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More single fathers are raising children, census data shows

Historically, when parents ended their relationship, the mothers were automatically granted custody of the children. However, current statistics show that more and more fathers are now obtaining custody and raising children on their own. This dramatic shift illustrates some of the major changes our society has undergone in the past few decades.

According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there is a significant rise in the number of single fathers raising kids. Although the data provided references Maryland families, experts say this trend can be seen nationwide.

Specifically, the census data shows that the rise in families led by single fathers has outpaced the rise in single-mother families for the first time since 1970, which is as far back as state information is available. Today, there are approximately 47,200 single-dad households in the state, an increase of 14 percent. The number of single-mother households only increased by roughly 3.2 percent in the past 10 years.

What can account for this significant change? Experts speculate that a more career options for women and more flexible court systems are at the heart of the shift. Because women have more opportunities in the workplace these days, not all women want to seek custody of children after a divorce. Also, the courts are more likely to approve joint-custody arrangements than ever before, recognizing fathers' rights.

In Georgia, there are generally two components of child custody: legal and physical. Legal custody involves the right to make parenting decisions regarding health care, education and religious instruction. In most cases, unless a parent is declared to be unfit for some reason, joint legal custody is typically granted. Physical custody, on the other hand, determines where a child will live. Here is where fathers' rights have seen major changes.

The trend of increasing single-father families is a reflection of our changing society. Experts say it gives women more opportunities and allows single fathers the chance to make a real difference in the lives of their children.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Rise in single fathers defies historic trend," Yeganeh June Torbati, 30 May 2011

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law

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