Unlike in Many Countries, Fathers in the U.S. Don’t Have Automatic Custody Rights
Through colonial times and even after the nation’s founding, the concept of child custody did not exist as we understand it today. Child labor was common and sons and daughters were typically regarded under the law as property belonging to their fathers. Not until the 19th Century did the focus in custody and guardianship determinations shift to the best interests of the child, which tended to favor the mother. However, many countries today still mandate male guardianship of children in nearly every case when parents divorce.
Recent changes to the law in Saudi Arabia have shed light on male guardianship laws that have several origins, such as:
- Interpretations of religious law — Even more modern countries such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates rely on traditional interpretations of Islamic Law in divorce and custody decisions. For example, UAE law provides that mothers have custody of sons through age 11 and daughters until they turn 13. At that point, the father can take custody unless a problem is identified, but he must have a woman living in his home, usually a relative, to care for the youth.
- Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act — In 1956, India enacted the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, which regards fathers as the “natural guardians” of Hindu children born within a marriage until they reach the age of five. When a child is born outside of marriage, his or her mother is considered the primary guardian and the father the secondary guardian. Different rules on child custody can apply depending on the family’s religion.
- Customary versus statutory standards — Just as divorce and custody laws vary throughout the United States, different standards might exist within a given country. In Nigeria, for example, customary law controls in domestic matters, and most customary systems declare that fathers have absolute custody rights over their children unless they are very young.
If you’re from another country, you might not be familiar with the child custody rules that apply if you seek a divorce in the U.S. Here, courts are not bound to favor either parent but to issue an order based on what is in the child’s best interests. Speaking with an experienced divorce lawyer will help you understand how your custody situation might be resolved.
Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. assists parents with child custody issues and handles a full range of divorce matters for clients throughout Long Island. Please call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our office in Melville.