In the U.S. How Often Do Fathers Really Win Full Custody?

written by Fred Campos
How Often Do Fathers Really Win Full Custody?

[S]even years before the 21st century, 15.9% of children were living with their fathers while the mother lived somewhere else. Almost 25 years later, has that number improved? In the U.S., how often do fathers really win full custody? There are a lot of sources, statistics and theorist that answer these questions, but let’s turn to Timothy Grall, of the U.S. Census, who released his “Current Population Report” in 2016 for facts.

Do Fathers Really Win Full Custody?

Not a lot has changed in 25 years, but Dads have seen a 1.6% increase. I have my own thoughts on to why the increase is so small, but more on that next time. Here are the cliffnotes of the study…

  • An estimated 13.4 million parents lived with 22.1 million children under 21 years of age while the other parent(s) lived somewhere else.
  • One of every six custodial parents (17.5%) were fathers.
  • The amount of custodial fathers is not necessarily increasing over time, but rather oscillates. It was down to 15.46% in 2001 and as high as 18.30% in 2011. It’s currently at 17.51% in 2013.
  • More than one-quarter (26.6%) of all children under 21 years of age lived in families with one one of their parents while the other parent lived elsewhere.
  • About 3/4s (74.1%) of custodial parents who were due child support in 2013 received either full or partial payments and less than half (45.6%) received full payments.
  • Dead beat Dads get a bad wrap. In truth, dead beat Moms had a high percentage of unpaid child support owed in 10 out of 11 bi-annuals than Dads in the same category. Definitely time the end the phrase.
  • The poverty rate of all custodial-parent families in 2013 was 28.8% (twice the national average).
  • Approximately half (48.7%) of all 13.4 million custodial parents had a court order or some type of agreement to receive financial support from the noncustodial parent(s) in 2014.
  • Outstanding child support rates are dropping but NOT for the good reasons you might expects. Non-receiving custodial parents are under 30 (30.3%), have less than a high school education (30.3%), have not contact with the other parent (32%) or were never married (34.1%).

[tweet “Dads do win primary custody, but only 17.5% of the time. – 2016 U.S. Census Report”]

Are More Dads Gaining Custody?

No, not really. For all the equality movements we have had in America, this is still an area that is truly lacking. A 1.6% increase is noted, but it is still very much within the margin of error. Is this discouraging if you are a good Dad seeking to gain custody? Not necessarily, but you certainly have your work cut out for you.

Average Dad. Yea you should be worried.

But then again, you’re probably not average if you’re reading this blog. More on that–next time.

Do you think it’s fair that only 17.5% of Dads have primary custody?

Feature paid image from Adobe Stock photos.



  1. Bleeble

    What percentage of fathers sue for full or primary custody? How many of that group are awarded full or primary custody? Without those numbers, it’s impossible to say whether 17.5% is fair versus unfair to fathers or unfair to mothers.

  2. Rachel Frampton

    My brother would like to win full custody of his son, which is why he’s currently looking for a family lawyer that may help him out. Anyhow, it’s a good thing that you shared here that one out of every six custodial parents are fathers. Well, through the years, mothers always get the custody of the child and the sympathy of the jury, but with an excellent lawyer, I believe that my brother will win his case.

    • FullCustodyDad

      Rachel, good for you for supporting your brother. Tell him to choose his lawyer carefully and wish him luck. If there is anything I can do feel free to reach out.

    • chris

      i got custody of my illegitimate 4 year old daughter back in 1987.

      tell your brother to get a jury if his state allows juries in family law cases. (texas did in 1987)

      it costs more but it increases your chances of winning considerably.

      judges read an awful book called “in the best interest of the child” by sigmund freud’s demented grand daughter when making their decisions.

      juries are free of that total bullshit book.

      good luck.

      • FullCustodyDad

        Chris, agree completely.

