When parents divorce, a father might fear that the court will automatically assume the child’s mother should be the custodial parent. After all, in many relationships, the child’s mother stays home with the child, at least for a while, and might even be considered the child’s primary caretaker.
However, this does not negate the strength of the existing father-child bond and the important role a father plays in a child’s life. Still, are mothers automatically awarded custody based on gender alone?
Are mothers assumed to be the best parent?
The law in Montana does not favor mothers over fathers or fathers over mothers when determining child custody. Neither parent will automatically be awarded custody based on their gender alone.
Instead, the standard used when making child custody decisions is the best interests of the child. The court will consider the following factors when evaluating what a child’s best interests are:
- The wishes of the parents and the child
- The child’s relationship with each parent, along with brothers and sisters
- How the child has adjusted to their home and community, including whether it is desirable to keep the child in the same school
- The health of both the parents and the child
- Whether domestic violence occurred
- Whether one parent abused drugs or alcohol
- The desirability of providing the child with a stable home life
- The child’s developmental needs based on their age
- The desirability of ensuring the child has frequent and continuing contact with each parent, unless this would harm the child
As this shows, the parent’s gender is not a factor considered when evaluating the child’s best interests.
Some exceptions for poor conduct
There are some actions by a parent aside from domestic violence or substance abuse that could cause them to lose custody, either initially or later through a child custody modification.
First, if a parent owes child support and knowingly refuses to pay it, this is not in the child’s best interests.
Second, if a parent continuously and with ill-intent moves the court to amend a child custody order or parenting plan, this is considered to be an adverse action that is likely not in the child’s best interests.
In the end, child custody orders are based on the child’s best interests. A parent’s gender does not affect the child’s best interests for child-custody purposes.