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Does the Law Give Mothers Priority in Terms of Child Custody?

Many people assume that the law gives mothers priority when it comes to child custody matters. Historically mothers have received primary custody at higher rates than fathers, but it’s not because of any legal preference in Minnesota state law.

Historical reasons for higher custody rates among mothers

Until recent years, mothers frequently received custody of the children in a divorce because the mother tended to stay in the home as the primary caretaker of the kids. The fathers were often in the role of the “provider,” going out and working and spending more time away from the children.

In fact, many fathers assumed they would not have a chance of being granted custody, so they tended to not even fight the issue.

Over time, however, the gap in the number of mothers and fathers with primary custody of children after a divorce has narrowed as traditional gender roles have faded. Society generally no longer views women as having a responsibility to stay in the home and take care of children. Many families today have two working parents. However, more fathers than ever are also finding themselves in stay-at-home or work-from-home roles.

This means that more than ever, courts may look primarily at each parent’s demonstrated ability to raise the children. There might be some tendency to give preference to a mother if the infant is still breastfeeding, but this has more to do with the court needing to fulfill the child’s best interests than it does with giving preference to a mother or father simply because of gender. Increasingly, courts have tended to favor joint custody arrangements, with parenting time split equally.

To learn more about how courts determine child custody in Minnesota, consult an experienced family law attorney with Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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