There are numerous gender stereotypes targeting parents. One common assumption is that women are more nurturing and natural caretakers than men. Stemming from that notion is another stereotype: the courts are almost always biased toward women during a custody battle.
Whether it’s a biological imperative or a learned cultural phenomenon, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that women are statistically more involved in the care of children in a heterosexual marriage. However, it’s simply not true that fathers are less competent at raising their own kids than women.
Do gender stereotypes impact custody decisions?
That same Pew research also shows that modern fathers are not only more often active in their kids’ lives than previous generations, but also taking on more of the traditional parenting roles than men in the past. There are still more single moms raising children, but it’s likely inaccurate that the court is biased toward granting women custody.
In fact, statistics are frequently cited that suggest around 90% of women are awarded custody, but they also fail to show that 60% of men get custody in a contested cases. Similarly, in just over half of all divorce cases, the parents mutually decide that the mother will take the custodial role.
Factors a judge considers in a custody case
Courts take a lot of different information into consideration during a custody battle. Looking at the statistics mentioned above, income clearly doesn’t always play a primary role, since pay gaps and gender income disparities still exist. A more likely scenario is that a higher-earning father will pay the custodial mother child support.
One likely reason that women are awarded custody at a higher rate than men is because of the aforementioned higher level of caretaking. This isn’t necessarily based on gender bias; rather, it’s part of an effort to avoid bringing too much change into a child’s life.
Judges will often review the levels of parental involvement by asking teachers, school administrators, doctors, and others which parent showed up more frequently. Because mothers are statistically more likely to be pinpointed as the more active parent, this may be a major deciding factor.
In any case, the child’s best interest is the primary deciding factor in a custody case, whether it’s the mother or the father who ends up serving as the custodial parent.