The 19th Century “tender years” doctrine, which explicitly gave mothers custody over children ages 13 and younger, was later replaced with the “best interests of the child” doctrine, but the gender bias persisted. As late as 1971, the Minnesota State Bar Association’s handbook advised lawyers and judges that “except in very rare cases, the father should not have custody of the minor children. He is usually unqualified psychologically and emotionally.” Time Magazine, 11/11/03, “Father Makes Two,” http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101011119-183968,00.htm
In most cases, Fathers become mere visitors and must pay draconian support amounts with little enforcement of their parenting time. See, Cynthia McNeeley, “Lagging Behind the Times, Parenthood, Custody and Gender Bias in the Family Court,” on the statistics and also debunking the myth that fathers get custody 70% of the time when they request it.
According to an Urban Institute study entitled “What About the Dads?”, child protective services attempted to contact fathers of children at risk in their mothers care only a little over half the time, even though they knew the father’s identity in 86% of cases.
Fathers also face widespread false accusations in child custody cases. Many state laws have automatic presumptions against custody when restraining order issues, creating an incentive to lie. The California State Bar has expressed concern about restraining order abuse. http://www.cafcusa.org/docs/family-law-news_TRO_RO_Pages%2026thru30_Vol27-Number4_2005-1.pdf