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Her lawyer assured her there was nothing to worry about, and Julie believed her case was strong.
As she surveyed the crowded courtroom, Julie fought to remain steady against a sudden riptide of emotion: The heartbreak of a ten-year marriage in shambles.
The fear of not being the one to tuck her kids into bed each night.
The anger at her husband for failing to help support them. “I begged him to get a job.” In court papers, Mark, a graphic artist by training, said he had agreed to stay home with the kids so Julie could build her business. Then a female judge flipped through the stacks of paperwork and announced, “There are so many motions here, it would take three hours to get through them all. ” Mark’s lawyer argued that because Mark had not worked since their youngest child was 1, his “marketable skills have decreased,” limiting his opportunities to find work.
Job layoffs affecting more men than women have yielded a burgeoning crop of Mr. “Men are now able to argue that they spend more time with the kids than their working wives do,” says veteran New York City divorce attorney Raoul Felder.
“This is one of the dark sides of women’s accomplishments in the workplace—they’re getting a raw deal in custody cases, while men are being viewed more favorably.” Indeed, Julie sat helpless as Mark’s lawyer argued that he was the one who arranged the playdates, took the kids to the pediatrician and volunteered at their schools.
“It’s become a whole different ball game,” observes Rhode Island Family Court Judge Howard I. Faced with time constraints that make it virtually impossible to get to know the families who appear before them, judges rely on certain assumptions.
“When a judge sees a mother who’s working longer hours to support her family, the judge will have a harder time awarding her primary custody,” says Randy Kessler, a prominent divorce lawyer in Atlanta and vice chair of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section.
“If I could have done things differently,” Julie says today, “I would have made myself super-visible.” The Shifting Landscape There are about 2.2 million moms in this country like Julie, moms who don’t have primary physical custody of their children.
I have made that argument myself: ‘Mom’s not home—she’s out working.’” Today, it’s not uncommon for fathers seeking sole custody in a contested case to prevail at least 50 percent of the time.
And Dad is asking for joint or primary custody more and more: Over the past decade, the number of fathers awarded custody of their children has doubled, according to the latest data.
She helped Daniel, 7, and Sophia, 5, get dressed, packed their school snacks and kissed them goodbye.
An hour later, the petite brunette walked into a family probate courtroom.