Contested Custody Hearings And Father’s Rights
A recent study showed that in a survey of 700 contested custody hearings, mothers were assigned full custody in 496 of those cases. Fathers were only awarded full custody in 100 cases while joint custody was awarded in 104 cases. Fathers are losing these cases at nearly five times the rate as mothers, and 250% more than mothers and joint custody awards combined. The worst part for Pennsylvania fathers is that the survey was conducted right here in Pennsylvania, surveying our own counties.
Does Pennsylvania work differently than other states?
Most states have moved toward a presumption that it is in the best interests of the children to have both parents in their lives. In other states, the court would have to return a finding of joint custody unless there was a good reason to deny one parent custody. That allegation would have to become a part of the record, and the judge would have to base his decision on that.
In Pennsylvania, there is no such presumption. Instead, the court assumes that without presumption, it can fairly decide the best interests of the child without legislative encumbrance. If the rules were to change, the legislature would have to change them. Until it does, there is no presumption under Pennsylvania law concerning the best interests of the child.
While the rationale for doing it this way is sound, the results appear not to be modern. The modern approach to custody issues maintains that having both parents in the child’s life benefits the child. So, there must be a good reason to prevent the parent from accessing the child.
Why is custody awarded to the mother so often?
Custody issues are all determined by presumptions. One of those presumptions is that it’s in the child’s best interests to maintain their status quo. Generally speaking, that means living with the mother who takes primary responsibility for the child. When it comes to custody matters, maintaining the child’s status quo remains a primary concern in Pennsylvania. So, when a separation happens, the father moves out, and the status quo is living with their mother.
When it comes to legal custody or the right to make decisions over the child, the court would not assign legal custody to a parent who did not reside with the child. So, the situation ends up defaulting to the mother in most cases.
Another consideration is that when it comes to embittered parents, what parent does the child need more? There has always been a presumption that children need mothers more than fathers. So, if two parents come to court and it’s obvious they cannot work together to raise the children, the court will default on awarding custody to the mother.
Talk to a Philadelphia Family Lawyer Today
Lauren H. Kane handles complex custody issues for Philadelphia County families. Contact a Philadelphia family lawyer at our office today to schedule an appointment and learn more about how we can help.