This topic came up in chat just now and it took a few minutes to find something with some info on what I was looking for I seem to have found something. It's possibly not all it has cracked up to be but will post it for discussion.
"Perception: the courts are biased against fathers, who almost never get custody.
Fact: Though it is true that women are far more likely to be awarded custody, they are also far more likely to ask for it in the first place. To establish bias, one must show (at the very minimum) that equally qualified fathers who request custody are denied more than half of the time, and here the data prove inconvenient. Courts can't be expected to award what they're not asked to. It turns out that fathers who ask for custody (and don't give up) are very likely to get either sole or joint custody:
From a state of Massachusetts study of custody awards at the state and national level come these studies of cases where fathers requested custody:
Study 1: MASS
2100 cases where fathers sought custody (100%)
5 year duration
29% of fathers got primary custody
65% of fathers got joint custody
7% of mothers got primary custody
Study 2: MASS
700 cases. In 57, (8.14%) father sought custody
67% of fathers got primary custody
23% of mothers got primary custody
Study 3: MASS
500 cases. In 8% of these cases, father sought custody
41% of fathers got sole custody
38% of fathers got joint custody
15% of mothers got sole custody
Study 4: Los Angeles
63% of fathers who sought sole custody were successful
Study 5: US appellate custody cases
51% of fathers who sought custody were successful (not clear from wording whether this includes just sole or sole/joint custody)
The study concluded:
The high success rate of fathers does not by itself establish gender bias against women. Additional evidence, however, indicates that women may be less able to afford the lawyers and experts needed in contested custody cases (see “Family Law Overview”) and that, in contested cases, different and stricter standards are applied to mothers."
From this source....
Also I'd like to add that although court costs are expensive there are alternatives, for example you can represent yourself at court as a father applying for custody. Yes it's difficult, yes it's time consuming, yes you have to read up on law.... but you can do it without spending a fortune on court costs. It's up to you as a father what is more important to you. Having been to court and represented myself in a case to win something for one of my own children I understand the process a little (it was not a custody case).