Worth-less Fathers: Examining Gender Stereotypes and Bias in Custody Decisions and the Best Interest Standard


This research is an examination of the history of gender stereotypes and gender bias in child custody determinations. The development and subsequent shift toward a maternal preference for awarding custody and the guidelines that promote these biases. This research examines the determining guidelines for awarding custody, the best interest, de facto custody and the power the judicial system places in individual judges to award custody. Additionally, the trial court’s discretionary power will be examined and compared to modification towards a more legislated based approach to custody determinations. This paper will also consider specific court cases in which biases or judicial overreach are present and identify how each custody determination relates to the best interest of the child. The research will also compare these cases to determine any inconsistencies in these custody determinations. Also, we will investigate the flaws within the judicial system in regards to its biases and the assumed roles that society has given both mothers and fathers. These inconsistencies in application of the best interest standard, consideration of continuity of care, and the desire to reunite a child and parent will identify the weaknesses of relying on the subjectivity and discretion of individual judges.

Keywords: Best Interest Standard, De Facto Custody, Guardian Ad Litem

Year Manuscript Completed

Spring 2021

Senior Project Advisor

Dr. Tricia Jordan

Degree Awarded

Bachelor of Integrated Studies Degree

Field of Study

Social Sciences

Document Type


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