“Is my state a father’s state, or a mother’s state?” It’s a common question, and we get it all the time from clients worried about gender bias in our courtrooms. Father’s rights cases are on the rise. You hear men in divorce cases concerned, “fathers have rights, too”
Family law statutes in most states are intentionally gender blind. There are no statutes, or valid case law, which support the notion that either the father or mother is a better parent. This notion doesn’t mean, however, that fathers and mothers aren’t subject to some bias throughout the process.
It wasn’t long ago that many state courts subscribed to the “Tender Years” doctrine, which declares that a mother is a better parent for younger children. Even though these statutes, and supporting case law, have been “off the books” for at least a couple decades, the “tender years ghost” still haunts the process.
So, it’s a valid concern especially for fathers who often feel disadvantaged by the role they’ve played as the family breadwinner. Also, fathers feel fell prejudiced with claims they were not as directly involved in the day-to-day activities of the kids as the stay-at-home parent. Traditional roles often work well when the family structure is intact but can prejudice both parties when the fabric is ripped apart by divorce.