Breakdown of “Glass Ceiling” Leads to More Moms Paying Child Support
As more and more women break into professions once dominated by men, and more and more women become the primary breadwinners in their marriages, more and more dads are taking on roles traditionally the domain of women—watching kids at home, taking children to and from school, attending school activities and monitoring free time. One of the unexpected consequences—more and more dads are asking for (and receiving) child custody and child support when parties divorce.
The long-held assumption, previously written into the law in many states, was that the mother was biologically more suited to be a nurturer. Known as the “tender years doctrine,” the principal was routinely used to grant physical custody to mothers. All of that has changed, however.
The tender years doctrine is no longer officially accepted in any jurisdiction. Instead, courts are generally charged with establishing custody, visitation and support arrangements that are “in the best interests” of minor children. Where the minor children have spent most of their waking hours with a stay-at-home dad, the overwhelming trend is to give custody to the father, and accordingly to order the mother to pay child support.
Every state has its own formula for determining child support, typically taking into account the incomes of both parties, as well as any special needs of the child. Courts won’t automatically grant custody to the stay-at-home parent at the time of the divorce, but try to look at the situation and make a decision that is in the best long term interests of the children. But a couple trends do seem clear: the parent who had primary responsibility for meeting the children’s financial needs during the marriage will still have that responsibility after a divorce, and the parent who had the most impact and day-to-day contact with the children will likely retain the role as custodial parent.
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