The Custodial Mother - A Steep Climb
While many women suffer a decline in their standard of living after a divorce, some studies suggest that women who are employed during the marriage fare better after a divorce than mothers who stay at home. A middle-age woman who attempts to reenter the workforce after taking many years off for child rearing very often finds the market indifferent to the stale work skills she can offer.
While many men now contend that maternal custody of the children unfairly penalizes them (particularly former wives who use denied visitation as a way of punishing former husbands), mothers who are custodial parents appear to suffer more financially as a result, even when they are receiving child support. Many mother often find that jockeying custodial parenthood and a job presents difficult, if not insurmountable, obstacles.
Moreover, in high conflict divorces, despite such measures as wage garnishment and payments to Child Support Collection units, custodial mothers sometimes find that collection of court-ordered support becomes a continuing problem with their uncooperative former spouses. This ignores entirely changes in circumstance in the lives of the custodial parent that may warrant increased child support.
Today, eight out of ten custodial parents are mothers, but until the beginning of the twentieth century, fathers routinely were awarded custody. Men’s rights and fathers’ rights groups argue that one way to alleviate the financial hardship of split physical custody (the mother as custodial parent; the father as noncustodial parent paying child support) is shared custody. Increasingly, however, even more and more courts award shared physical custody, maternal solo parenting (the "divorced mom") remains very much the norm.
Even when she achieves a civil rapport with a former spouse, a divorced mom with physical custody of small children faces a tough set of marching orders. The labors of solo parenting, aggravated by financial woes and worries, leave many custodial mothers harried and haggard. The emotional and psychological wear and tear on the mother, who, even if she has a cooperative former spouse, often transforms the custodial mother into an enervated and exhausted bundle of nerves. The truth be told, many good mothers face a lot of bad days when they become custodial mothers.
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TENDER YEARS DOCTRINE -- The "tender years doctrine," and what was called the “maternal preference,” presupposed that the relationship between the mother and the child was more crucial to a child's development than the relationship with the father. Since the 1970s, courts have become gender-neutral about child custody but in cases of contested custody mothers generally receive physical custody of the children.
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