Illustration by Barry FallsThe New York Times reports today:  More Fathers Are Getting Custody In Divorce by Lisa Belkin.

Working Mother Magazine published a package of articles on Tuesday called “Lost Custody,” about the new reality of divorce and child custody for working mothers.

It is filled with tales of women who were the primary earners in a marriage, and who watched their husbands gain primary physical custody of their children when the marriage ended. There are now 2.2 million divorced women in the United States who do not have primary physical custody of their children, and an estimated 50 percent of fathers who seek such custody in a disputed divorce are granted it.

As the writer Sally Abrahms describes it:

Not long ago, men usually paid the child support and doled out the alimony. Moms (working or not) almost always got the kids in messy divorce wars. Years of changing diapers, wiping noses and kissing boo-boos gave them the edge. But now the tide is turning.

The “tender-years doctrine,” a court presumption that mothers are the more suitable parents for children under 7, was abolished in most states in 1994. And, in large part because of the recession, women are poised to outnumber men in the work force for the first time in American history. Job layoffs affecting more men than women have yielded a burgeoning crop of Mr. Moms.

“Men are now able to argue that they spend more time with the kids than their working wives do,” says the veteran New York City divorce attorney Raoul Felder. “This is one of the dark sides of women’s accomplishments in the workplace — they’re getting a raw deal in custody cases, while men are being viewed more favorably.”

Or is it a raw deal? Is it not, in effect, the same presumption — the parent who works harder, parents less — that men have faced for years? You could make that argument, Abrahms says. You could also argue that working women are held to a higher parenting standard than working men, paying a price for not conforming to the cultural expectation that mothers be more hands-on than fathers.

Either way, the percentage of fathers with primary custody will likely increase, one more example of shifting social views about parenting. And there will be more stories like the one Abrahms tells of Julie Michaud, who ran her own business, which supported her family, while her unemployed husband cared for the couple’s 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. As Abrahms writes:

Julie sat helpless as Mark’s lawyer argued that he was the one who arranged the playdates, took the kids to the pediatrician and volunteered at their schools. Affidavits from teachers and neighbors attested to his hands-on involvement in their daily lives. Meanwhile, Julie’s long hours at work meant that people in the community didn’t witness just how much parenting she did out of view. No one saw the lunches she packed every morning, the all-nighters she pulled when the kids were sick. “If I could have done things differently,” Julie says today, “I would have made myself supervisible.”

If a mother works more, and a father less, is that a logical reason for the children to live with him? Have you felt the swing of this pendulum in your own life?
 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.