entails the various rights and responsibilities grantedto parents concerning their adopted or biological children under theage of eighteen. The English law used in the colonial America gavethe father custody of children upon divorce. During this era, womenand children were regarded as the men`s property, and this madedivorce case rare(Mason, 2011). Additionally, most existing laws at thetime were inspired by the religion that discriminated against womenby granting men more powers in decision making(Mason, 2011).

However, the industrial revolution prompted many fathers to leavetheir villages and farms in search of jobs in industries and assuch, children were left under the care of their mothers. This markedthe onset of the image of fathers as providers and mothers ascaregivers. In 1839, the Custody of Infants Act was enacted inEngland and the law gave judges discretionary powers in casesinvolving child custody(Garrison,2016).This inspired the New York’s highest Courtdecision in granting a mother the custody of her sickly daughter in1840(Mason,2011). In the case, the judge reached the decision byarguing that the law of nature holds that a mother has a strongerattachment to a child that the father.

The Custody of Infants Act stipulated that a mother could be grantedcustody of her child until the latter wasseven years of age. However,in 1873, the age at which a child’s needs were presumed to bebetter catered for by the mother was extended to 16 years(Garrison, 2016). Many States in America adopted theCustody of Infants Act. In the 1960s, divorce rates started surging,and this prompted a debate on the contribution of each parent to theupbringing of their children. According to Meyer(2015), every year, approximately one million childrenwitness their parents divorce in America. The period starting 1960saw a proliferation of Father’s right groups that demanded genderequality in child custody. This culminated in the replacement of thedoctrine of tender years with the principle of the child’s bestinterest. It also marked the onset of heavily contested child custodybattles with each parent trying to discredit the other’s character. In the 1970s, many women started getting into the workforcechallenging the earlier notion of mothers as caregivers and fathersas providers. This gave room to joint custody laws and by 1991, over40 States in the United States had laws that allowed granting bothparents equal rights to the custody of their children upondivorce.This resulted in a decline in the number of divorce casesthat ended with the mother being granted sole custody of the childrenfrom 60.4 % to 45.7% between 1996 and 2007 in Wisconsin(Garrison, 2016). Apart from joint legal custody, theother emerging trend in child custody is joint physical custody wherechildren get to spend equal time with each parent. However, under thejoint physical custody, one of the parent’s residence is chosen asthe primary home for the child.

In early 1800s, America’s child custody litigations were influencedby the English law that mandated fathers to make decisions affectingtheir families. Following the industrial revolution men startedgetting jobs in industries, and this marked the onset of theoverthrowing of the Devine plans by the law of nature that emphasizedon the role of mothers as caregivers. As women started joining men inthe work setting, the notion of men as sole providers was challenged.Besides, the rise in divorce cases and the fight for gender equalityin child custody prompted a change in the custodial law to grant bothparents equal rights to their children upon their divorces. However,in most cases, the doctrine of the child’s best interest applies incustodial battles.


Garrison, S.(2016). The History of Child Custody laws in America. Accessed from

Mason, M. A.(2011). Roller Coaster of Child Custody Law over the Last HalfCentury, The.&nbspJ.Am. Acad. Matrimonial Law.,&nbsp24,451.

Meyer, D. D.(2015). Constitutional Rights of Non-Custodial Parents, The.HofstraL. Rev.,&nbsp34,1461.