Close the pay gap? Get dads involved? 50/50 custody, no child support

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In my work writing about women, money and family in the United States, there are two prevailing issues:

  • Dads who do not live with their kids are barely involved. (Just 22% of dads who live apart from their children see them more than once weekly, per Pew.)
  • That pay gap will. not. close.

Here’s the answer:

Start all custody negotiations at a default 50/50 equally shared parenting time and custody, with no child support or alimony.

Child custody in divorce: Common terms and FAQ

How is child custody determined?

How child custody is determined for separated and divorced parents varies widely from state to state and community to community. You can ask an attorney in your area what to expect, as well as look up the custody laws for your state. The following can be considered when determining the parenting schedule:

  • Willingness of each parent to be equally involved
  • Most recent parenting arrangement — if one parent has been more involved in the child’s care, a judge may want to continue that
  • Parents’ schedule — how much time do parents have outside of work and commute to spend with the child?
  • Parents’ proximity to one another — does one parent live far away, requiring a long commute to school or the other’s home? Does one parent live out of state or the country?
  • Past or current struggles that may suggest a threat to the child: Mental health, addiction
  • Abuse of the other parent or child
  • Reliability. If one parent has a history of not showing up, or arriving late to switch off the kids.
  • Parent’s gender. In most states, judges are not required to state why they order any particular parenting schedule. However, some determine these orders based on sexist notions that mothers should be primary caregivers.

Best interests of the child

Historically and to this day, child custody cases defer to “the best interest of the child” — an arbitrary term that was once rooted in early social sciences that found that children bond deeply with one adult, and less so with other, secondary adults.

This research has been over-run with dozens of studies that find that approximately equal parenting time between mothers and fathers (or two moms and two dads, for gay families) is the best interest of the child.

Best interest of the child standards and its wide room for interpretation promotes highly contentious divorce proceedings that have been the norm for decades.

Types of custody

Custody is a broad term. Here is what you need to know about child custody in divorce:

Legal custody

Legal custody refers to the legal rights a parent has to decision-making rights for major issues, including education (which school the child attends), religion, and medical decisions.

Physical custody

Physical custody refers to who has the majority time with the children — this can refer to sole physical custody or shared physical custody.

Joint custody or shared custody

Joint legal custody is the most common agreement, in which both parents have equal rights to have a say in major decisions affecting children, including medical, education, religion, and where the child lives.

Sole custody or full custody

Sole custody means that one parent has all the legal rights to make major education, health and legal decisions about the child’s — and all or most of the time with the child.

Visitation, or time-sharingor residential custody are all terms that refer to the amount of time the children spend with each parent. Children live with parents who have “primary physical custody.”

50/50 custody / parenting time

Several states have officially changed their laws to require that reference to child custody be referred to as parenting time. 50/50 parenting time can be called many things:

  • Equally shared parenting
  • Joint physical custody
  • Shared residential custody
  • Shared physical custody
  • Equal legal custody
  • Equal parenting time

In this post, I’ll use the term “50/50 custody.”

Is joint custody the same as 50/50?

Custody term definitions really depend on where you are who you are talking to, so it is best to ask for clarification. Custody can refer to legal custody or physical custody. Both types of custody can be split equally, or one parent can be granted primary or sole custodian of the child — in regards to either/or legal or physical care.

Who claims child on taxes with joint custody?

Which parent claims the children on taxes with equal parenting time can be decided between the parents, and with the help of an accountant, you both may be able to work out an arrangement that saves you both on taxes. However, if you can’t figure this out yourselves, your state’s family law may have a law that will guide you, or a judge will make the determination.

What rights does a father have with joint custody?

Technically, if parents have equal custody, they both have equal say in how the child is raised regarding large decisions, equal time with the children, and the right to parent how they like during their parenting time.

Unfortunately, it can be messier than this.

What is the disadvantage of joint custody?

I have studied parenting for single parents for nearly a decade and I have seen no real evidence in the scientific literature to find any large-scale negatives for equally shared parenting. Children fare best when they spend equal time with both parents. Mothers earn more and are happier and more well rested when they share parenting time equally with their kids’ parent. And men who are engaged fathers are suffer les mental and physical health issues.

