In the past, many courts favored mothers when awarding child custody. However, as gender roles have changed and more women work outside of the home, these assumptions no longer apply. Today, most custody laws are gender neutral (and do not favor mothers over fathers). Instead, courts must consider the child’s best interests when awarding custody. It is not easy to figure out how to win custody as a mother, but it is good to keep in mind that most courts, even ones in different states, will focus on similar factors when considering a child’s best interests, such as:

  • The child’s physical and emotional health,
  • The strength of the parent-child relationship,
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment,
  • The child’s connection to his or her school and community,
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s emotional and physical needs,
  • Each parent’s willingness to actively parent the child,
  • Any evidence of domestic violence or child abuse,
  • The child’s wishes (when age appropriate).

If you need help understanding your state’s factors, contact a child custody lawyer for help. Additionally, it is important to understand the difference between physical and legal custody. Physical custody is the time you physically spend with your child. When you have physical custody of your child, you are responsible for making basic, day-to-day parenting decisions.

Legal custody involves your right to make important decisions for your child (such as decisions about education, health care, and religion). Although one parent may have primary physical custody, both parents typically share joint legal custody.

Will an Unmarried Mother Get Sole Custody?

In some states, an unmarried mother is assumed to have sole custody of her child. However, if an unmarried father has established paternity, he can petition the court for child custody. Again, custody rules vary from state-to-state. If you need help understanding how your state laws apply to unmarried parents, contact a lawyer.

Does Breastfeeding Impact Child Custody?

Some states (including Maine and Michigan) consider the benefits of breastfeeding an infant when awarding custody. But, breastfeeding is typically considered in combination with other best interest factors, and is not considered a gender preference. 

Does the Mother Have Any Obligations with Regards to Child Custody?

It is always in your best interest to maintain a polite and cooperative relationship with your child’s other parent. Any open hostility may hurt your custody claim or result in a reduction in your parenting time. And, once a custody order or agreement is finalized, you must follow all of its conditions.

Can Court Custody Orders Be Changed or Modified?

Courts will modify custody orders when there has been a significant change in circumstances. This may include:

  • A parent’s violations of the custody order,
  • Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse in the home,
  • When one parent relocates, making the current custody order impractical, and
  • When the child’s needs have changed, and the current order is no longer in his or her best interests.

In order to modify a custody order, you must file a petition with the court. This procedure varies from state-to-state. If you need help understanding your state’s rules and procedures, contact an experienced child custody lawyer.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Mother’s Rights in Child Custody?

For most parents, child custody is vitally important. If you are facing a child custody battle, hiring an experienced child custody lawyer is probably in your best interest. Sometimes, lawyers can prevent prolonged litigation through alternative dispute resolution or mediation, but they also can help you build a strong case for custody if your dispute goes to court.