CMV: Equal child custody for mothers and fathers is not taken seriously enough. It should be considered a basic civil rights issue and supported on the basis of gender equality.

September 20, 2020

I made this post in a "debate" sub a while back which got deleted for reasons that I'm sure are pretty obvious.

So I figured I'd post it here.

CMV = "change my view" (in the original thread).

Equal child custody is a legal concept that switches the starting point for custody to be 50/50 between the father and mother.

In legalese it is often stated to mean that the best interest of the child is defined to be a rebuttable, default presumption to equal custody. The terms rebuttable and default presumption means that equal custody is simply taken as the starting point in custody negotiations. It is not a requirement that is forced upon parents. Which means that alternative arrangements can be agreed to out of court, or argued for in court in the event of a disagreement.

Note that equal child custody is not the same thing as shared custody or joint custody. Joint custody has been interpreted by courts to mean "weekend visitation rights" or even "one day per month" in many jurisdictions. Equal custody is just that -- equal. Including when it comes to time with the child as well as when it comes to making important decisions for the child.

A couple points:

In practice this is only a thing in two US states

It is often surprising to people that this isn't already the legal standard that we go by. I can't speak to how common it is outside of the US because I don't have a formal source for that. But what I've seen is that this is very rare even outside the US.

The two US states where this is already practiced are Arizona and Kentucky.


2019 NPO Shared Parenting Report Card Highlights Some Progress and Great Disparity in State Custody Statutes.

Existing research indicates that equal custody is beneficial to children, or at least not harmful compared to giving custody primarily to the mother

There isn't a whole lot of research here but the above source links to a few studies on this topic for anyone who wants to challenge this.

Another source on this topic can be found here:

Academic research demonstrates pretty clearly that fathers and husbands are discriminated against in family court under existing laws

Here are a list of sources found in this paper in one of the footnotes:

See id. (noting that fathers who seek custody prevail in half or more cases); Mason & Quirk, supra note 228, at 228 tbl.2 (citing statistics showing that fathers won custody in forty-two percent of custody appeals, mothers prevailed in forty-five percent of cases, and twelve percent of the cases involved some form of shared custody, including 9.2% with split custody and 2.8% with joint physical custody); Massachusetts Report, supra note 227, at 825 (finding that fathers obtain custody in 70% of cases). But see MACCOBY & MNOOKIN, supra note 13, at 103-04 (finding that mothers obtained their preferred custodial arrangement twice as often as fathers); Bahr et al., supra note 208, at 257 (showing that fathers in Utah were awarded sole custody in only twenty-one percent of disputed cases, mothers received sole custody in fifty percent of cases, seventeen percent of fathers were awarded joint legal custody, and thirteen percent had split custody); Fox & Blanton, supra note 101, at 261 (finding that when fathers in California sought joint custody and mothers sought sole custody, mothers prevailed in sixty-seven percent of the cases)

The numbers differ because different states have different statutes and legal standards. One study only shows a small bias (42% vs 45%) but others show much larger differences (21% vs 55%, "twice as often", etc).

Note that the Massachusettes study, which sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of this research, is known to be fraudulent. And there are a couple of papers floating around that cite this source in isolation, sometimes by proxy (ie by citing a paper that cites that paper). I'm not sure why, but many people don't want to accept that fathers are being discriminated against, so this study gets cherry picked quite a bit.

The tldr is that the data from that study actually shows that fathers who ask for custody are a full 6 times less likely to get it compared to mothers, which is obviously evidence for discrimination. The authors pulled some academic shenanigans to make the results look different from what they are though.

The history of how that happened, and how one researcher was able to get ahold of the raw data (that they attempted to suppress), can be found here:

Rosenthal, M. B. (1995). Misrepresentation of Gender Bias in the 1989 Report of the Gender Bias Committee of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Breaking The Science.

Note that even these studies which demonstrate a bias in the family court system fail to show the full picture. Mothers are given custody as a legal default in most places, and it is up to the father to find the money to hire a lawyer to fight this in court. So there is a selection bias where only the best equiped fathers with the best arguments for custody, and the most money to fight it, are the ones who show up in these sources. And they still tend to lose.

One of the issues is the fact that fathers even have to go to court to request custody to begin with; it should simply be the legal default.

One last point here is that even if it were true that men and fathers were treated fairly in court, passing these laws would end up not changing anything. So why not go ahead and pass a few bills and be done with it?

