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Stay-at-home dads and divorce

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of fathers staying at home to raise children has nearly doubled since 1989. In some instances, this is happening because the father is unemployed or unable to work, or because the mother has a higher earning potential. In many cases, however, fathers want to stay home and care for their families and households.

In light of this trend, researchers have been conducting studies of the impact of fathers' involvement in their children's lives. The Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology published a 2005 study which revealed a significant relationship between father involvement and gains in academic achievement beyond what could be accounted for by maternal involvement alone. Children raised by actively engaged fathers are also less likely to develop "at-risk" behaviors, such as hyperactivity and delinquency. Still other research points to the relationship between paternal involvement and improved physical well-being of children.

Rethinking Custody Arrangements

Historically, mothers were granted primary custody of children after a divorce. Presumably, this is because women were more likely to stay at home with them or at least take on more caregiving responsibilities than men. However, research and the growing number of stay-at-home dads has brought more attention to the importance of paternal involvement. States have therefore adopted more egalitarian child custody laws so that fathers can continue to play a vital role in their children's lives.

Pennsylvania's updated (2011) child custody law is committed to promoting the best interests of the child. This includes consideration of responsibilities carried out by each parent, providing not only for the physical needs of the child but also supporting the child's educational and social needs.

Gender is not a consideration. Courts do not give mothers a presumption of primary physical custody.

Your situation is unique

Certainly, there is no "one-size-fits-all" custody arrangement for every family. As gaps close between men and women in education and employment, fathers are seeking to break down stereotypes and receive due recognition for their role in contributing to the overall well-being of their children.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford has been a member of the local Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce (previously known as North Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce) for more than 25 years.

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