How Role Reversals Affect Divorce, Custody, and Spousal Support

February 23, 2010

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

The New York Times has published an interesting commentary about role reversals: whether current economic forces may lead to more stay at home fathers and whether societal norms support this. Personally, I’ve seen this in some of my most difficult cases, which tend to be role reversal cases.

Father as Primary Caregiver

Courts have sometimes had difficulty accepting the premise that the father has been the primary caregiver of the children. Where there is clear evidence that the father has been the primary caregiver, courts have been less accepting of the premise that it might be in the children’s best interest to continue primarily in the father’s care.

Husband in Need of Spousal Maintenance

Financially, courts have had even more difficulty with the premise that a man might meet the standards for an award of spousal maintenance, even where there is evidence that the husband has been unemployed for a long period of time and may not be capable of self-support without some retraining. Sometimes, the court will hang its decision against the non-working husband on the belief that he is voluntarily un- or under-employed. I have not always seen a clear emphasis placed on voluntary un- or under-employment in cases where the wife has chosen to remain unemployed for long periods of time.

If the purpose of spousal maintenance is to avoid any unfair economic consequence of divorce, I can only conclude that the Courts believe it is fair to hold both men and women to an outdated social contract.


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