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Single dads may be the new norm in child custody

Family laws views appear to be shifting, and new trends toward joint parenting may soon impact Michigan families. More and more states are adopting legislation that puts a focus on joint or shared parenting, as opposed to the traditional bias toward granting a mother physical and legal custody.

Interestingly enough, the trend may not have the outcome that legislators anticipated. Instead of more families equally sharing the parenting role, there appear to be more and more single fathers.

As reported by a Pew research study, since the 1960s there has been a nine-fold increase in the number of homes headed by a single dad. In 2011, there are over 2.6 million homes with single dads at the helm. This number was less than 300,000 in 1960. As the divorce rate steadily rises and as more and more parents decide not to get married, society may be making room for dads as the primary caregiver.

There may be a few reasons for this unexpected result of shared parenting legislation. As the laws change and steer away from traditional biases favoring mothers, dads may feel like they can actually ask for more parenting time. They might even feel like they deserve the lion's share of the parental role.

Dads may now start to see how they can contribute to the lives of their children. If courts are willing to concede that a father can also raise a child, the dad may be more likely to step up to the plate as a parent.

Lastly, a joint parenting arrangement is not without its complications. For divorced or separated parents, they may not want to see each other on a regular basis. Children may not like the arrangement either, especially if it means moving back and forth between homes every other week or so.

All of these factors mean that single dads are starting to appear more and more. But regardless of the trends, parents should understand that child custody is a determination that must be made given what is best for their own family and circumstances. There are still a variety of custody options available, and a Michigan family law attorney can educate this state's families on all of the possibilities.

Source: The Atlantic, "The rise of the single dad," Caroline Kitchener, Feb. 24, 2014

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