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Beyond Mr. Mom: working mothers and child custody decisions

A generation ago, the actor Michael Keeton starred in a move called "Mr. Mom." Back then, the very idea of a stay-at-home dad was so uncommon that it was all too easy to play it for laughs.

Today, however, gender roles have evolved significantly. In Lake County, Illinois, and across the nation, there are not only many women who work. Many of those women outearn their husbands. And, by the same token, there are many dads who take on important childraising roles.

In the event of divorce, parents' work and childraising role of course play a role in child custody decisions.

In that regard, it is useful to know just how extensive women's entry into the workforce has become. Federal data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that more than 70 percent of women now work outside the home.

Many of these jobs are well-paying jobs, too. The statistics show that nearly 30 percent of wives who work earn more than their husbands.

But what happens when divorce enters the picture and child custody decisions must be made? Undoubtedly the old scenario where the mother gets primary custody of the kids and the father pays alimony and child support remains a strong influence.

That model may not fit a modern family, however. It especially may not fit one in which the wife not only works outside the home, but also takes the lead role in raising the children.

Of course, courts often try to split the difference and award joint custody. Indeed, in some states the law requires it - unless there are good reasons to depart from the joint custody presumption. 

Source: Huffington Post, "Child Custody and the Working Mom," Lisa Helfend Meyer, June 1, 2013

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