Mothers rights to custody and the standard by which custody determinations are made in the family courts has changed significantly over the last century. In the early 1900’s, fathers were typically given custody of the children in the case of a divorce. In contested child custody cases today, in which the mother earns less than the father, it does not automatically entitle the father to custody of the child in the event of a divorce.

Following the standards in the early 1900’s which typically gave fathers custody of the children, states shifted to the tender years doctrine which presumed the mothers to be the primary caregiver. This standard changed yet again. Following the 1970’s the tender years doctrine was replaced with the overall best interests of the child standard. The overall best interest of the child standard takes several factors into consideration and is supposed to guide the family courts in child custody determinations. Nevertheless, some family courts in the 20th century continue to favor the mother as the primary caregiver.

Mothers often provide primary care for their children and are often involved in the day to day responsibilities of raising and nurturing their children. While some mothers may be at a disadvantage financially at the beginning of their divorce, more mothers are becoming educated with strategies and information on how to enhance their custody case and how other mothers are obtaining custody of their children.

Mothers and fathers both have a prominent role to play in supporting the growth and development of their children. But when parents divorce and child custody is contested, the family courts are faced with the difficult task of determining where the child will live and what parenting arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Upon divorce, the best parent is generally having both parents involved. More and more, the courts are adopting this mentality and favoring frequent and continuing contact with both parents as the best arrangement for the child. Additionally, more and more mothers are taking on the same attitude for the benefit of their children and are benefiting from the shared parenting responsibilities as a result.

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