In my top 10 divorce trends of the last decade, one that has sparked the most controversy is over whether more fathers are obtaining custody of their children in divorce. I practice in Southeastern Michigan where the trend over at least the past decade has been not only for more couples to share custody of their children in a divorce, but also for more fathers to obtain custody. Why is this? There are several factors involved.
- Southeastern Michigan happens to be a fairly liberal area, and the courts in general try to show as little gender bias as possible and try to treat everyone as equal.
- Most homes have both parents working, thus the argument that dad is the breadwinner and mom is the stay-at-home mom, have been changed by the reality, especially in our economic downturn where everyone has to work to keep things afloat. For these reasons, in an intact marriage, there is more sharing of parental responsibilities and duties, and therefore in a divorce, there is either more sharing of custody, or more fathers obtaining custody.
- More fathers are seeking custody than ever before.
- I have had many cases where mom has been the primary breadwinner, and dad has been Mr. Mom, which means that he will be the one favored if custody is in dispute, especially if he has been the primary parent during the marriage.
- The laws in Michigan and many states address what is in the best interests of the children. That doesn't mean what is best for mom, or what is best for dad; it means what is best for the children. If dad has been the primary parent, as in more cases, he will be awarded, if not shared custody, then primary physical custody.
If everything is equal, I do believe and agree with some of the comments that it is harder for a father to obtain custody, but it is not the overwhelming battle that it might have been 15 or 20 years ago. Bear in mind that the laws and customs differ, not only from state to state, but from county to county. So what I am saying is based upon my observations as a practitioner over the last 40 years, and from someone who has handled thousands of divorces, and I am speaking of trends.
One should bear in mind that a divorce, especially with regard to custody, is very fact-specific, and every situation is different.
Please don't hesitate to share your comments with me as we enter the new decade.
By: HENRY S. GORNBEIN
Family Law Attorney & Legal Correspondent
40900 Woodward Avenue, Ste. 111
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304-5116
248/594-3444; Fax 248/594-3222