Recent statistics show a great improvement in the number of men or fathers who win custody unlike in the recent past. Men win custody about 18.3% of the time

Still, this is a small percentage compared to the number of mothers who win custody. Though there have been improvements in family statutes and custody battles, men still lag behind when it comes to winning custody. 

Other research studies also reveal that 79.9% of the primary custodial parents in the United States are mothers. That means that fathers are only about 20% of the physical custodians of children of divorced or separated parents. 

Fathers are also less likely to receive child support. 

Statistics show that only 28.8% of fathers are awarded support in child custody battles as compared to 53.4 % of mothers who are awarded support from their ex-spouses. 

It is important to understand the different types of custody options that a father or mother may seek with the courts in the United States. 

Types of Child Custody 

Before dwelling on statistics, it helps to understand the type of child custody options that are available for fathers and mothers in the United States, and across the world. 

These include:

Sole Custody 

This refers to a situation where the child or children live or stay with one parent. It may comprise sole physical custody where the child stays with one parent or sole legal custody where one parent is given the right to make important decisions affecting the child or children

Joint Custody 

Joint custody is where both parents share parenting time. Most states nowadays advocate for 50/50 custody where the child spends half of the time with the mother, and half of the time with the father. This has led to an improvement in the percentage of men winning custody than in the past. 

Physical Custody 

This is where one parent gives a primary physical residence to the child. The parent who takes physical custody of the child is responsible for providing shelter, food, and clothing among other needs. Sometimes also referred to as the Custodial parent or Residential parent.

Legal Custody 

A parent who gains legal custody over the child is responsible for making major or important decisions that affect the life of the child or children. That includes things like education, healthcare, entertainment, and other important decisions. 

Most of the time, parents will split legal custody 50/50 regardless of physical custody arrangements.

What Does It Mean to Win a Child Custody Battle?

Winning means you are granted what you are seeking in court, or through negotiation with the other parent. Most of the statistics on record capture numbers that are documented in the courts, mainly refer to sole or physical custody. 

Statistics show that about 90% of all child custody cases are settled outside of the court. 

That amounts to cases that are settled through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) method, and in most cases, winning means agreements by the parties to enjoy parenting time with their children in fair proportions. 

Therefore, winning does not have to mean full sole custody over the child. Having equal parenting time is a win for the parents and the child. 

Winning also does not have to mean settling matters in court. If you and your ex-spouse can cooperate and settle issues without involving the court, it is also a win, and probably for all parties since that will also serve the best interests of the child or children

Do Gender Stereotypes Affect Custody Decisions?

It is believed that mothers are favored by the law and by the courts when it comes to child custody battles. This notion is not completely true since the law does not favor it. 

It is a stereotype however, that women are better in parenting as compared to men. 

Children at a tender age (under 6 yrs. old) are believed to be more emotionally attached to their mothers than to their fathers, and also, when divorce happens, the child in most cases will remain with the mother until child custody is settled. 

That has given women a better edge in negotiating child custody. This has led to more women winning custody in the courts as compared to men. Statistics indicate that over 80% of women win custody in the courts, and that means, less than 19% of men win custody compared to women. 

While that is the case, there have been improvements in most of the courts and states where women and men are granted equal parenting time as we will discuss in our comparative statistics. 

How is Child Custody Determined

The current statistics still put women at the top when it comes to winning custody battles. That means there are factors that may be favoring women as compared to men. 

The first thing that the courts will consider is the best interests of the child. That means a child’s preference is also given a thought by the courts. In addition to that, the court will consider other factors that include:

  • The desires or preferences of the child.
  • The ability of the parent to care and provide for the child. 
  • Safety of the child. 
  • Child’s age and stability of the parent. 
  • Home environment and emotional attachment. 
  • Mental and physical health of the parent. 

While some states give men 50% of parenting time, these factors also count. That is why women still dominate when it comes to winning child custody. 

Just as we discussed above, women are seen as better caretakers especially when the child is very young. 

States with 50/50 Custody 

According to Custody X Change, a software research company, 20 states have been categorized as the best states for fathers or men. This is because of their 50/50 custody where men are likely to get 50% of parenting time just like women

These states include:

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • North Dakota
  • Colorado
  • Wisconsin
  • New Jersey
  • Arizona
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Kentucky
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Missouri
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts 

In these states, a good percentage of men are likely to get 50/50 custody, whether it be physical custody or legal custody with visitation. 

