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Increases seen in single-father households

North Carolina residents may find the results of a recent Pew Research study interesting. According to the study, there has been a dramatic increase in single-father households from less than 300,000 in 1960 to more than 2.6 million in 2011. This nine-fold increase is significantly greater than the four-fold rise in single-mother headed households during the same timeframe. Both statistics are attributed to the growing trend of parents not marrying and the increased divorce rate.

Custody awarded by the courts according to the best interests of the child used to mean that mothers usually received full physical custody. Men were not considered competent caregivers and seldom sought physical custody. Societal acceptance of fathers as sole caregivers has increased as parents are moving away from traditional role patterns. Fathers are becoming more comfortable in the caregiver role and more likely to demand equal parenting time. Shared and equal physical custody is mandated by law in Arizona, Oregon, Iowa, Maine and Minnesota.

Surprisingly, the increase in custody being equally awarded to both parents has not resulted in more such arrangements. Due to the circumstances necessitated by equal custody, such as parents having to live within close proximity of each other and engaging in increased contact, more mothers are giving up custody to fathers. This has resulted in a rise in single-father households as mothers prefer to not share custody.

Changes in family dynamics and structures are beginning to be reflected in the legal system. What was seen as being in the best interests of the child in the past is changing. The effects of these changes, whether intended or not, may have a profound impact on society. An experienced advisor with knowledge of current law and child custody issues may be helpful in arranging equitable arrangements beneficial to all concerned as families rebuild their lives.

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

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