Child custody and fathers’ rights have changed drastically throughout history. There have always been unspoken and unwritten rules about who cares for the kids, but eventually, it became something modern courts involved themselves in.
The Parental Rights Foundation explains that the foundation of child custody has always been what is best for the children. However, the idea of what is best has evolved.
Best interests defined
Before you can understand the history of child custody, you need to know what best interests mean. The idea is to make decisions that produce the least amount of disruption in a child’s life while also providing the best arrangement for the child’s health and safety. When courts make any custody decisions, they do so with the child in mind, not the parents. This is a long-standing criterion.
In the past
In the past, the general default for awarding custody was to give the majority of parenting time to the mother. This stems from the basic idea that women are the nurturing sex who gives birth to the children and has natural inclinations to take care of their needs.
For decades, it was rare for a father to be able to secure custody. At best, he would have visitation time. The main duty of fathers was to pay support and continue the stereotypical male duty of providing for the family.
As society as changed and typical gender roles have evolved, so has child custody. Most states now focus on equal parenting. Joint custody is more common. The law recognizes that what is best for a child is a healthy relationship with both parents, so fathers now have more rights and a better chance of getting at least partial custody.
The evolution of child custody now recognizes that what is best for kids is the attention and care of both parents. Courts enter into the process of awarding custody with the idea that both parents are equal.