Legal Blog

Child Custody by Single Fathers on the Rise

In 1960, approximately 300,000 American households, or 1%, were run by single fathers. By 2011, a Pew Research study asserted that the number of such households had grown to over 2.6 million. Today, single fathers lead even more households. In addition to divorce, changing roles, non-marital births, and changes to the legal system may be responsible for the increase in numbers of fathers having custody of their children.

Changing Roles

Clearly the roles of American fathers have changed over time. Dads have increasingly become more active in their children’s lives, teaching values and providing emotional support. The role of sole breadwinner and primary disciplinarian has lessened. Often both parents work, children are busier, and the committed involvement of both parents has changed.

Increase in Non-Marital Births

While marriage trends continue to change, many unmarried couples still want to have families. However, in the state of Maryland, unmarried fathers likely must first establish paternity before they can hope to gain custody. A father’s willingness to complete the necessary documentation, and in some cases file for custody, may further prove his desire to actively raise his child.

Changes to the Legal System

Today, Maryland courts do not award custody based on the gender of the parent, or stereotypes associated with a specific gender. The practice of almost automatically awarding custody to the mother is no longer the case. Judges base custody decisions on consideration of a number of factors, including but not limited to:  fitness of the parents; character and reputation of the parents; desires of the natural parents and their agreements, if any; potentiality of maintaining natural family relations; preference of the child; material opportunities affecting the child’s future; age, health, and sex of the child; parents’ residences and opportunity for visitation; length of separation from natural parents; and prior voluntary abandonment or surrender. Consideration of all of the relevant factors is intended to help the court determine what is in the best interest of the child. Clearly the sex of the parent is not determinative.

If you are an unmarried father, or married and considering divorce, you should know your rights regarding child custody. Please contact Linda Sorg Ostovitz at or telephone (301) 575-0381 to schedule a consultation.



Linda Sorg Ostovitz is a family law attorney. Her legal experience spans more than 34 years. In this time, she has served as a leader, educator and advocate. Mrs. Ostovitz holds a prestigious fellowship in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Currently, she serves as President for the Business Women’s Network of Howard County, by which she was chosen Woman of Distinction for 2014. Mrs. Ostovitz represents clients in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore Counties. Her practice focuses exclusively on divorce litigation and mediation, child custody and access, child support, alimony, business valuation, as well as property and asset distribution. In addition to providing legal representation in court, Mrs. Ostovitz provides mediation services to help families come to a fair and legally-sound conclusion outside of the traditional court proceedings.



Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. With over 135 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well positioned to meet the needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. Our eleven offices serve individual and corporate clients in the Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City. At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our clients’ confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and achieving their goals in an efficient manner. Trust, knowledge, confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.

You can connect with Offit Kurman via our Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn pages. You can also sign up to receive Law Matters, Offit Kurman’s monthly newsletter covering a diverse selection of legal and corporate thought leadership content.