questioning prospective jurors in a local jury pool. The study gave the jurors a series of hypothetical situations and asked the jurors how they would divide child custody when both parents were requesting as much time as possible. In one hypothetical situation, the mother provided 75 percent of childcare duties before the divorce. In the second hypothetical situation, the father provided 75 percent of the childcare duties. In the third hypothetical case, the mother and father divided childcare responsibilities 50-50.
The researchers found that the jurors strongly favored equal child custody for both parents. In the hypothetical case with the 50-50 split, 69 percent of jurors favored equal child custody rights for both parents. Of the rest of the respondents, almost all of the jurors favored having the child live with the mother and spend a lot of time with the father.
Interestingly, the prospective jurors favored equal time even in the hypothetical cases involving a 75-25 pre-divorce division of childcare responsibilities. The study also found no difference of opinion between male and female respondents in the study.
This study is good news for advocates of fathers' rights in that it indicates that public opinion is solidly in favor of an equal division of child custody rights when all other factors are neutral. However, it is important to note that child custody decisions are often made by judges and not by jurors. Judges must consider the best interests of the child when they make child custody decisions. Therefore, it is very important for parents to put their best cases forward by working with an experienced family law attorney when they are faced with a child custody hearing.
Source: Medical News Today, "Public Favors Equal Custody For Children Of Divorce," 5/3/2011