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Single Dad Households

United States households headed by single fathers now constitute nearly 25 percent of all single families with children.  Accordingly to the Pew Research Center, 2.6 million households in 2011 were headed by single dads, a nine-times greater number than 1960, when single dads made up only 300,000 households nationwide.  Additionally, according to the study, single dads are more likely to live with a partner and more likely to be older than single moms.

So why the rise in single fatherhood?  There may be as many reasons are there are single Dads (not really), but some believe that as more women have joined the work force, so have more men taken on more of the responsibilities traditionally assumed by women.   Though this may well be one compelling reason, I believe fathers, over the years, understand that they do have a lot to contribute to children, and this is not limited by biology. To some degree, laws acknowledging that fathers have the same rights as mothers, including time sharing and what we used to call “custody” have also contributed to these statistics.  As I often tell clients waiting to adopt, the biological role of pregnancy and childbirth is the EASY part . . . it is after the child is born that the tough, never-ending role begins.

Although I am not discounting the “motherly instinct,” I believe that the father’s role, whether intuitive or learned, is just as compelling.  Indeed, over my years of practice as a family law attorney I’ve seen some really sorry excuses for mothers.  Luckily, in most of those cases, I also found some very devoted fathers. (And, to be clear,  I’ve seen the reverse as well).

So how does this factor into a divorce with children or a paternity case?  Quite simply, a child  has a right to have a mother AND a father.  That these parents may not reside in the same household does not negate the necessity of a child learning from two parents and growing from what each has to offer the child.  If you are going through a divorce or a paternity case keep this in mind.  It’s not about winning if you have your children for more time than the other parent.  It’s about what is best for the children.  Yes, the other parent may do things differently than you do, and you may be convinced you’re  right.  But, candidly, in the scheme of the child’s life, eating take-out versus well-balanced organic meals will likely not make a vast difference in your child’s life, no more than an occasional missed bath. (Unless it’s the middle of the summer, but you get the idea).

Of course, if there are real issues, such as physical abuse, addiction problems and an inability to provide for the children’s basic needs, then that is another situation where timesharing should be restricted.   However, absent these types of situations, if you can remember to keep everything in perspective, and put aside your differences, then it will be easier to work with the other parent and I promise it will be best for your children.

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