Historically, fathers have not gotten to spend as much time with their children as mothers, at least when those parents are not married or when they get divorced. There was a time in the country’s history when courts would assume that a mother would be a better caretaker than a father, and they would automatically give her custody of the children.
At the same time, fathers were more likely to be involved in the workforce. This was before the rise of equal rights for female workers, and the cultural shifts that now mean women are just as likely to work as men. In any case, this also meant that fathers would often be ordered to pay child support since they had an income and mothers did not.
Is this still how it works? If you’re getting divorced, should you be worried that you’re never going to see your children again?
Those days are long over
There is good news. The days when mothers automatically received custody of children are long over in Louisiana. Courts now tend to presume that it is better for both parents to be involved, so they will err on the side of giving both parents custody time. This sometimes means a 50/50 split, and it sometimes means that one parent still sees the child less often. But it is very uncommon for the court to simply hand sole custody to a mother on account of her gender. This is seen as unfair to the fathers and unfair to the children.
And it’s not just Louisiana where this change has happened. It mirrors a shift in the entire country. “In the United States, over the past 25 years,” noted The Washington Post, “there has been a broad movement by families and courts to give divorced and separated fathers more time with their children and to encourage less traditionally gendered parenting.”
Why has this happened?
The reason for this change is not just about giving fathers more time to see their kids or respecting their rights, although that certainly plays a role. A big part of it is that researchers have found that children tend to adapt better and develop more proficiently when they are involved with both parents. Since the courts are trying to find the best solution for the children, if that solution means that they have to split custody between their parents, that is what the court assumes will be best.
If you have custody concerns as you move toward your divorce, be sure you understand your rights and all the options at your disposal.