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Is there gender bias in California child custody cases?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2023 | Family Law

In the past, courts had a predisposition towards mothers in child custody cases due to the belief that they naturally fit the role of nurturer and caretaker better. This bias often resulted in mothers receiving full or primary custody.

Many fathers today believe that today’s courts still favor women. However, this is no longer the case.

Courts focus on the best interests of children

California law forbids showing favor on the basis of gender during custody cases. Courts also tend to adhere to the principle that continuing contact with both parents is beneficial for children, which means they often favor a joint custody solution. However, this does not mean the law guarantees fathers and mothers joint custody. The guiding basis behind custody decisions is the best interests of the children. Judges evaluate various factors, including children’s ages and health and the ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment to determine the arrangement.

The household roles do matter

While judges may not look at gender, if parents occupied traditional gender roles in the household, it may affect the outcome of the case. In many families, both parents work outside the home. However, if a father has a demanding job that requires long hours, this may impact a judge’s decision. Similarly, if a mother was a stay-at-home parent previously or worked but took on the majority of the childcare duties, it may influence the case. This applies in the opposite direction as well, in the case of a reversal of the traditional roles. Regardless, both parents must demonstrate their fitness to care for their children.

There is a persisting belief that women have an advantage in custody cases. While this was true in the past, Earthweb states that 40% of states try to split time equally between both parents. California law also bans gender bias in custody decisions. What matters to impartial judges is what is in the best interests of the children.