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Single fathers increasing in number

Georgia parents may be interested in a recent study that tracks a significant increase in the number of single fathers over the last several decades. This trend, some speculate, is due in part to new laws that are being passed in some states which are empowering fathers to assert their parental rights.

According to the Pew Research Center study, there were only 300,000 households with minor children headed by single fathers in 1960. In 2011, however, the number had ballooned to around 2.6 million. This unprecedented increase is indicative of two trends facing U.S. families. First is the increase in societal acceptance for single men being the caretakers of children. Second is the rise in both the divorce rate and the rate of unmarried parents. By comparison, there were 8.6 million such households run by a single mother, though the rate of increase over the same time period was much less.

Also important are new laws that are cropping up in a few states that change how courts decide custody issues. Traditionally, courts would act in the best interest of the child, which often meant granting the mother full custody. Now, some states are mandating that the default position of courts is joint custody. Another study shows that, in Oregon, this law had the unexpected effect of increasing the number of single fathers. It could be that men are now more empowered to take advantage of their fathers' rights in parenting. Also, it could be that sole custody is less complicated, and many mothers opt for the father having full custody rather than dealing with shared parenting.

However the arrangement is reached, it is important that fathers' rights are respected and recognized. An attorney may be helpful in asserting these rights in child custody proceedings or in crafting a custody agreement outside of court.

Source: The Atlantic, "The Rise of the Single Dad", Caroline Kitchener , February 24, 2014

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