Working mothers are losing custody of their children with increasing frequency, according to a startling article in the December/January issue of Working Mother magazine.
Single Mom Seeking: "This is a wake-up call to families that have lost track of their priorities in this difficult economy," says Suzanne Riss, editor-in-chief of Working Mother, the voice of 2.4 million working moms.
With women poised to outnumber men in the workforce for the first time in American history -- and men bearing the brunt of recessionary layoffs -- dads are increasingly taking over primary child-rearing duties -- a key consideration in child custody cases.
Among the article's top findings:
- 2.2 million mothers in America don't have primary physical custody of their children, and this number has been rising steadily.
- Fathers seeking sole custody in a contested case win at least 50 percent of the time.
- Fathers are requesting joint or primary custody more and more. Over the past decade, the number of fathers awarded custody of their children has doubled.
"The shifting custody landscape is alarming to working moms, many of whom say they work primarily to provide a better life for their children," Riss says. "Women are surprised to learn that time spent in the office is increasingly being viewed by the courts as evidence that they're less involved in their child's day-to-day care."
For starters, Riss explains, "Judges and lawyers will tell you that the family court system is not equipped to handle these personal family matters."
Because courts are so overwhelmed, "judges want to do as little as possible -- unless the child is in danger."
And that often means that "the judge will say, 'keep the status quo,'" Riss explains. "So, if the dad has lost his job, and he's taking the kids to school -- because Mom is the primary breadwinner now and she's now working long hours -- that's the status quo."
"Even if moms are saying, 'You don't see that I'm waking up at 5 AM and staying up at night to read bedtime stories and make school lunches,' the courts can't see the nuances."
Indeed, gone are the days when mothers of children under age seven would get custody under the "Tender Years Doctrine."
"The courts are no longer saying, 'Mommy knows best.' Now it's 'Who's more involved with the kids day to day?'"
Of course, on the positive side, it's great that more fathers "are stepping up to the plate," Riss says. "But unfortunately, in a custody case, emotions often take precedence. Some couples are so estranged and angry ... that they'll try to get sole custody."
Riss stresses, however, that there is a silver lining here: "This is a wake-up call for moms and dads to be better parents -- and to remember the best interests of your kids."
We'd love to know: If you're divorced, what does your custody agreement look like?
|Rachel Sarah, a.k.a. "Single Mom Seeking" blogs at SingleMomSeeking.com and co-founded SingleMommyHood.com, the first-ever website to offer "a whole new way to think about life."|