For many years, child custody courts in Maryland and all across the United States tended to favor mothers. They were thought of as more natural caregivers, and that played heavily in their favor in court.

In recent years, though, the push to equalize the process has increased. Some have seen this as an attack on mother’s rights, but the stats show that equality between the sexes seems to have been the real result.

For example, one study looked at the numbers and it was found that mothers got sole custody in a full 60.4 percent of the cases in 1996. By 2007, that number had plummeted all the way down to 45.7 percent of cases.

That may sound like men were being given sole custody in the majority of cases—around 55 percent—but a deeper look shows that’s not true, either. While they certainly were getting sole custody in some situations, joint custody was only used 15.8 percent of the time in 1996. By 2007, it had nearly doubled, rising to 30.5 percent.

What has become clear is that courts are focusing more on seeking joint custody solutions when possible. It has been determined in many cases that having both parents involved is best for a child when he or she is growing up. Naturally, courts will still use sole custody when there are issues like criminal activity, abuse or anything else that endangers the child, but the emphasis is on giving both parents equal access to the child—and equal responsibility.

If you’re getting divorced, make sure you know how this change in emphasis by the legal system can impact your rights when dividing time with the children.