In child custody cases today, both parents increasingly enjoy significant amounts of parenting time. Recent studies show that child custody norms are changing significantly in the 21st century, with the proportion of parents sharing custody rising dramatically.
Historically, shared custody was never the norm.
In colonial times, American Courts followed the English common law rule that upon divorce the father retained custody of the children. Fathers had the right to the physical custody, labor and earnings of their children in exchange for supporting, educating, and training them to earn their livelihoods. At that time, mothers did not have legally enforceable parental rights.
This bias toward men flipped in the early 20th century with two cultural transformations: the industrial revolution’s remaking men into marketplace wage earners and the emergence of women as domestic caregivers. Under the “tender years” doctrine, custody of young children was almost exclusively awarded to mothers upon divorce.
Mounting divorce rates in the 1960s and ensuing decades provoked a lively debate about parental roles and custody issues. The movement for gender equality, along with the rise of fathers’ rights groups, called attention to the importance of both parents in the care of children.
In most states today, including Pennsylvania, the standard for deciding custody cases is based on the best interests of the child. This standard opens up the possibility of excessive judicial discretion as well as a threat of inconsistent rulings, resulting in hotly contested custody battles.
But it has also led to the rise of shared custody orders, as judges increasingly follow the recommendations of family psychologists who espouse the benefits to children who have equal time with both parents.
To schedule a free consultation with an experienced child custody attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.