Origins of Child Custody Proceedings

The History of Child Custody

Child custody is closely tied to the history of marriage and divorce. For much of human history, children were considered the property of their parents, with little legal recognition of their individual rights or interests.

In the early days of the United States, child custody was largely determined by the doctrine of “parens patriae,” which gave the state the power to act as the ultimate guardian of children. In practice, this meant that children were often placed with relatives or other caretakers if their parents were deemed unfit or unable to care for them.

As divorce became more common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, child custody became a central issue in divorce proceedings. In most cases, custody was awarded to the father, who was seen as the primary breadwinner and provider for the family. This approach was based on the common law doctrine of “paternal preference,” which held that fathers were better equipped to provide for their children’s needs.

What Is Best for the Child?

However, as social and cultural attitudes began to shift in the mid-20th century, the maternal preference began to take hold. This approach held that mothers were better equipped to provide emotional support and nurture for their children, and thus should be awarded custody in divorce cases. This approach dominated custody decisions throughout much of the 20th century, but it also led to accusations of bias and discrimination against fathers.

Today, the legal standard for child custody has evolved to focus on the best interests of the child, rather than any specific preference for either parent. This means that custody decisions are based on a variety of factors, including the child’s age and needs, the parents’ ability to provide for those needs, and any history of abuse or neglect. The goal of modern child custody law is to ensure that children have a safe and stable home environment, regardless of which parent is awarded custody.

Contact Montgomery, Kelly, & Dennett

Here at Montgomery, Kelley & Dennett we pride ourselves in being world class Child Custody Lawyers, providing professional legal services to each client we serve. We look forward to serving you and all your legal needs in the Williamsburg, James City, New Kent, Yorktown & Hampton areas. Call Now! 757.229.8284