The Custody of Infants Act 1839

The Custody of Infants Act 1839 was passed by the Parliament of the U.K. while being heavily influenced by reformist Caroline Norton. Norton, after a failed marriage with her husband, wrote pamphlets arguing for the natural rights of mothers to gain custody for their children garnering a lot of attention from members of Parliament. The idea of mother’s rights to custody was not a new introduction to Parliament, but the push from Norton was much needed in order to get the act passed. Before the act was passed, the vast majority of custody cases immediately went to the father of the child, this act now allowed mothers permission to present their case to the court to garner custody of children up to the age of seven. This ushered in a new era of custody hearings in the U.K. with the creation of the Tender Years Doctrine which insisted that during a child’s “tender years” which typically consist of ages 4 and younger, the mother of the child would be granted custody of said child. The passing of this act would have directly allowed Helen to have custody over Arthur Jr. 

“Custody of Infants Act 1839.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation. 2 Dec 2020. . Accessed 2 Dec 2020.

Etty, W. (1836). Caroline Norton [Digital image]. Retrieved December 03, 2020, from

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