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Do men get a fair shake in custody hearings?

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2021 | Family Law |

During a custody battle, men often perceive that the deck is stacked against them from the beginning, and no matter how hard they fight, the outcome will be the same.

While there are no laws in Texas that back up that sense of implicit bias in the court system, a father may have already given up some of his parental rights years before custody became an issue, and he may lose his resolve once the court becomes involved.

Under Texas law, the court cannot legally use a parent’s marital status or the sex of either parent to make custody, known under the law as “conservatorship,” decisions. Rather, factors that influence conservatorship determinations are what is in the best interests of the child, which in Texas includes:

  • the child’s age and wishes, if of the age to decide
  • their relationship to each parent
  • the parents’ respective health and financial status
  • a history of abuse or neglect

Fortunately, divorce cases must go through mediation first in Kaufman and surrounding areas before litigation can take over. In fact, most cases don’t end up in court. Although parents can resolve most issues in the divorce settlement, fathers who wish to remain in their children’s lives after divorce should find out how they have the law on their side to protect their parental rights.

The traditional role of the father in a child’s life

An often-cited study from 2011 by the Pew Research Center has emphasized the limited role of the father in the early development of the child, and how this impacts his later resolve to have a significant role in the child’s life post-divorce. Although changing societal norms over the past decade have made some of these findings anecdotal, they are nonetheless revealing of the invisible bias that many fathers still feel.

The mother’s dominant role in the child’s life in their formative years creates stronger bonds later, even when the father takes on active roles in daily activities such as help with homework, playtime, and shared meals. In the study, more than half the time in divorce cases, both parents – not the judge – mutually agreed on the decision for the mother to retain custody.

The diminishing role of the father after divorce

Regardless of the father’s role during marriage, after divorce only 22% see the kids more than once a week, and nearly a third of them have no contact at all with the children. As fathers often view themselves primarily as the provider of the family, they may be less likely to fight for a greater caregiver role after divorce.

Fathers who wish to have a larger role in their children’s lives should know that they do have the law on their side. A key factor in how successful they will be in advocating for their parental rights is in their willingness to fight for more time and in convincing the judge of their realistic commitment to do what is in the best interests of their child.