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Increased legal protections for single fathers

This blog previously described the increase in single-fatherhood across the United States. This update will show some of the laws that are giving single fathers a fighting chance for greater parenting time with their children.

The idea that children are better off with their mothers than their fathers is changing across the nation and in Georgia. No longer are there laws in place that creates a legal presumption that mothers can better care for children. Starting in 1973, states have changed their laws from granting the mother legal custody of a child unless the father could prove she was unfit to parent.

According to a professor at Fordham University, prior to 1973, a father would not get custody of a child "unless the mother was dead or in jail or mentally ill."

Some states are more equitable than others, however. Oregon law, for example, presumes that parents will have joint physical custody of a child. This law means that a father and mother will split parenting time unless there are factors indicating one parents should have sole custody of the child. In the first five years since the Oregon law passed in 1997, there was a drop in how often mothers were awarded sole custody from 68 percent to 51 percent.

Another reason why single fatherhood is on the rise is due to a change in the "traditional family." Fathers now spend more time interacting with their children than ever before. A recent study showed that fathers more than doubled the amount of time they played with, taught, and spent time with their children. Between 1965 and 2000, fathers spent four more hours a week with their children.

There has also been an increase in the amount of single fathers who are part of cohabitating unmarried couples. While technically "single," these fathers may actually be living with their children's mother. It is clear that child custody issues are not exclusive to divorce.

Source: Bloomberg, "Single-Dad Courtroom Wins Show Greater Embrace of New Families," Joel Stonington and Frank Bass, 24 July 2011

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