Around 90% of cases are settled "out of court" but this happens against a backdrop where the father knows he stands on unequal legal footing

I've seen this argument made a few times that fathers don't want custody. Which you can see when you look at "out of court" settlements where the father presumably gives up his custody rights freely.

The only problem with this is that these negotiations are made against an existing legal backdrop that disenfranchises fathers.

Something like 99% of all criminal court cases settle out of court, but that doesn't mean that the theoretical outcomes of those cases (if fought in court) don't influence someone's choice to settle out of court. Other factors like time and cost play a role as well.

Innocent people often take plea deals under the threat of what would happen if it were taken to court, for example.

Social norms also influence how much a father wants to be a parent. And those norms are influenced by legal statute. In fact if you go back approximately 150 years, fathers commonly received full custody of their children during a divorce. That was both the legal norm and the social norm at the time. This has only changed because our laws have changed.

So if you want fathers to be in the lives of their children more often, it makes sense to default to 50/50 equal custody.

There is activism around this topic, and there is significant resistance to this idea

The National Parents Organization has been fighting for these laws for a really long time.

Recently there's been some progress made in a few US states for joint and shared parenting (which is a big improvement over sole custody). But even those laws face quite a bit of resistance from lobbying groups who want to defend the status quo.

In one famous case, a comprehensive divorce and child custody reform bill in Florida that had over 80% approval among eligible voters was shot down by the National Organization for Women (NOW). Which is a powerful lobbying group that opposes these bills pretty much everywhere that they get put up for vote.

They did something similar in Canada back in 2014 by organizing a "walk out" to prevent a quorum to even be able to vote on the bill.

And the crazy thing is that groups like NOW frame themselves as being "progressive" and advocating for gender equality when clearly they are doing the exact opposite of that.

See for example:

These laws provide the exact same clauses and protections for domestic abuse as existing laws

One of the claims made by people who oppose these laws is that they hide behind something that seems fair and rational on the surface only to protect domestic abusers behind the scenes. The argument is that these bills are designed to allow abusive husbands access to their children to continue their abuse.

To begin with, that's not how these laws work. They contain all the same provisions to adjust custody arrangements based on abuse that existing laws have. The only thing that changes is the "starting point". So this is little more than just propaganda put out by people who oppose these laws (with NOW being particularly bad about it through their social media arm).

Secondly, academic research shows that mothers are just as abusive, or even slightly more abusive, than fathers are.

Acting like there's this big problem of abusive fathers, and that mothers are never abusive to their children, is itself a harmful, sexist view that is not based in reality.


There are other issues around child custody that need to be addressed as well

In particular, it is often the case that unmarried fathers, by default, have no parental rights at all. A man's parental rights, legally speaking, are often tied to the mother through marriage. Outside of marriage, it is the mother's decision if she wants the father to be put on the birth certificate. And while there is at least a basic presumption for partial custody during a divorce, unmarried fathers are typically presumed to have no custody at all.

In the past, unmarried mothers who didn't want their children, but also didn't want the father to have them, have put them up for adoption without the father's concent. Such actions can even allow the mother to get out of paying child support in the event that the father is able to adopt his children.

There are laws in a few states that allow the biological father to receive preferential treatment during adoption proceedings, but the fact that a mother can even put up their children for adoption without explicit consent from the father (or at least a formal waiver from a judge), shows just how little we respect the rights of fathers.


It really should just be the case that a father is presumed to have equal rights to his children as the mother, including even if they are not married.

Another problem I've seen is the outright denial that this is an issue. As well as related views that struggling fathers are just bad parents and deserve to be attacked and hated instead of understood and helped (like what we do for struggling mothers).

Denying this because it is inconvenient or because it demonstrates a "different type of sexism" that you don't want to acknowledge is harmful. And I'd even venture to argue is an example of sexism in and of itself (ie some people can be sexist in how they approach sexism and gender equality).

This topic should be viewed as just as important of an issue of gender equality as anything else. And the fact that we don't hear much about it really just proves how sexist society can be towards men and fathers.

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Title CMV: Equal child custody for mothers and fathers is not taken seriously enough. It should be considered a basic civil rights issue and supported on the basis of gender equality.
Author Oncefa2
Upvotes 107
Comments 26
Date September 20, 2020 2:33 PM UTC (1 year ago)
Subreddit /r/LeftWingMaleAdvocates
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