Over the last few years, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of firms dedicated to representing men and fathers through divorce, such as Cordell & Cordell.
On the surface, there shouldn’t be a need for such a specialized focus since, according to the letter of the law, family laws are supposed to be gender neutral. In reality, judges and lawyers interpret statutes based on their personal beliefs.
Many of those beliefs stem from the traditional nuclear families of yesteryear where the father was the sole breadwinner and the mother stayed home to raise the kids. When couples divorced, women were typically granted primary physical custody of the children, along with sizeable child support and alimony awards.
Over the last 50 years, however, gender roles have evolved quite dramatically. According to the Pew Research Center, 37 percent of married women have a higher income than their husband, and the employment rate of married mothers increased from 37 percent in 1968 to 65 percent in 2011.
As a society, we’ve made enormous progress in terms of gender equality in a number of areas, and those gains should be applauded. But the dark corner of the room when it comes to civil rights is dads’ rights in family courts.
Despite the drastic increase in the number of women who work full-time, and the uptick in fathers who stay home with the children, the assumption remains that mothers are caregivers and dads should support the family financially.
This creates a tremendous struggle for fathers when they go through the divorce process. Many dads who shared parenting and household duties equally, or even reversed traditional gender roles, are left scratching and clawing for even the most basic rights to remain a part of their children’s lives.
Statistics illustrate the imbalance men and fathers still face when going through divorce:
– Only 17.8% of fathers are custodial parents
– Custodial fathers who receive child support are paid, on average, $700 less than custodial mothers
– 30% of custodial fathers receive child support; 55% of custodial mothers receive child support
Even as there has been a strong nationwide push to revise the country’s child custody laws, states still by and large do a poor job of promoting shared parenting arrangements after divorce with most states still defaulting to primary or sole custody arrangements.
In 2014, the National Parents Organization released a Shared Parenting Report Card that issued state-by-state grades on the nation’s child custody statutes as they related to shared parenting in instances of divorce and separation. The report revealed a shared parenting national average of a 1.63 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) with no states earning an A and 25 states receiving a D or F.
Men also face enormous challenges pertaining to orders of protection. While protective orders are designed to protect one party from abuse, they’re often used as a tactical nuclear weapon advantageous during divorce.
A 2011 Stop Abusive and Violent Environments report estimated 85 percent of protective orders are entered against men. A good number of those are products of strategic divorce considerations rather than actual protection from abuse.
These orders, which often do not require any actual evidence of abuse to obtain, typically require the parties to stay a certain distance away from each other and limit the communication they’re permitted to have. Some orders give the right to ask for custody, child support, and spousal maintenance.
By filing for an order of protection before filing for divorce, one party can gain a huge advantage regarding property division, child custody, or child support.
Fortunately, fathers’ rights law firms have helped men make up a lot of ground, but there is still a long way to go.
Too often, divorce attorneys and judges resign themselves to outdated stereotypes that perpetuate the status quo. This mentality is not always malicious or even conscious, but it is certainly prevalent.
That’s why it is necessary, and critical, for men to have law firms they can count on to represent their point of view and help level the playing field in the family court system.
In 1990, Cordell & Cordell was founded as a firm devoted to representing men in domestic relations matters. The firm’s attorneys have developed the unique experience and familiarity with the male perspective as it is affected in the family court system, and that knowledge enables them to aggressively champion the rights of men and fathers.