  3. Jack

    The fact that 15 % get custody does an incredible bias that is overwhelming. If this was happening to women they would be protesting and claiming gender bias and wouldn’t shut up until it changed. And as men we need to be willing to do the same thing. These courts have the nerve to say these trials are fair haha (a truly fair situation would reflect statistics closer to 50/50), then give u classes that lie about men’s chances at winning. How is set up is so messed up, it hinders good father’s, and rewards absent father’s. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life, the fact that I haven’t gone on a murder spree is a miracle. After every hearing the judges reports will mention her speculative testimony repeatedly, then neglect my fact based evidence, not once have they even mentioned it in reports desire fact it directly proves her testimony is false. I was placed in jail bc wife claimed I the stuffed animal at her, bc of this she was able to clean out apartment and take our child. Before proving any wrongdoing, despite her having zero injuries and no markings in police photos they allow women to then file for protective order. Then they allow them to mention alleged assault in order to get protective order and it’s not like u think, the man is literally guilty until proven innocent, I had no proof I didn’t throw stuffed animal so they awarded it. At which point since she received protective order they allowed her to break lease for expensive apt she picked, I sold my townhouse bc she wanted to move. So stuck me with all rent. Then courts tell the man is illegal to go get ur son back, and at same time they will have taken over 1.8 years to get to our trial and the longer child out of state the more it favors women winning. It’s unbelievable, it’s set up to do snow ball effect where man can never get ahead. I’m a man with good job, never been in trouble, never arrested, great dad, my family meant everything to me I have no idea y she did this to me, but I presented journals that she wrote showing she planned it, just one of many things I showed court, never had the court mentioned it in report that she planned this. I have masters degree, make good money, and they took my life from me, now I see my son only 4 fucking days a month. It’s so rigged it’s beyond belief. It was like an or of body experience I’d never experienced such prejudice in my life, I mean only analogy I can think of is i felt like black man during Jim crow. That’s how they treat u, especially make judges, and especially if u have pretty wife. U could literally hear the judges voice go up 4 octaves when speaking to her then back to stern when speaking to me. It’s like they think only men should have to feel the incredible pain of losing ur child. I can begin to today the messed up thoughts I’ve had about this, how more men don’t act out in violence towards these crooked court members is beyond me. A woman forcibly institutionalized twice by her own family absolutely destroyed me according to judge. Whenever u watch tv shows about court and u think wow that person’s going to win trial, they usually do. Well I’m here to tell u as a man my attorney and I both thought we destroyed them in all 3 trials, the same would’ve been gathered by unbiased 3rd party. Well I lost all 3, miserably. And when u mention bias and what can we do about this the attorneys just say sorry thought we won, in the end it’s up to judges discretion. Then on top of that fuckedupedness the attorney tells me I can’t appeal based on bias, in fact, by judges keeping the status quo (keep making sure women win and 15%, men win) that actually makes it harder for men to appeal somehow. It’s like what? That makes no sense. And trust me when I tell u no one has sympathy for a 33 yo middle class white man, so there is no chance in making an up roar as in current political environment that is not newsworthy. If ur man and u even suspect wife leaving u, take ur child and dipset, the cops will even try to bring come back to mother, I have to tell them it’s family matter not criminal please leave. Or if it’s too late, when u go to court dress as a transgender person. That way when judges are biased against u and u lose, u actually have a chance at making some noise via local news, social media, newspaper, etc.

    • Jack

      I wanted to mention, never before this experience had I ever been accused of harming a woman, much less gotten in trouble for it. I’ve never hit a woman, and I didn’t throw stuffed animal. And in maryland that’s considered 2nd degree assault, which means her claiming that is the same thing as if I had picked up a shovel and smacked her in face with it and broke her nose, somehow here those are the same charge here. Unreal, everything I’ve mentioned is purely factual, zero exaggeration, this is truly how it is for men. Bc of her claim shit stuffed animal throwing led to protective order and pending criminal assault case I lost my clearance. Which in turn caused me to lose job bc I needed clearance to do job. Then despite court knowing this they forced me to pay her a bunch of child support somehow, they don’t know how but they didn’t care. They did this to man with zero priors, no arrests, zero domestic violence claims before this, zero claims of violence against women, guy with masters degree, six figure job before let go bc of her claim, had over ten years experience at my job, had supported her and child many years, she worked to though, which helped. And now the unemployed dad with all day to watch son never gets to see him, and she had to go get full time job obviously upon leaving me, so she is working all the time which means her mother is raising our child. The courts know that, and desire my credentials the court decided it was more appropriate to have nana raise my son than his capable father. This is what men contend with everyday, and I for one am sick and tired of it. Even days I worked 12 hours and commuted 2 hours, if our son was crying in crib at 4 in morning I was the one that woke up and rocked him back to sleep, not her, even though I had to wake up at 430 am everyday then. For years in order to work, be a good father and husband, I got maybe 4 hours of sleep a night. Judges don’t give a shit about any of that, they see ura man and then u lose ur kid, that’s how it is and that’s how it’ll stay until we unite as men and do something drastic.

    • FullCustodyDad

      I totally understand. Thanks for sharing.

      • Dane

        Jack. I hear for you sir. I’m going through a very similar issue with this court system. Love to talk with you more.

    • FullCustodyDad

      Hang in there. Yes the inequality of those that win and lose among men is totally out-of-balance.

  4. Nat

    You never say why it is 17.5%. Is it because they don’t ask for it? And why should a good dad get FULL custody if there is a good mom involved? Should not it be shared? Did you know the majority of fathers who want sole custody are abusive. Good dads agree to shared custody.

    • FullCustodyDad


      My observation is you are exactly right. They don’t ask for it. I think most attorneys tell Dads it is out of reach. I do agree that all things being equal they should ask for shared custody. However, in Texas their is still a custodial parent and child support paid to the custodial parent. So in some states their is no pure shared parenting per se. Nevertheless good point.

