In order for true joint custody to work, parents must be willing to give priority to the child’s needs. It may not be practical if the parents live far apart, or if the parents cannot set aside their differences when dealing with their child. When joint conservatorship is impractical, the judge must choose which parent is awarded custody.
How The Judge Makes a Decision
The Texas Family Code calls for judges to use “the best interests of the child” as the determining standard. They must consider many factors, such as the resources and programs available to the parents, the stability of the home, and the physical and emotional needs of the child.
While individual judges may feel differently, it is traditional to assume women have spent more time caring for their children than fathers. This may sway the decision toward the mother. However, you are allowed to present evidence in Texas to prove that the children would be better off with their father and to show that he is already heavily involved in childcare.
Overcoming Gender Bias
In the past, courts often decided custody hearings based on the Tender Years Doctrine, a presumptive belief that children were better off with their mothers when they were young. Texas has laws which require judges to consider both parents equally, instead of favoring the mother. But the prejudice may still exist, if not confronted and overcome.
Studies in several states show that many judges still favor the mother, or that attorneys believe that fathers are often not treated fairly. At least one Texas study found that judges could not say they gave fathers fair consideration, and members of the Bar agreed.
Even when confronted with the question directly, judges admit that they understand their obligation but do not always overcome their own bias. The rules of judicial conduct require them to be impartial, but they cannot always get past their own prejudice. It is important to meet this reality head-on when litigating a custody case.
Contact an Experienced Child Custody Attorney
Lawyers often make decisions based on what they believe judges will decide and may make strategic decisions in your custody case because of these perceptions. In order to have a fair playing field, you will have to ask for it. The law is on your side if you want to present evidence that you, as a father, have as much to offer or more as the mother does.
It is important to present your case with a fair and experienced attorney. Contact us today to see how we can help you overcome the gender-bias in your custody case!