Concerns raised by the International Conference on Shared Parenting addresses the issues of shared parenting where both parents are granted equal parenting time unless one parent is not fit to take custody or make important decisions regarding the child or children. 

That advocacy looks at parenting through the eyes of the child and insists 50/50 parenting is the best for all parties. 

The Worst States for Men / Fathers 

While a good number of states promote 50/50 custody, some are still horrible for men. The statistics according to Custody X Change indicate some states still give less than 30% of parenting time to the fathers. 

That means men are granted visitation rights with much less time with the children than their mothers. 

These states include:

  • Tennessee
  • Oklahoma
  • Washington
  • South Dakota
  • Illinois
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • Ohio

…just to mention a few. 

Comparative State Statistics 

The actual percentage of men winning custody in different states is dictated by many factors but has significantly improved from one state to another. 

While the overall cases of men winning custody is 18.3% of the time, it is significantly more in states with joint custody laws or statutes, and lower in states that do not have statutes or provisions regarding child custody decisions. 

Keeping other factors constant, in an ideal situation where both parents are fit and able to cater to the needs of the child, statistics by Custody X Change would hold. In these statistics, fathers would win custody as follows: 

50% Parenting Time 

States such as:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Delaware

  • Connecticut
  • Minnesota
  • Maine
  • Kentucky
  • Nevada
  • Massachusetts
  • New Mexico
  • New Jersey
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • North Dakota

All promote 50% parenting time. 

In an ideal situation where other factors remain constant, men would get equal parenting time just as women. 

Other States Comparison Statistics 

The statistics of other states in regards to parenting time for men according to Custody X Change is as follows:

Alabama 33.7%, Texas 33%, California 32.8%, Nebraska 32.9%, New York 30.8%, and Indiana 28.8%. 

These are just a sample of states that do not favor men when it comes to parenting time, and where both parents are suitable and fit to care for the child or children

States with Less than 25% Parenting Time for Men

In these states, it is likely that more parenting time is granted to women than to men. 

These states include Rhode Island 24%, Ohio 23.7%, Washington 23.8%, Georgia 23.5%, South Dakota 23.6%, Mississippi 23%, Illinois 23.1%, Oklahoma 22.4%, and Tennessee 21.8%. 

States with low parenting time for men means less chance of men getting custody or parenting time. 

Why the Low Percentage of Men Winning Custody Battles?

Statistics indicate that about 10-20% of men win child custody and divorce. 

Apart from the notion of women being viewed as better caregivers, men are still held back by other factors that lead to the low percentage of them winning custody. 

Such factors include:

Child Abduction 

According to statistics relating to child custody and abduction, parents were found to be the main perpetrators of 90% of all the abductions. Within this percentage, 64% of the abductions were done by fathers. 

This high percentage of abductions by men is one of the responsible factors for the low percentage of men winning custody. 

Unfortunately many of these fathers feel like the mother and the courts are cutting him out of the child’s life, and resort to desperate acts to maintain their parental rights.

Drug and Substance Abuse 

Studies have revealed that men are more likely to get involved in drugs and substance abuse than women. 

This is one of the reasons why men would be considered unfit to take physical custody of the child if he has been involved in the abuse of drugs. 

Neglect and Abuse 

Physical abuse and neglect are part of the reasons why men lose custody in most instances. 

There is a belief that men are more likely than women to neglect or abuse the child.

Even though this is not a true statement, it does contribute to the low percentage of men winning custody. 

Domestic Violence 

Statistics show that about 25% of divorce cases are due to cases of domestic violence by men. That means more men are likely to perpetrate violence in their homes than women. 

When child custody cases are filed, a significant majority of these men would lose due to engagement in domestic violence. 

Gender Stereotypes and Parenting 

Though this does not apply to the law, it is still a belief that women are good at parenting as compared to men. 

Consequently, for a young child, the court might see a mother as more suitable than a father to take physical custody of the child, and fathers are then granted visitation or parenting time less than that of women in most states. 


So, what percentage of men win child custody battles? 

As we have seen, states that promote 50/50 parenting time have better chances of men winning custody. 

This accounts for the overall increase in the percentage of men winning custody over time. Generally, men win child custody cases about 18.3% of the time. In addition to that,  90% of child custody cases are settled outside of the courts. 

Therefore, different states have different laws and statutes regarding child custody, and where those laws favor equal parenting time, a larger percentage of men is likely to win custody or equal parenting time with their ex-spouses.