Child Custody Biases Are Not Gendered

by Gwen Berumen

It is still of the upmost belief that in child custody battles, women have an advantage. In fact, it is a popular argument by many Men’s Rights Activists that men are “oppressed” because of this “fact.”

As usual, these MRAs have no warrants to their claims. Unfortunately, more than just MRAs buy into this particular belief. Many women also believe that child custody cases favor them – meaning they believe that women more often get full custody, men are completely removed from parenting, and the only way men contribute is through child support.

This, however, is all untrue. According to the Children’s Placement Arrangements in Divorce and Paternity Cases in Wisconsin survey, divorce cases in which the mother got full custody have dropped from 60.4 to 45.7 percent between the years of 1996 and 2007. The percentage of equally shared custody cases doubled, from 15.8 to 30.5. This signifies that as the U.S. implements policies that are somewhat more equitable to women, the courts realize that women should not (and are not always) the sole agent of  child-care.

Then what determines who is most fit to take care of the child?

It turns out that it is less about gender (duh) and more about income. As of late, there has been a tremendous increase in women paying child support. And while this is not necessarily indicative of the fact that women make more money, it is indicative of the fact that more women than before are now the primary earners in a household. 

While this disproves the “no women pay child support myth”, one should keep in mind that this does not mean that women are still getting special privileges in court. Since men do earn more money overall, it is very possible that they can afford better lawyers, and can actually get out of paying adequate child support, as well as win custody battles.

In two different examples cited in this Slate article, women must adapt to custody standards set by the fathers. In one example, the mother must foster a lifestyle as requested by the father in order to be able to even see the child. In another, the mother must face the fact that the father is paying very little in child support.

In a recently developed phenomenon, many women are choosing not to marry the fathers of their children. They believe that it is in their (as well as the child’s) self-interest to have a single parent household.

Gender, while a great indicator of income and socio-economic class, is not the sole basis for custody assignments in divorce cases. Perhaps these MRAs should come up with a new stock argument, because this one falls totally flat.


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