History Of Child Custody Laws

Most of the modern American laws have their origins in the early English common laws. Early English common laws included the influence of a very paternalistic society where the family survived largely off of their joint efforts in their family farm led by the husband. Women could not own property during these early days except in limited situations. Children were viewed as property under the laws and since only men had property rights, men were awarded custody of the minor children in the event of a divorce.

When modern industry started developing, a change in family dynamics occurred. Men left the family farm and searched for employment outside of the home. Women's roles changed as well to accommodate long periods of time spent parenting the children while men were working in cities and towns far from home. With these changes in family dynamics caused by the husband being the primary wage earner and the wife being the stay-at-home mother, English common law also adjusted to a maternalistic view of child custody. The "tender years doctrine" sprung from that maternalistic view of society.

The tender years doctrine held that children of tender years, in other words minor children, should be placed into their nurturing parent's custody in the event of a separation or divorce. Since women were the stay-at-home parents, women were considered the nurturing parent and nearly always were awarded custody of the minor children. The English common law tender years doctrine was adopted by the early American courts and survived, at least in principle, for generations of America's divorcing parents and child custody disputes. The doctrine often left mothers holding all of the cards in child custody cases and fathers feeling powerless.

Although World War II forced many American women into jobs outside the home, many other women embraced liberation from stereotypical roles that relegated women to the private sphere. Later, despite widespread liberation in the 1960's and 1970's, the tender years doctrine continued to prevail in American courts. What appears to have changed is that in the years after the 1970's, a dramatic increase occurred in the rates of divorce and children being raised in single-parent households. What also appears to have happened is that child psychologists started treating and conducting studies on children regarding the impact upon them of divorce and being raised in single-parent families. However, the information the child psychologists gained from their treatment and research was generally never conveyed over to the people who impacted child custody orders the most - the judges and lawyers in family court.

In the 1990's, child custody litigation started dramatically changing in most American courts. During this period of time, more and more expert testimony was being presented by the child psychologists regarding the impact of various custody orders on children's overall mental health. In addition, these same psychologists often helped the courts to understand the negative consequences of leaving one parent in child custody litigation feeling empowered and another helpless. Currently, it is generally accepted by the court-appointed child psychologists that it is in the best interests of minor children to have a substantial and significant relationship with both parents.

Contact Our Dade County Time-Sharing Lawyers

Our South Florida custody lawyers have assisted many mothers and fathers in obtaining child custody orders that were in the best interests of their minor children. Our Miami-Dade County custody law firm is experienced in representing parents in settlement negotiations as well as in contested custody trials.

Contact our Miami child custody attorneys at 305-222-7351 e-mail us to schedule an appointment for divorce advice and to discuss your Dade County, Broward County or Monroe County child custody issue.

Our Miami child custody lawyers accept family law cases in Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Monroe County.

Consultations are available in person in Miami and at several meeting locations throughout Dade and Broward Counties including Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Galiano Street in Coral Gables, West Country Club Drive in Aventura and Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. Appointments are also available by telephone and via Skype internet video chat.

Want to Learn More?

If you would like more information on family law topics, read the topics in our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

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