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Single-father households on the rise in Maryland

According to recent reports, Maryland is now home to about 47,200 single-father households, a 14-percent jump from the year 2000. Single-mother households have only increased by around 5,000, or 3.2 percent, in the same time span. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that this is the first time the number of households led by single fathers has grown more than those led by single mothers since the state began collecting such information in 1970.

Many experts have attributed this change to Maryland's increasingly flexible courts, which are now more willing to implement joint child custody arrangements. A professor of social work at the University of Maryland explained that a shift in the way that men and women view fatherhood has also made it more feasible and acceptable for men to raise children after a divorce or separation.

Other experts agree, saying the shift is a sign that divorced parents have begun to focus more on custodial agreements that make the most sense for both their lives and the children's lives rather than basing it on historical gender stereotypes. Some believe this new perspective stems from societal changes. Women have more work opportunities than ever, and many men who grew up with deadbeat fathers want to prove that they are different.

Maryland courts are also stepping up to make sure custody arrangements are fair and in the children's best interests. A former president of the Maryland-based Fathers United for Equal Rights has praised the courts' movement toward treating mothers and fathers equally, because in the past, custodial laws have more commonly favored mothers. He added that courts have also begun to enforce child support laws for delinquent mothers and fathers more evenly.

Hopefully these new trends show that Maryland's family courts are working to take an approach to family law issues that will keep the children's best interests are heart while administering decisions that are fair for the parents as well.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Rise in single fathers defies historic trends," Yeganeh June Torbati, 30 May 2011

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