Historically there was a presumption that mothers were better caretakers of children than fathers. Therefore, the mother was awarded custody of minor children in many cases. Over time, though, the law has evolved, and with it, gender preference for parental custody plays less and less of a role.
While the law is now gender blind on inherent parental suitability, the mother may still have a tacit advantage in custody cases. Some judges still tend to rule in favor of the mother in close custody decisions. It is unlikely that a family court judge is intentionally ignoring the law or is openly hostile to fathers. However, it can be difficult to overcome a long-standing bias or preference.
As the traditional parent gender roles of mother as caretaker and father as provider become less prevalent in society, any inherent maternal bias may fade away. Any father seeking physical or legal custody should present the best possible case in court.
Physical custody refers to the child’s living situation and specifies where and with whom the child will reside. In many cases, physical custody is shared between the parents. The split need not be equal; physical custody can be divided based on the judge’s analysis of statutory factors. In some cases, one parent gets sole physical custody while the other may get some type of visitation.
Legal custody is a parent’s right to make important life decisions on behalf of the child. These concern the child’s health, education and general welfare. Examples include:
Legal custody can also be shared, and in some cases one parent is awarded sole legal custody for a variety of reasons.
The standard for evaluating both physical and legal custody is the “best interests” of the child. While each parent will certainly have custody preferences that the courts may consider, the overriding concern is the child’s welfare. Family court judges have wide discretion in deciding custody. They may consider many factors such as each party’s child-rearing capabilities and the child’s current growth and development trajectory. Depending upon the child’s age and level of maturity, judges can also consider the child’s preferences as to which parent should have custody.
The Lindsey Law Firm, P.C. in Tulsa, Oklahoma represents many family law clients throughout the greater Tulsa region, including both mothers and fathers dealing with custody issues. To schedule a consultation at my office, feel free to contact us online or call 918-587-0097.