The topic of divorce is never one that has been taken lightly. After all, there is no reason to consider divorce as something that is beneficial to society much less beneficial to its most basic structure which is the family. A divorce, while technically and legally speaking, only separates the bond between husband and wife has other effects such as the dissolution of the family and the degradation of family bonds (Child Support Arrears Fathers’ Rights 1). Several studies that have been conducted have shown that perhaps one of the most detrimental effects of divorces is the fact that the children who are involved are not able to grow up with the benefit of a solid and supporting family and as such have a higher tendency to resort to crime and exhibit anti-social behavior (In the Best Interest of the Child 1).
It is clear that the best way to counter the ill effects of divorce is by creating a situation whereby the children are able to grow up with the benefit of having not only financial but also moral support from both parents.
This, however, is not always the case as the problem of custody has always been a heated one. It has been argued that because of the motherhood instincts of women they are the better parent to have custody over the children. There is reason to believe, however, that in the absence of the ideal situation of having both parents sharing joint custody the father is the better parent to have custody over the children.
It is true that there have been arguments and studies that tend to show to a certain degree that fathers may not be the best parent to give custody over the children to yet recent findings have shown that the father may perhaps be the better parent in custody cases (In the Best Interest of the Child 1). It is important to remember, however, that this is not an absolute rule and that certain exceptions may exists under different circumstances.
In arguing that the father should get custody over the children in divorces, it is important to first dwell on the historical and traditional roles of parents in the family and how this has changed due to the empowerment of women and the changing lifestyles of the 21st century. Traditionally, the family structure was a hierarchical. The father, as the head of the family, was tasked with providing for the family and making the important decisions for the rest of the family (Child Support Arrears Fathers’ Rights 1). The mother, as the caretaker, was in charge of attending to the daily tasks of the household such as making sure there was dinner for the family or cleaning up and also primarily rearing the children. As the children would grow up, these traditional roles played by their parents would act as their guide on how they would structure their own respective families and on the roles that they had to play (Child Support Arrears Fathers’ Rights 1).
The opening of the workplace to women and the changing lifestyles ushered about by the 20th century and well continuing into the 21st century has changed if not challenged these traditional family roles. The father, while still retaining the symbolic head of the family title, was no longer solely in charge of just important decisions and providing for the family but due to the absence of a permanent mother at home had to accept some of the traditionally mother roles in the family (In the Best Interest of the Child 1). The mother, while ideally the caretaker of the family, had now an expanded role as a breadwinner and also now had more participation in the decision making process of the family. The impact of this change, however, is that it gave rise to a new generation of career oriented women and family based men.
Given this present change in society, it is clear that while it may be accepted that in previous generations the father may not have been the proper parent to give custody to, the changes that have occurred in the traditional familial roles have given the father enough skills to rear and care for the children (In the Best Interest of the Child 1). This is not the only argument for providing the father with custody over the children as there are other reasons such as the psychological and emotional development of the child which warrant a reexamination of the previous doctrine of awarding custody to the mother in divorces cases.
As previously mentioned, the father is an important part of the family and perhaps even more important in the psychological and emotional development of children than previously expected. As shown in the book of Dan Amneus entitled, The Case for Father Custody, it has been shown that “sociological fatherhood” is necessary for the growth and development of children (31). According to date gathered from the Fulton Co. Georgia Jail Populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections it was shown that over 85% of all inmate youths who were imprisoned grew up in a fatherless home (Kelly 125). This trend is also shown in other correctional facilities all over the United States.
The reason for the need of “sociological fatherhood” is because of the fact that while the mother is, by mammalian nature, there to raise the children, the father is regarded as symbol of strength and authority (Amneus 21). There is a need, however, to differentiate between being a biological father and sociological father as being one does not necessarily mean that one is competent to become the other. In most cases, however, it has been shown that given the opportunity, biological fathers have a greater chance of being sociological fathers (Amneus 21). The reason that this has not occurred more often is because of the fact that the judicial system has seen fit to grant custody over children in divorce cases to the mother most of the time. The sociological father is an important aspect in the psychological and emotional growth of children and must be granted an equal if not better opportunity to raise the children.
It has been argued that one of the reasons why women are granted custody over the children despite the patent competence of the father is that this offers a greater chance of forcing the father to pay more attention to his family and continually provide the necessary support for his children (Child Custody: Rethinking the System 1). It must be pointed out, however, that such an argument is myopic as it fails to consider the fact that the only reason this is so is because fathers feel the need to play that sociological father role (Amneus 21). The mother now has a different role in society and is not necessarily the best parent to provide for the children. While it is true that there are more work opportunities and better career advancement chances for women in the business world today, this does not necessarily mean that it makes it easier for them to provide for their family and earn. As statistics have shown, the corporate empire is still dominated by males who have families (Amneus 21). This is a startling fact considering that a majority among the women who have risen in the corporate world are single and have no families or have been divorced with no children (Amneus 21). These figures show that a father is indeed more capable of providing financial if not moral and emotional support to women in the current setting.
Studies conducted by the US Census Bureau have shown that there is a growing recognition of this fact by the courts as the right of child custody, which was customarily granted to mothers, is now being granted to fathers. Since 1995, there has been a noted 15% increase in the number of fathers who have been granted complete custody over their children (More Fathers are Getting Custody 1).
The Dean at the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work, Geoffrey Grief, has shown that studies have revealed that children are now beginning to prefer being with their fathers in the custody battles and thus the courts have responded by awarding the fathers with complete custody over their children (More Fathers are Getting Custody 1).
It is clear therefore that the father should be granted custody over the children in divorces. The traditional roles and rules no longer exists and the once family oriented mother is showing a tendency for selecting career over family and the children are also beginning to select father custody over their mothers.
It must be remembered, however, that there are always exceptions to the rule and not all fathers may be fit to carry on the duties of raising children. The most important thing with regard to this issue, however, is not so much that the father should always be given the preference in custody battles but that the courts who grant such custody must be vigilant to ensure that the child’s transition from a two-parent household to a one-parent household is done in a manner that encourages his or her growth.
More Fathers are Getting Custody. http://www.childcustodycoach.com/more-fathers-are-getting-custody.php last accessed June 16, 2007
Child Support Arrears Fathers’ Rights http://www.childcustodycoach.com/child-support-arrears-fathers-rights.php last accessed June 16, 2007
In the Best Interest of the Child, Dean Hughson http://www.fathermag.com/901/bic/ last accessed June 16, 2007
Child Custody: Rethinking the System, Jim Johnston http://www.fathermag.com/003/child-custody/ last accessed June 16, 2007
Amneus, Dan. The Case for Father Custody. Primrose Press. 2131 S. Primrose Ave. Alhambra, California
Dudley, James. Increasing our understanding of fathers who have infrequent contact with their children, James Dudley, Family Relations, Vol. 4, p. 281, July 2001
Honeycutt, Jonathan Ph.D.(c), M.P.A., M.A., I.P.C. “Ninety percent of divorced fathers have less than full custody of their children.” Director of Research, Clinical & Consulting Psychotherapist, National Institute for Divorce Research, Panama City, Florida
Koch and Lowery. Visitation and the Noncustodial Father, Koch & Lowery, Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, Vol. 8, No. 2, p. 50, Winter 2004
Kelly, Joan and Wallerstein, Judith Surviving the Breakup, Joan Kelly & Judith Wallerstein, p. 125
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