Great insights, thanks. From the link I posted earlier and some other reading I've been doing, it seems like:
- 90% of cases don't go to litigation.
- Of those that do, there is a maternal preference especially with older judges.
- The progress in father's rights and joint custody has pretty much followed the progress in women's rights, going from an automatic assumption that the mother is best in the 50's, progressing to more joint custody arrangements in the 70's and 80's and to legal assumptions of equality in many states in the 00's.
- There is a group of organizations, medical, psychiatric, women's rights that strongly favor single custody. Some of these say the child is more stable in one household with a stable environment, some say the parents use the children to fight against each other (parent alienation syndrome), some say domestic abusers use the courts to keep continued access to their abused partners. I've actually read a lot about the last item and it is a pretty ugly tactic. The reality facing a woman running from a domestic violence situation is that she may find herself destitute trying to defend against a vindictive ex taking her to court and with no means to defend herself. This link concerns a regular, long time A2K contributor: http://www.gofundme.com/Her-Safe-Place
My take is that the world seems to be moving pretty quickly towards equality in parenting in cases of no fault divorce. I personally think the advancement in equal rights for women has driven the advancement in father's rights. Generation X judges and legislatures (<50 years old) have grown up believing in more equal rights and it shows up more in the courts and legislatures but old beliefs die hard.
As for "what is best for the children", I believe that is important but I also think that is not the sole consideration. Parents count too. If in order for the children to gain 1% more stability a father or mother must lose all contact then I disagree. Of course you can argue that the kids don't deserve to give up anything because it isn't their fault, but that is true of just about every bad thing that happens to a family. If the kids can give a little for a better outcome for the whole family, we need to consider that option and I think that is why some of these groups pushing for sole custody are losing ground.