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More fathers becoming single parents

New Jersey residents who are embroiled in child custody disputes may be interested in a study released by Pew Research. In 1960, a study of American homes containing minor children revealed that approximately 1.9 million of them were headed by single women. Less than 300,000 homes contained a single father. Contrastingly, single-father households skyrocketed to more than 2.6 million in 2011. This comprises eight percent of households with minor children. Meanwhile, families headed by a single mother have experienced a more modest four-fold increase, totaling approximately 8.6 million homes in 2011.

Traditionally, the standard for awarding child custody was whatever the court thought was in "the best interests of the child." Many people believed that this meant the judge would always rule in favor of the mother, which may have discouraged some fathers from fighting for custody. However, since 2000, many states have passed new laws that encourage joint parenting instead of the old "best interests' standard." Previously, fathers may have settled for less parenting time than they wanted or deserved because they thought they didn't have a chance if they went to court. These new joint parenting laws may have helped fathers take advantage of their rights by encouraging them to fight for more time with their kids.

Another reason for the shift may be that many people prefer not to engage in joint parenting. Sharing custody requires spending significantly more time with a former partner than many people wish. Some people worry that going back and forth is confusing for the children. Therefore, some may choose to relinquish custody rather than share it equally, despite the law's preference for joint parenting.

A lawyer may be able to help parents negotiate the best joint parenting plan for children of divorce. It may also be possible, with the help of an attorney, for a parent to enforce or modify an order later if necessary.

Source: The Atlantic , "The Rise of the Single Dad", Caroline Kitchener , February 24, 2014

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