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Child Custody

Child custody is probably the most difficult segment of divorce proceedings because, unless joint custody is agreed to, one of the parents may only get visitation rights and may have to pay child support, while the other maintains sole custody.

As part of the disolution of the marriage, a hearing is set to make a determination on who will get the children and to what degree of visitation the other parent will get.

In most custody hearings, the judge has to determine which parent is better equiped, or prepared, to take care of the upbringing of the children after the divorce is finalized and that may be a heart wrenching experience, not just for the children, but for the parent who has to watch his children grow up outside of his or her everyday presence.

Until as recently and the 1970's, the parent who maintained custody of the children was based on the amount of time each parent had to spend with the child, the need to keep the children together, whether or not the either parent was best suited for custody, and in some cases, which parent the children wanted to live with.

Since fathers worked long hours outside the home, and with mothers staying home, basically for the sole purpose of rearing the children, based on that criteria, in most cases, the mother would typically be awarded custody of the children.

It did not matter that the father may have been better qualified to raise the children, or that the children wanted to remain with the father, it was a social belief that the mother was the better nurturer and that children, regardless of other concerns, would be better off in the custody of the mother.

As a legal standard, the mother would have to be proved unfit for motherhood, either being dead, a runaway, abusing drugs, or judged mentally unstable before the father was awarded custody of the children.

In those days, the word "unfit" meant that the mother was sexually diviant from the norms of society. She may have been involved in a gay relationship, living unmarried with another man, or sexually entertaining other men in the home while the children were there. As far as the courts were concerned, this proved that the mother displayed poor judgement of character.

Today, however, in marriages with mother's working outside the home just as much as fathers, and with men challenging the old policies that once favored the awarding of the children to the mother, many more fathers are being awarded cutustody of their children. The bias towards custody automatically going to the mother is changing and father/children households are increasing.

With women becoming an integral part of the workforce, with incomes in many households equal to or greater than their husbands, the courts have no choice but to look at child custody in a different way.

Along with giving more fathers custody of their children, women are increasingly being ordered to pay child support and alimony to their ex-husbands.


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