It was not that long ago that many fathers thought that they were almost always going to get a raw deal in the family courts. Instead of getting roughly the same amount of time as the mother, many family courts would routinely give a father every other weekend. If the father fared well, they might get some additional time in the summer, half the holidays and perhaps a night during the week.
The younger the child was, many courts were also generally favoring the mother. While the tender years doctrine has long been abolished, many men felt like courts were still essentially implementing the tender year’s doctrine without saying it.
In the eyes of many, things have changed for the better for fathers. As time has gone on, more and more states have been implementing shared parenting or gradually moving closer toward it.
For advocates of shared parenting, the idea is that children benefit when they get to spend roughly equal amounts of time with both parents. Many also argue that if both parents are simply going to be awarded equal amounts of time, the incentive to litigate is minimized. In other words, parties may not want to spend the money and time to litigate these cases if there is no clear winner in terms of custody time and decision-making.
Critics would argue that shared parenting essentially results in children living in a suitcase going back and forth between the homes of the parents. However, proponents would argue that children benefit when both parents get to see the children. They would also argue that it results in the father having skin in the game and being an active participant in the lives of the children.
So, is it getting better for fathers out there? The reality is that it has over the last decade. Certainly there is some that would argue that it has not come far enough. Some would argue that there are many states and courts where shared parenting is not being implemented.
On the other hand, some would argue that shared parenting has not been a net positive. They would argue that a general presumption toward fifty-fifty custody is not necessarily a good thing. This might be the case when the facts do not clearly warrant a fifty-fifty type schedule.
Nonetheless, if one is asking whether it has gotten better for fathers as a whole, the answer to that question almost has to be a “yes.” Today, as opposed to even a decade ago, many fathers are getting shared parenting plans where that was generally not the case before. In a lot of ways, this has changed the landscape dramatically in divorce and family law for the parties and the lawyers who undertake to represent clients in these cases.
The reality is that shared parenting has really become the trend nationwide. As time goes on, it appears likely that shared parenting will become more prominent. This will mean that divorced and single fathers today will likely get to spend a lot more time with their children than fathers just a decade ago. It will certainly be interesting to monitor the impact on society as time passes.