Who ‘Wins’ in a Divorce, Mom or Dad?By Lisa Belkin
Child custody and balance of parenting power post-divorce have been in the news around the world lately. Everywhere it is messy, and everywhere parents seem certain that the other gender is getting the better deal.
In Great Britain, the Institute for Social and Economic Research released a study last month called “Marital Splits and Income Changes Over the Longer Term.” The first of its kind in the country, it showed what similar studies in the U.S. have concluded over the years — that men improve their standard of living after a divorce while women sacrifice theirs. This is true in all divorces, but particularly striking when the couple has children, because the children are more likely to live with their mothers, who earn less than their ex-husbands and pay more child care expenses.
Meanwhile, up in Canada, a court ruled that a custodial parent must take care not to excessively badmouth his or her ex. Justice Faye McWatt, a judge in Ontario, last week stripped a 42-year-old mother of custody of her three daughters, ages 9, 11 and 14, because she had “alienated” them from their father by poisoning their minds against him.
Some lauded the decision, calling it a victory for fathers, who are more often the ones whose children are turned against them. Others were outraged, charging that this will set a precedent of returning children to abusers, should their ex-wives speak badly of them.
And over in Massachusetts, new guidelines were adopted on Jan. 1 that will raise the amount paid by non-custodial parents, who are usually fathers. A Boston-based advocacy organization, Fathers & Families, responded with a lawsuit charging that the changes are excessive.
In an article analyzing the changes in the most recent issue of Psychology Today, writer Paul Raeburn concludes that in this debate, as in nearly every other surrounding divorce, child support guidelines often seem, to fathers, to be unrealistically high, and to others, unrealistically low.
Is it possible to create a division that feels fair to parties who are feeling angry, vulnerable and wronged? Or is the system as it exists skewed in favor of one side? And, if so, which one?