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Research shows gender equality in custody disputes increasing

Some perceptions are wrong and facts will wash away the illusions that people's minds create, but other times, perceptions are true and must be tackled head-on. Since its creation, there has been a perception that family law courts hold mothers in higher regard than fathers when it comes to parenting children. This perception may be more fact than myth for unwed fathers who are seeking to play a meaningful role in their children's lives. Current reports of fathers suing Utah for the right to raise their children only serves to reinforce these long-held beliefs.

However, recent years have seen a growing number of men fighting courts for the right to be equal partners in the raising of their children. Like most legal matters, the change to treat men as equal parents has been slow and painful. While relics such as the tender years doctrine have been done away with, there still exist major hurdles for men and especially for unwed fathers. Even though the general public is in favor of joint custody and incidences of joint custody are steadily increasing, the facts show that mothers are awarded sole custody more often than fathers and the percentage of cases involving shared custody is only at 30.5%.

Utah, like a growing number of other states, supports a joint custody arrangement. Utah offers a number of different arrangements, which can range from sole to joint physical and/or joint legal custody. But as research has shown, it is easier for a man to be granted joint custody of his child if he was married to the child's mother. Unwed single fathers face an uphill battle as Utah courts have created a complicated process for unwed fathers seeking custody.

Until judges and family law courts view men, and especially unwed fathers, as equal to women, inequalities will continue to exist in custody disputes. While not a requirement to succeed, a skilled and experienced lawyer can make the difference in a custody case.

Source: DoubleX, "Dad's Day in Court," Hanna Rosin, May 13, 2014

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