That was the traditional way, before modern times (the last century or so), and many traditionalists take the view we should return to that, in terms of the law.
It makes a lot of sense, in that it recognizes the importance of the father, as a father; not merely reducing him to a child-support cheque and occasional babysitter. It also disincentivizes a woman from cheating, if she thinks she’ll lose her children.
Or does it? It may for some, certainly, but other, more irresponsible women, caught up in the moment of an adulterous affair, may be fairly gleeful at the prospect of running away from it all, and leaving the husband to carry the bag.
And what if it is the husband who cheats on his wife? Is it fair to the children or the faithful mother for the unfaithful father to have complete custody of the children? I do think that generally speaking, an unfaithful parent is less good of a parent than the one who doesn’t cheat, regardless of sex. That’s just my gut feeling, but at the very least, the cheating parent is the worse example, surely, all other things being ostensibly equal.
No, rather than default custody on the part of either the father or mother in the event of a divorce, I modestly propose (though unlike Swift I AM serious) this: allowing the party that was either cheated upon, or, if not cheated upon AND also not physically abusive towards the other spouse, and was not the party initiating the divorce (in other words, the victim of a frivolous, non-reasons-of-adultery-or-abuse divorce initiation process), to decide EXACTLY what kind of custodial arrangement he or she wants – whether full custody of the children, with no visitation rights even but 100% child support payment required, shared custody of the children, or zero custody of the children whatsoever. Conversely, though, if one spouse initiated divorce proceedings because of proven unfaithfulness or true abusiveness towards said spouse or children (in the latter case, beyond normal reasonable corporal punishment (though that isn’t the only option for parents)), I would likewise give that spouse the same full options, as to what type and degree of custody arrangement – and the other spouse none.
I realize this may make the children seem like pawns in the process – and I suppose that might possibly be a fair charge – but shoot, are they not already that under the status quo, and isn’t this at least superior, in that it gives the wronged party, one either cheated upon or the victim of physical violence, or the potential victim of a frivolous divorcer, all the cards, thus fully disincentivizing infidelity, frivolous-reasons divorce (“I’m not haaaaaapy!”), or physical abuse? Not that I’m as wise as Solomon, but his proposal to cut the baby in half caused the real mother to reveal herself; I humbly submit that the draconian measures I here propose, while potentially harmful to the children in some cases, will result in better behaviour on the part of a would-be nasty spouse, and actually prevent the scenario from happening in the first place, in at least many if not most cases.
Under my proposed scenario, both parties have everything to lose if they are unfaithful, physically abusive, or wishing to divorce for purely frivolous reasons – because they can’t guarantee that whatever outcome might happen, as regards the children, would be the one they desire, as it would be entirely in the hands of the other party – the one they wronged. And thus, they are both disincentivized from infidelity, abusiveness, or frivolous reasons for divorce.
Is that not a win-win situation for all (other than divorce lawyers; too bad!)?
I certainly think it’s superior to, and far more intelligent than, a scenario which rigidly dictates which spouse will obtain custody, period, because that might be exactly what the unfaithful, abusive, or frivolously-divorcing spouse might want, to be freed from responsibility. Screw that; let the other, wronged spouse decide!
And watch rates of divorce drop off dramatically, were any polity to implement my wise, just, noble solution. 😉
P.S. And scrap alimony!