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A Tender Trap: Can Women Work The System in Custody Battles?

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Jon Hansen

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“The tender years doctrine suggests that “where a child is of such tender age as to require the care and attention that a mother is especially fitted [sic] to bestow upon it, the mother, rather than the father, is presumed to be the proper custodian, unless for some reason she is unfit for the trust.”

This presumption ultimately established a maternal preference in the twentieth century, where, absent a showing of unfitness, the mother automatically received custody of children below a certain age. This policy eventually surpassed the paternal preference in child custody awards.”

While the tender years doctrine, which has been around since the 19th century, has at least on the surface given way to newer supposedly more progressive thinking such as the best interests of the child and the primary caregiver standards, based on actual data from the U.S. Census Bureau it appears that old habits or in this case ingrained doctrines are not easily relinquished by the courts. In short, while fathers must pursue an uphill battle in terms of proving the mother to be an unfit parent before he is awarded primary custody, the mother need not prove the father unfit in order to win custody herself.

One cannot help but wonder if this skewed view of parental capability leaves the courts vulnerable to manipulation by women with a hidden agenda?

One case that immediately comes to mind is that of a successful dentist living in Florida about whom we will be talking this evening.   Joining me to talk about this case as well as "the tender trap" doctrine in general is renown criminal profiler Pat Brown and The Cop Doc Richard Weinblatt.

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