It is common knowledge that many states across the country, including Maryland, have had an increase in single mother households during the last few decades, but this is no longer the fastest growing family dynamic in America.
Today, more U.S. men than ever before have primary child custody. According to the founder and president of the National Center for Fathering, single-parent households, headed by fathers with children younger than 18, are now the fastest growing households in America.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are currently 2.3 millions single fathers. Among single parents living with their children, close to one in six is a father. Single fathers today are either divorced (42 percent), never married (38 percent), or widowed (5 percent). Historically, single fathers raising their children were a relatively small group, primarily as a result of becoming widowed or due to the unyielding reluctance of courts awarding primary child custody to them. But this group is no longer small for reasons beyond being widowed and an awareness adopted by the courts.
Family dynamics and societal perceptions continue to evolve. As more women are choosing careers over family life, a father's role in their children's care is increasing. Moreover, choosing to be a stay-at-home dad is losing its disapproving connotation among men, and the perception that fathers are only awarded child custody if the mother is unfit is steadily dissipating.
This change in perception can be attributed to the increase in courts awarding custody to fathers in divorce cases. Judges have taken notice of the changes in family dynamics, and a father's involvement in his children's lives. The courts have recognized this, as evidenced by the rise in child custody awards to fathers.
Today's societal and court perceptions toward single fathers can certainly be considered as positive change, but the legal process and court procedures across the country, including Maryland, may remain the same. This can become overwhelming for parents to navigate, especially due to the heightened emotions common in child custody cases. For those facing this sometimes daunting challenge, it generally pays to be prepared so as to be able to present all the relevant facts and circumstances to convince a court of what is truly in the best interests of any children involved.
Source: Examiner.com, "Census data identifies more single fathers," Wendell Hutson, April 20, 2012