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Fathers steadily gaining fair treatment in family courts

Many Montgomery County, Tennessee, residents would know that a common perception is that the biological mother is generally the best candidate to be the custodial parent for minor children. However, with the evolution of fathers' rights, there seems to be a recent shift in the gender roles and perception in child custody and child-rearing. Fathers have come a long way from the classic role of the disciplinarian and are shifting towards becoming hands-on, involved parents in their children's lives.

Family courts too have changed their approach to child custody in the last 40 years or so by moving away from the presumption of the mother being the primary or sole custodian of the children. The women's movement in the 1970s started a shift in the classical gender roles. Thus, the traditional family model of the father being the sole breadwinner and the mother being financially dependent changed, giving way to "interdependence" of parents. Family courts too adopted more gender neutral rules.

In one of the most detailed surveys regarding child custody and conducted in another state between 1996 and 2007, the percentage of divorce cases where the mother got sole custody had dropped from 60.4 percent to 45.7 percent, while cases of shared or joint custody had doubled from 15.8 percent to 30.5 percent. According to the same survey, there had also been a steady increase in mothers paying child support.

While Tennessee courts seem to have become more gender neutral in divorce cases, fathers often still face prejudice in cases where the parents were never married. In these cases, but in all custody disputes, fathers who want to build a robust relationship with their children are potentially looking at long-drawn and difficult legal battles that may be best fought with professional legal counsel at their side.

Source: Slate.com, "Dad's day in court", Hanna Rosis, May 13, 2014

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