Law firms that champion men's rights — and particularly those of fathers — are a growing breed across the U.S., marketing themselves to men who are increasingly empowered in their role as dads. More state legislatures are rethinking child custody laws amid the latest scientific research showing that fathers are important to their children's physical and emotional well-beings.
As the nation mark[ed] Father's Day on Sunday, evidence is growing that when marital bonds sever or cohabiting couples with children split, more men are unwilling to accept the visitation and child-support arrangements of yesterday and are doing what they can to remain relevant in their kids' lives.
Jeff Robinson, an IT manager in Allen, Texas, hired a men's firm when his 27-year marriage broke up. His two daughters, Amanda and Jessica, are 24 and 21. But son Kyle, 12, is a minor.
"My fear was to be kicked out of my home, and she's going to try to keep my son away, and (I) have to fight for any visitation," says Robinson, 52, whose divorce became final last June.
At Seattle-based firm Goldberg Jones (with offices in Portland, Ore., and San Diego), co-founder Rick Jones says clients "know they've only got one shot. Clients come to us with the security of knowing that's the mind-set we come in with already."
Custody laws vary so much across the USA that "shared custody" in one state doesn't necessarily carry the same provisions in another, family law attorneys say. Cordell & Cordell's lawyers say some states have changed the language of their statues from "sole custody" and "joint custody" to terminology such as "parenting time" or "legal decision-making."
And though some states — including Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri and Maine — have taken steps to be more gender-equal in their decision-making, no state is considered "a beacon of being father-friendly," according to Cordell & Cordell.
"Custody decisions vary not only state to state, but even greatly within a state and within a county from judge to judge," says Jennifer Paine, an attorney in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Image: Parenting arguing in front of child, via Shutterstock