Many single fathers may feel that although Tennessee family laws recognize fathers’ rights and the laws have evolved beyond the Tender Years Doctrine of the past — which presumed that the best interest of the child is only served by placing the child with the mother — it is still very difficult for many fathers to obtain equal child custody after a divorce. Fathers across the country have the same opinion and have taken their custody disputes beyond the courtroom and into their state’s legislative houses.
According to recent news reports, as many as 20 states are taking legislative measures that will clearly define which parent obtains child custody in the event of a divorce. As news reports state, these measures are mainly meant to encourage judges to adopt a child custody schedule that maximizes the time with the child for both parents. In fact, some states have proposed that the judges must order equal child custody unless such child custody and visitation arrangements are not in the child’s best interest.
Supporters have stated that recent studies provide sufficient evidence that children do better when they are with both parents. They also believe that equal child custody rights will put an end to lengthy adversarial legal battles. Critics, on the other hand, think that child custody disputes usually arise when parents are not on amicable terms, which means that it is unlikely for them to create a shared parenting plan that will work effectively. However, there is the potential that equal child custody rights may lead to unfit parents gaining leverage in the situation.
Determining the best interests of the child before granting child custody became a common practice about 50 years ago but advocates of shared parenting say that such determination often creates room for bias, which ultimately results in parents fighting over familial issues that are not necessarily a part of the child custody dispute. More recently, shared parenting has been gaining popularity but it is still far from being the norm. Therefore, seeking the advice of a legal professional may still be necessary for a father who is trying to protect his rights.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Big Shift Pushed in Custody Disputes,” Ashby Jones, April 16, 2015