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Working mothers face challenges to getting child custody

Child custody is a concern for families going through divorce. However, many divorcing Connecticut mothers find that societal changes mean moms no longer automatically get custody. Some 70.5 percent of mothers work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 30 percent of working wives out-earn their husbands. When mom is the primary wage earner and dad the primary caretaker, judges increasingly award child custody to the father.

This is unlike the past, when the mother usually got custody whether she worked or not. Moreover, judges now award custody and support to non-working dads 50 percent of the time because he often is the primary caregiver. That means women who adopted the breadwinner role while married may find themselves stuck in that role after divorce and see their children less.

Lawyers say that mothers who are in that position and thinking about divorce should make some changes well beforehand if they want child custody. In addition, although awarding 50/50 custody was popular, the pendulum is swinging back to sole custody with visitation rights for the other parent. In any case, judges look at many factors in a child custody dispute. That includes how much time a parent spends with their child, if the parent has a relationship with the child's teachers and doctors and if the parent shows up for the child's activities.

Working women who are considering divorcing should prioritize their children well before filing by cutting back on hours or bringing work home to spend more time with their child, attending parent-teacher conferences and other events, taking the child to doctor appointments and documenting time spent with their child. Additionally, working out legal custody amicably with the spouse instead of leaving it to a judge is best for families. An experienced family law attorney may be able to provide even more advice for working moms considering divorce.

Source: Huffingtonpost Divorce, "Child custody and the working mom", Lisa Helfend Meyer, June 01, 2013

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