Winning at Work, Losing in Custody? The Sad Truth

So many men (sometimes career women, too) lose a custody fight because of their career obligations.  I want to share a few typical scenarios in which a very good parent, maybe even the better option to be the primary caregiver in most respects, is going to lose regardless of the grand scheme of things.  First though I want to reference a previous post that was written in October, 2019 entitled “Mom Has The Advantage With The Young Ones”, (it can be found in our archive) wherein I concluded the following:

“Is there truth that dad doesn’t have a chance?  Not necessarily, but he usually has a taller hill to climb to obtain custody of a young child than mom does, and that’s not written law, it is likely cultural more than anything else.  The Albright analysis does afford some advantage to mom, particularly because of the continuity of care when dad is at work.”

It is well settled that men (or working moms with stay at home dad husbands) are technically supposed to start on an even playing field with one another in a custody dispute…courts are mandated to be “gender-blind” in deciding who gets primary custody of a child.  Let’s look at two different, common scenarios where the hard worker has almost no chance of winning in a custody fight because of their job responsibilities.  

Scenario #1.  Husband and wife have two young children.  Mom isn’t happy in the marriage and hires a divorce attorney to initiate a divorce.  She hasn’t worked since the birth of her first-born which was several years ago.  Dad has always been the income provider, the breadwinner so to speak.  He wants to be the primary caregiver and that wife have visitation.  He believes that, since he has family close-by, that they can stand in his shoes while he works long hours.  Dad is incorrect and will almost certainly lose.  He is upset, feeling punished for being a great provider.  The reason he will almost certainly lose?  Because unless mom is unfit or has a work schedule more taxing than his, the capacity to provide child care is vested in natural parents first…not the relatives who live nearby.  Is he being punished?  The argument can be made, but the logistics of caring for kids takes precedence over how dad feels. 

Scenario #2.  Mom and dad have been divorced for a few years (or broken up).  A court order is in place giving mom primary custody, but dad gets a generous dose of visitation, more than standard every-other weekend visits.  Dad lives in the same town as mom, or even the next town over.  Dad gets offered a significant pay raise, but the job is in Texas.  He believes full well that he is the better parent.  He is placed in a scenario wherein he must choose to leave Mississippi and risk the difficulties of traveling…a LOT, in order to see the kids as much as he does now.  But, he wants to be a great provider, because he loves them.  Can a happy ending follow?  Unfortunately, probably not.  He either has to suck it up and follow the existing order and live out of his vehicle or petition the court for a restructuring of visitation.   Most likely, and 99.9% of the time, this fact alone will not tender him a foot in the door to seek custody…even if he has proof that the Texas schools are superior.  Is he being punished?  I’ll let you decide, but clearly our lives are full of tough choices.

My final thoughts are twofold.  First, it does seem that we often get the short end of the stick when doing the right thing.  Secondly, no matter how much better-off you may be financially than the other parent, how much nicer a home you have and so-forth are of no concern to the courts.  That is what child-support is for…to simply equal the playing field.

Tags: , , , ,