In recent years, there has been a shift in the, “Who gets custody?” question. When men are asked this question, more than likely, it is assumed that the mother will automatically be given preference by the judge resulting in full custody of the children. When woman are asked this question, it is more than likely assumed that they will receive full custody. Why is this? The philosophical implications of this time-honored question is quite simple.
Traditionally, woman are known as the nurturer of the parental unit. Mothers are pictured as having the soft-touch, the loving embrace, and the loving heart. They are naturally pictured as the one who looks after the children. However, this traditional perception which has become engrained in the minds of the American people is not statistically sound anymore. With the growing role of woman in the workforce, and the balancing of the male role at home post World War II, America is actually quite a different place than it is often viewed.
Both, mothers and fathers can be nurturing. Both, mothers and fathers can hold their children in that loving embrace, provide those positive words of reinforcing constructive behavior, and give their children a healthy and productive home environment. This is also seen through custody decisions. Wisconsin exemplifies this with statute (767.24(5)) states explicitly, “The court may not prefer one potential custodian over the other on the basis of the sex or race of the custodian.” Wisconsin statute (767.24(4)(b)), which says, “A child is entitled to periods of physical placement [custody] with both parents unless, after a hearing, the court finds that physical placement with a parent would endanger the child’s physical, mental or emotional health.”, is another prime example of the progressive outlook on gender and parental rights.
Over the years, the traditional perception of, “Who gets custody?” has seen a dramatic change. These changes should not be looked at as a loss or a win on the side of the mother or father. It should be looked at as a win on the side of the children involved. A divorce between a man and a woman is difficult for them both, but it is especially hard on the children. more often than not, they do not side with one parent, or the other. They sometimes feel “caught in the middle”. Instead of the natural perception being that children are best raised by their mothers, this perception should continue to be based upon where their best interests are served. Parents should also maintain an open-door policy on both ends. Remember, parents divorce each other, not their children.
Jeff Hughes, J.D.