November 29, 2021

Volume XI, Number 333

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How Fathers Can Overcome Gender Bias in Child Custody Matters

Many parents feel discriminated against by the court system during a child custody case. It is common for fathers — particularly of young children — to believe they are not receiving equal consideration by the court system. Social science research demonstrates that despite gender neutral child custody laws, there remains a preference favoring mothers in child custody cases based upon stereotypes about gender.[1] Unfortunately, the stereotype that a mother has a superior ability to nurture based on her gender and the nature of giving birth remains a challenge for fathers to overcome in child custody matters.

One of the challenges that fathers face is the stereotype that mothers have more time to devote to their children. Even though stay-at-home mothers today are rare, most families divide the caretaking responsibility of the children in a way that one parent's work schedule enables the other parent to be more available for the child. When a relationship breaks up, both parents will be forced to rearrange their schedules to accommodate more and varied time at home with children. A second challenge fathers face is the stereotypical belief that the father is not capable of adequately parenting the children because of a lack of knowledge, skill and experience.

Fathers can address both stereotypes by committing to be present for a child at performances, school activities, and spending quality time with children. To combat the "dad can't do it" stereotype, fathers can educate themselves with parenting guides and books as well as enroll in and take parenting classes to ensure that they are able to cast themselves in the best possible light before the court.

In summary, gender stereotypes can result in a preference for mothers in child custody cases.  However, astute legal counsel can assist fathers and help them obtain evidence to overcome gender stereotypes in the courtroom.

[1] Gender Stereotypes Underlie Child Custody Decisions (2018).

© 2021 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 34
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About this Author

Erika L. Salerno, Kalamazoo, MI, Family Law attorney, Varnum
Counsel

Erika handles family law litigation matters including complex divorces, initial and post judgment child custody matters, change of domicile, paternity, minor guardianship and third-party custody cases involving multistate jurisdictional issues across southwest Michigan. As a domestic relations mediator, she is frequently retained by other lawyers to mediate their most challenging cases. Trained in Collaborative Law, Erika has worked with clients using the Collaborative Law Process since she was trained in 2000.

In addition to her family law...

269- 553-3549
Julia A. Perkins Family Law Attorney Varnum Novi, MI
Partner

Julia is the chair of the Family Law Team and works with clients in family law matters including divorce, child custody, child support and parenting time matters. She has unique experience with international custody cases and valuation and division of high net worth marital estates. She is also a certified mediator with a focus in family law.

Julia's experience also includes representing clients in commercial litigation.

Practice Areas

  • Family Law
  • Adoption
  • Business Owners: Valuations
  • Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support
  • ...
248/567-7427
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