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Family Court Review

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Child custody presumptions have formed part of Anglo-American law for centuries. Both the paternal preference rule at common law and the tender years doctrine that supplanted it in the nineteenth century signaled the law’s conviction that custody was indivisible: after a marital breakup, children could be entrusted to only one parent, with the other an infrequent visitor. This “rule of one” began to weaken in the last third of the twentieth century, as the movement toward gender equality called attention to the importance of both parents in the care and nurturance of children and loosened the link between gender and parenting role.



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