Mothers and fathers actually have an equal right to child custody. Gender should not factor into this equation at all. However, due to the nature of how people tend to adopt gender roles in marriages and families, there are a preponderance of women who do gain the advantage during a child custody battle. This is because it's often women who are the primary caretakers of their children.
There are two primary considerations that courts look at when deciding who will receive custody of a child:
The best interest of the child: The courts will, first and foremost, consider the best interest of the child while also keeping in mind the reality of the parental and family situation. Within this context, the court will try to support all of the things that it knows will benefit the child. This will include considerations such as: having a stable home environment, healthy food, a parent who is available to spend time with the children, adequate shelter and safe family members to spend time with and learn from, and having a financially secure situation.
The primary caretaker of the child: Part and parcel to the best interests of the child will be the court's desire to preserve the status of the primary caretaker. If it's clear that one parent has bonded with the children more by serving as their primary caretaker, the court will try to preserve the status of the primary caretaker. Because of the importance of the primary caretaker, prevailing in a child custody suit may involve the need to prove the parent's status in this regard.
If you're facing a legal battle pertaining to child custody, you may want to review your legal rights and options immediately with an experienced legal counselor.