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Is there a gender bias in child custody disputes?

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When a man is getting divorced from his wife, he may be thinking that she's got the upper hand when it comes to child custody.

Some Maryland residents may have heard of a "gender bias" when it comes to child custody disputes. If a couple going through a divorce can't agree on a parenting plan, child custody issues will often be left to the court to decide. The decision can be based on many different factors, but ultimately the key factor is the best interests of the child. But do women still have the upper hand when it comes to these types of custody disputes?

A previous post mentioned how family law experts are seeing a change in many aspects of divorce, child custody, child support and alimony. As women close the gender gap in employment, now coming closer to earning as much as men, and employed at similar percentages as men, it is often women who are being treated differently in court. But a recent article suggests that the gender bias alleged to exist in child custody disputes does not come from the court itself, but from the facts surrounding many relationships.

The article reported data suggesting several key factors may be outcome determinative in a custody dispute:

  • On average, the mother spends almost twice as much time with the children as the father on a weekly basis in "primary child care activities"
  • Most fathers voluntarily decide to give the mother custody of the children in a dispute
  • Many fathers do not seek custody during a divorce

The reassuring part is that, in most cases, the parties can come to an agreement without the court getting involved in making these types of hard decisions. But, when that doesn't happen and it comes to a court hearing on such an important and potentially life-altering dispute, it is always best to remember that the key to a positive result is putting forth the best case possible.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Dispelling The Myth Of Gender Bias In The Family Court System," Cathy Meyer, July 10, 2012

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