  5. Nat
    According to, the majority of child custody cases are not decided by the courts.

    In 51 percent of custody cases, both parents agreed — on their own — that mom become the custodial parent.
    In 29 percent of custody cases, the decision was made without any third party involvement.
    In 11 percent of custody cases, the decision for mom to have custody was made during mediation.
    In 5 percent of custody cases, the issue was resolved after a custody evaluation.
    Only 4 percent of custody cases went to trial and of that 4 percent, only 1.5 percent completed custody litigation.
    In other words, 91 percent of child custody after divorce is decided with no interference from the family court system. How can there be a bias toward mothers when fewer than 4 percent of custody decisions are made by the Family Court?

    • FullCustodyDad

      Good data, thanks for adding.

    • Joe Vanderhoff

      Nat had some interesting facts, however I don’t believe them. And, even if that were true how many times do men are forced to give up because they are doing stupid things like work get in the way of fighting for custody? I moved 3,000 miles away to get away from my ex and all her allegations. I went back to NY for years and years, spent over a quarter of a million dollars. I never lost in the courts, but my ex won in the life of my daughter. Additionally, how many men “know” that they are going to get screwed, and as a result give up. Notice that was NOT a question.

  6. Joseph Vanderhoff

    By the way, I was THE FIRST SINGLE MAN approved as a Foster Parent in NYC. I was told that if I were a single man, and no less divorced that I could not be a foster parent. I asked “would you have said that if I were a woman?”

    They still discriminated against me. Most Couples would have two interviews. One in the office, and one in the home. And they would be approved in two to three weeks. I had five interviews! Four of them at home, and three of them were “surprise” visits. It took me almost a year to get approved!

    If any of you men want to demonstrate on the steps of the family court, I’ll be with ya.


    • Fred Campos

      Thanks Joseph. Appreciate your support and good job being a Dad.

  7. Preston

    16 years as a father.

    One false allegation from an adulterous woman and that ended for 19 months. During that 19 months I was attacked financially, emotionally and my children weaponized to drain me of all defenses.

    God gave me 36.2% custody. After I spent my entire retirement on child support and defense.

    I accepted the agreement as it was either accept or go homeless. I’d like to know how many other fathers “accept” with a boot on their neck?

    • Fred Campos


      thanks for sharing. I hear stories like yours a lot. I think most Dads do settle. Make the most of your time with your kids. This too shall pass. Hang in there!


  8. chris reese

    My x has threee kids with another dad and I have seen over the years how she has treated him. Now its happening to me. I find out she only married me for my money. I had a business and my own place and thing were going great for me. We met and I was in love and I took on so many resposibilities that her x did not do like insuring her kids and doing all kinds of things for them. I lost my day job. It has been down hill from there. My side job is on my property and she somehow got me restainned from it. So I had to shut my ebay down. She is costing me 400 a day. I have a business loan that cost me 2000 a month. She knows I only had 3 more months now but has refused me access to my shop to do my business. The court gave her 90 days to let me get my inventory and atleast sell that. 90 days has come and gone. I don’t get how or why she is doing this. When she has my 2 youngest boys she does nothing with them. She makes her older kids watch them. She got a job finally after never working for 10 years because I supported her and her kids. Judge says she has temporary custdy because she spent most of the time with them. That may have been true the last 2 years because I had to go and get 2 jobs to make ends meet. But so she gets a fulltime job leaves the kids at daycare till 5 everyday which with my new job i could have them. Before this i made sure to pick them up everyday and we would do homework go to the Y the park swimming fun things tht I can do now with my new great job. It was awesome for 2 months. The boys loved it. But the judge took all that away. Didn’t even listen to the case. Just went with the parenting time guide lines. Now I struggle to see my kids even one minute outside of the guide lines. She lives ad breathes the guide lines when it comes to time of visit. But everything else it says she doesn’t follow. Just pray for my boys. They deserve better than going home and playing Minecraft until 7 o’clock. Yes 7 o’clock. She says thats there bedtime. Her kids never went to bed before 10 unless i made them. She makes my boys take Zarbees or melatonin so they go to sleep. Then she complains because they wet the bed at night. Go figure. You drug them up to sleep 🙁

    • Fred Campos


      I feel you and your pain. Document everything. Keep getting in front of a judge. Keep trying to do the right thing. Hang in there.

  9. Henri Jones

    I am an African American male living in Texas with full custody of both of my children. As well as a single father. I can’t seem to find any statistics that I fall under in regards to my status. Any recommendations? I can’t be the only one, right? Or am I.

    • Fred Campos


      great question, unfortunately there are many stats on us guys having custody. According to the stats quoted in this article we represent 17.5% but it didn’t break it down by race.

      Appreciate you being a custodial Dad keep up the good work.



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