History of Mother’s Custody Rights
Up until the 1970’s custody disputes were settled by judges granting full custody for mothers rather than fathers. However, in the 1970’s most states started adopting laws that granted equal weight to both a mother and a father’s custodial rights and favored situations where parents were able to share and maintain joint custody. In the same vein, most jurisdictions even created a hierarchy of custodial care where biological parents gained an edge over non-biological parents such as step-parents, grandparents and foster families. Ultimately, though the major changes that came about in the late 20th century in terms of a mother’s custodial rights came in the form of a more active role in establishing and monitoring rules of parental conduct by the state
Prior to the 1970’s, most courts followed the “tender years” doctrine that basically stated a child early development was directly related to the length of time that the child shared with its mother. For this reason, it was common for many judges and mediators to grant full custody for mothers. As more research was done into early childhood development, though, we learned that this is not necessarily the case and in many cases full custody for fathers were just as beneficial to the child’s development, provided that the household is stable and the parent takes an active role in the child’s life. The effect this had on a mother’s custody rights was that more and more judges and courts felt comfortable granting custody of children to people other than the biological mother, negating the once held belief that full custody for mothers was essential to the development of the child.
Father’s Custody Rights
Child custody for fathers was mainly accepted as an alternative to the de facto “full custody for mothers” decree because so many women entered the workforce in the 1960s and 1970s. This split the child-rearing duties between most parents, so when a marriage did end in divorce, fathers had more of a vested interest in their children and actively sought full custody. As a result there are currently 2.3 million single fathers in the united states that have primary custodial care of there children, which is a 15 percent increase over 1995. Child custody for fathers has certainly became a legitimate concern for parents
Working Toward Full Custody
So, like it or not, the reality is, if you want custody, you’re going to have to work at it. I’m sure that most parents in mediation or a custody battle have relentlessly sought resources on how to get full custody of your child. Likewise most parents have learned that this is no easy task. Judges and mediators no longer automatically grant full custody for mothers. Instead, just as fathers had to do in the past, mothers must now work to gain primary custody as well. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of what to do, but it is at least a starting point on how to get full custody of your child:
- Step1. Document time – keeping detailed records of the time spent with each parent will allow you to walk into mediation with proof that the child is already spending the majority of their non-school/non-sleeping time with you.
- Step2. Document Behavior – It’s important here to keep records about the other parent’s behavior. When you picked up your kid, was the other parent drunk? – document it. Does the other parent say negative things or make unfounded claims about you to teachers, school administrators, others? – document it. Instead of getting into a he said / she said argument, walk into the mediation hearings with a fully documented affidavit of what happened.
- Step3. Be Involved – This may sound kind of obvious, but if you are a mother looking for custody of your child, take an active role in their life: know who their friends are, what they like or don’t like, talk to their teachers. If you know more about what’s happening in your child’s daily life, it’s going to be pretty clear that you are already taking a primary role in that child’s upbringing.
These are just the first steps in your steps toward gaining primary custody. Mothers, wherever you search for information on how to get full custody of your child, remember that the biggest thing that you can do is stay active in that child’s life. If you make yourself positively present in your children’s lives before and during your custody proceedings, it’s only going to bolster your case for being the primary custodial parent. It’s also important to stay organized and vigilant and not to engage in hearsay. If you can support your claim with documentation, a mediator will support full custody for the mother.