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More single dads heading up households

The rise in divorce rates in Texas and elsewhere has resulted in an increase in single parent households. Many of these are run by single moms, but there has been a fairly rapid rise in the number of households led by single dads as well. A recent Pew Research Center study found that in 1960, there were an estimated 300,000 households with minor children headed by single fathers, with the number growing to 2.6 million by 2011.

Many also attribute this increase to an emerging trend in child custody legislation. In 1997, Oregon passed a law that required courts to use the idea of equal parenting time as a guide. Prior to that, the "best interests of the child" standard typically resulted in custody awards that favored the mother. With the passage of the Oregon child custody law, the concept of joint physical custody gained traction. In the years that followed, other states followed suit in changing the language of statutes governing child custody.

Since then, an interesting trend has developed regarding fathers and sole custody. A study of Oregon's law and its aftermath published in 2011 identified a phenomenon in certain divorce situations in which the parents opt for sole custody rather than joint physical custody. The co-author of the study suggested that some divorcing couples simply find the practice of sharing equal amounts of time with their kids to be to challenging. For, instance, having both parents live near school may not be practicable in some cases.

At the very least, laws favoring joint physical custody have empowered fathers to believe that they can have an active and consistent role in their children's lives. As a result, child custody decisions that consider fathers' wishes are becoming more common.

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

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