Child custody: Is parental gender factored into court decisions?

Posted by Lauren S. CohenNov 23, 20200 Comments

Divorce can be difficult and stressful, but child custody disagreements often add another layer of concern and challenge for families. Who is the better parent, Mom or Dad, and is their success based on their masculine or feminine roles assumed in the home? 

In the past, courts may have sided with one gender over another based on what people used to consider traditional household norms, but what is the reality for child custody cases today? 

Current custody considerations

In July of 2020, the New York State Senate passed legislation prohibiting gender discrimination in child custody proceedings. This bill intended to promote equality among all sexes, including sexual gender minority parents. Although sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression are no longer arguments for or against a parent vying for custody in New York, other states may not offer the same protections. Beyond gender, the court may consider other factors in a child's best interest. 

Other factors that may impact judgment

Historically, the best-interest standard has been discretionary, but each parent's living situation and financial stability are factors that often stand true as determinants for success.  Also, a judge can take a child's age and expressed, reasonable preference into consideration when making a custody decision. The parents' relationship may also impact the result, depending on each party's willingness to work together on joint custody and schedule cooperation. 

Divorce is complex enough, so parents should not have to worry about judges asserting gender bias nor conventional gender norms in the courtroom. With recent anti-discrimination legislation in the state, all parties can keep the well-being of the child at the forefront of their priorities.