Leveling The Custody Playing Field

These days, there is much more talk about “leveling the custody playing field” than ever before.

There is an obvious shift in how we think about traditional gender roles in parenting, and there are several reasons why. Today there is more gender equality in the workplace, with women’s salaries equal to or more than men in some cases. There are also more households with two working parents. And, of course, the recession accelerated the shift, when men were out of work and forced to take on more of the parental duties. A study by Pew Research Center found that back in 2012, almost 2 million fathers reported being a “stay-at-home” dad, up from 1.1 million in 1989. And although 23% of these stay-at-home fathers said they were home because they couldn’t find work, the sharpest increase in the reasons for being home was among fathers who were caring for their family.

Another reason for the shift? According to a study conducted by USA Today, many of today’s lawyers and judges experienced divorce themselves. They were children of divorce at a time when the presumption was that the mother would stay in the marital home and have almost full-time custody of the kids, and the father would have visitation and maybe some overnights. I think those kids — when divorcing — want a different experience for their kids than they had.

This is not to say that when litigating, the custody split will likely be 50/50 and everyone can go on his or her merry way – far from it. We all know that divorce is more complicated than that. But it does express the need to update old thinking with new facts and trends. We need to throw the old social mores out the window and think about what is in the best interest of the child, and all parties involved in parenting, in today’s world.

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