COLLEGE STATION, Texas What was once thought of as the standard in child custody cases is changing, and experts say it's a change for the better.
According to a Pew Research study, the number of single fathers is on the rise. Since 1960, the number of single fathers with custody of their children has risen from one percent to around eight percent.
The numbers aren't staggering, especially when you consider the number of single mothers with custody continues to be considerably higher than dads. Brazos County Court at Law 2 Judge Jim Locke has been dealing with child custody cases for more than two decades. He said what's impressive about the rise in numbers is what it seems to say about society and how it views the roles of parents.
Mitchell White, a single father and owner of The Filling Station in Navasota, said when things got rough in his marriage, he only had one request.
"I looked at her and said you can take anything you want. I don't want anything. You can have everything. I just want my daughter," said White.
White said he's loved watching his little girl grow up.
"Watching her become a young lady and maturing," said White. "That's been the best part."
Locke said research shows fathers are playing more of a nurturing role in the household than they did in the past.
"Thirty years ago, there was an expectation, that particularly with young children, mom got custody. And nobody questioned that very much."
Locke said he's also seeing changes within the family that contribute to the rise in numbers.
"Mom is not just, potentially, a school teacher or a secretary. She's the principal, or the lawyer, or the doctor," said Locke. "And that necessarily effects who does what in the parenting."
Family Attorney Randy Michel said these days, society accepts the role of single fathers more than it did decades ago.
"Parenting one's child or children is as important, if not more important, than making a living. And many men are making that decision."
Carl Ivey is an instructor for the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University and also a single father of two. He said as a single father, he's been involved in every aspect of their lives.
"It enables me to really piece together the whole thread of their lives and what's going on," said Ivey. "And it's really rewarding for me to see them grown and to see all these things happen."
Ivey said the support from his family has helped him over the years.
Judge Locke said, while it's more difficult to choose between two loving parents who both want custody, he'd rather be faced with that decision than the alternative.
For more on the Pew study, click on the link below this story.