Laura Mitcheltree - posted on 03/25/2014 ( 9 moms have responded )
Women are losing custody of their children in greater numbers today than at any time in American history since the 1920s.
Thousands of fit and loving mothers are being relegated to seeing their children only during court ordered visitation schedules, and having their wages garnished for child support to their ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends.
Male conservatives who wish to restrict women's reproductive rights and shame them into unwanted pregnancies, are suddenly very liberal and all for equal treatment of women when it comes to family court decided child custody. In other words, men want judges to consider mothers and fathers on completely equal footing when deciding who the child will stay with on week nights, and who will pay child support.
But if the case gets ugly, fathers' rights attorneys are taking great advantage of the discriminatory views commonly held by older judges who are overwhelmingly white and male:
" Your Honor she is a slut." (And slut=bad Mom.)
" Your Honor she is crazy." Post-partum depression or treatment with meds for any mental illness is being used against women with success.
Women are also more commonly in nursing or other professions with irregular or night shifts. So it is common for the father's attorney to point to his office job and successfully argue that his home life and schedule are better for the child.
American tradition has consistently prodded women to take his name and go where his job and family are located, instead of staying in her hometown. So many divorcing women find themselves away from their hometowns, away from their support base and family, and living near the father's family. This puts Moms at a distinct disadvantage because once the child is born, mothers are no longer allowed to move the child.
While many well meaning women and second wives fight for fathers' rights, and it certainly did need reform, no one seems to be talking about the very real consequences for mothers, and the emotional toll that becoming a non-custodial mother takes on women. This is largely because there is a very negative social stigma against Moms who don't have custody, with people commonly saying " Moms have to be a drug addict or criminal to lose their kids."
No longer is there any tender years doctrine or consideration for nursing, so even Moms of very young children and babies are losing custody at alarming rates, which increases psychological and even physical ramifications.
Women who leave the marital home are commonly prevented from taking their children, which makes women in abusive marriages and relationships even more likely to end up losing primary physical custody of their children. A woman fleeing abuse will be encouraged by police and advocates to leave the home, and assured that custody will be worked out in civil court later on. What they are not telling her is, letting the father have temporary custody with the kids at the home while she is out on her own, will likely result in her losing custody.
Because being female is more expensive and women make less than men, we are also at a clear disadvantage in retaining skilled attorneys, and being able to afford housing in the same school district where the marital home is.
What you can do:
Take a hard look around before getting or while pregnant. Is this where you want to live even if your marriage/relationship fails? Remember, it's a 50/50 shot.
Don't follow your man around the country, settling where his career prospects are best while ignoring your own prospects. Be very cautious before moving close to his family and friends, if you are leaving everyone you know far behind.
Remember, if he is showing true colors that are abusive or you are believing you want out, you CAN pack your bags and move away while pregnant, even if legally married. He is NOT legally able to stop you from leaving, getting on a plane, etc. and then YOU are deciding where your child's home will be, and where the court venue will be. Once you give birth, that door closes.
Moms need to plan for a separation carefully, making sure to stay within their child's school district and causing the child as little changes as possible if you are the one moving out. You need to be able to show a stable environment, where your child's friends and activities remain intact.
Even if you think the divorce won't drag on or get nasty, make sure you have money for an attorney anyway.
Stay in the home if at all possible. If your safety is at stake, stand your ground and get an EPO/DVO that forces him to leave and have no contact with you.
Get a separation order with visitation clearly spelled out. If you don't, remember, he can refuse to give the child back, and even move with the child, and there won't be anything you can do about it. The police will ask for the court order. If there isn't one, there's nothing they can do.
Just being aware that the playing field has changed and that the rules are different is an important step to make sure that mothers who give birth and love their children aren't suddenly devastated by a loss of custody, and are able to remain in their children's lives.