The good news today for fathers in Washington is that courts often approach child custody cases with the presumption of awarding joint legal custody. This trend marks a dramatic change from what was common for much of the previous century – awarding full custody to the mother. Courts are now increasingly recognizing the importance of keeping both parents involved in a child’s life after a marriage ends.
While there is increasing equality with joint custody, mothers are still favored when it comes to physical or residential custody. This is largely because of issues with logistics that sometimes make it impractical to evenly split the time a child spends in each home. According to one study, mothers were awarded sole custody about 80% of the time in 1980. Nearly 30 years later, that percentage was almost cut in half.
There have also been noticeable increases with instances of equal and unequal shared custody. One professor commenting on changes in how custody is viewed points to feminist ideologies that led to women taking advantage of childcare opportunities and expecting fathers to share in child-rearing duties as a contributing factor. And while dads who were married to the mother or have more assets are more likely to get custody, courts generally have the same attitude about custody with fathers who were never married and those without significant economic clout.
It’s also becoming increasingly common for custody arrangements to be made without involvement from the court. A child custody attorney could help a divorcing couple iron out custody details by drafting a formal agreement that’s fair to both parties and prepared with a child’s best interests in mind. Oftentimes, arrangements worked out this way are considered more amicable and mutually acceptable than what would be ordered by a court.