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Why are custody rights becoming a major priority for divorcing dads?

Over the last few years, family law experts have noticed a significant shift in the area of fathers' rights. Specifically, more and more fathers are now actively fighting to secure not just visitation rights and mutually acceptable child support arrangements, but joint legal custody and part-time -- if not full-time -- physical custody.

While several states have responded to this development by taking steps calling for greater gender equality in custody decisions, legal experts indicate that there is no single state that can be held up as "a beacon of being father-friendly."

Nevertheless, experts do indicate that courts are at least becoming more aware of how social norms have evolved over the last several decades, such that both parents now work and take of the children.

"Now, what you're seeing is the court is very much open to a request for a 50-50 -- true shared custody," said the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "Are they just automatically granting it? No, and neither should they be. What fits one set of facts and one set of children doesn't fit another."  

What exactly is behind this newfound push for equal custody rights on the part of fathers?

Experts have advanced several very interesting theories for the phenomenon, one of which is that more men are becoming aware of studies showing how the health of children -- from both a physical and mental perspective -- improves considerably when their fathers play an active role in their upbringing.

Another theory being advanced is that during the recent recession many fathers essentially gained full-time custody of their kids after losing their jobs and being forced to stay within the marital home. During this time, they solidified their relationships with their children and assumed more of the parenting, such that when they divorced they not only felt prepared, but entitled to, part-time or full custody.  

A final fascinating theory is that more of the fathers of today were themselves the children of divorce growing up, such that they have firsthand experience with the process and know how they would have appreciated their own fathers having more of a role in their lives.

"They were children of divorce at a time when the presumption was very much (that) the mother would stay in the marital home and have pretty much full-time custody of the kids, and the father would have visitation and maybe some overnights," said one law professor. "I think those kids -- when divorcing -- want a different experience for their kids than they had."

Regardless of the theories, there is no questioning the significance of fathers now choosing to seek custody in a divorce. Given the stakes involved, however, it's important for these fathers to consider speaking with an experienced and dedicated legal professional who understands their unique concerns and is willing to fight to enforce their rights.

Source: The Detroit Free Press, "More dads demand equal custody rights, reject child-support arrangements of yesterday," Sharon Jayson, June 17, 2014

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