On an individual level, some parents may not want to share parental control, or miss out on time with their children.

Can a mother refuse joint custody?

Anecdotally I know that women are raised to believe we are the dominant parent, and we behave accordingly. The question here only supports this notion that mothers have within our power to refuse or grant father access to their own children.

Technically, mothers do not have this power in any state. However, mothers do have an upper hand in the domestic sphere and in family court, and when in question, most judges do grant mothers primary parenting time.

Why would a judge deny joint custody?

There are many reasons a judge would deny equal parenting time, or order an unequal parenting schedule:

  • One parent has a history of abuse of any kind
  • One parent has a history of addiction
  • One parent has a history of mental health issues
  • One parent has unstable housing
  • The judge is not educated about the most recent, and very established science that proves that children fare best when they spend equal time with both parents, and instead defaults to erroneous presumptions that children need on primary home
  • The judge is sexist and believes mothers are better parents
  • The judge is sexist and has a history of punishing women
  • The judge is sexist and has a history of punishing men
  • The judge is jaded after hearing too many false allegations and grants primary time to the accused parent
  • There is evidence of parental alienation, and the judge grants primary time to the alienating parent
  • One parent wants less than 50% parenting responsibility and time
  • An equal parenting schedule would dramatically reduce child support for one parent, and the judge wants to prevent that
  • The judge owes one of the parties’ attorneys a favor, or is otherwise a friend
  • The judge is sick of one parent filing frivolous and petty claim and is retaliating
  • The judge is having a bad day and one parent ticked her off

The ambiguity about what to expect in family court is a good reason to find a way to stay out of family court if you can. Here is a free parenting plan template you can use with your kid’s other parent, or with a mediator. You can come up with your own agreement, and file it in your local court if you prefer, saving you untold sums of money, time, stress and loss of control.

50/50 custody states

In 2017, Kentucky became the first state in the country to pass an equally shared parenting law, one which creates a rebuttable presumption of equal parenting time for separated and divorced parents. That means that when you split in Kentucky, time with the kids is equally split in half — and the onus is on one parent to argue the other should have less time.

Within two years of the law passing, the number of family court filings in Kentucky dropped by more than 11%, and the number of family court filings involving domestic violence dropped by 4%.

Other states including Arizona, Missouri and Minnesota also have very progressive and strong shared-custody laws, and at any time about 20 states are debating legislation that would do the same.

However, there is a long way to go. In 14 states, when parents are not married when the child is born, sole custody is automatically awarded to the mother, even when the father signs a paternity acknowledgment form.

Joint custody

Joint legal custody is the most common agreement, in which both parents have equal rights to have a say in major decisions affecting children, including medical, education, religion, and where the child lives.

50/50 time-sharing means that the time the kids spend with both parents is approximately equal.

It is very common for parents to be awarded joint legal custody — presumably deeming both fit enough to make sound decisions for their children. However, equal parenting time far less common.

Neither joint legal nor joint physical custody automatically have any bearing on one another, nor any child support paid. In other words:

A father with 50/50 custody can pay child support — and even alimony.

Who pays child support with joint custody?

Each state has its own laws and child support calculator and in some of them the sum of time each part spends with the children is factored into the sum owed.

However, there is no state in which equal parenting time equals no child support owed. That said, parents can make any agreement between them and deviate from their local family court child support standards, and agree on a 50/50 time-sharing with no child support paid to anyone, while the parents figure out how to equitably split out-of-pocket expenses like health insurance, child care and extracurricular activities.

While there is a great movement towards 50/50 equally shared visitation time, the majority of family courts still default to some version of a model that has prevailed in separated families for decades:

  • Dad pays mom child support, and maybe alimony.
  • Mom is the primary custodian and dad gets the “Friday night special” — every-other-weekend, and Wednesday night dinners.

This antiquated arrangement only reinforces the sexist notions:

  • Women are incapable of supporting themselves.
  • Fathers are inferior parents.

And:

  • Women’s job in society as unpaid caregiver, financially dependent on a man.
  • Men’s job in society is to be the breadwinner, reliant on a woman to care for his loved ones.

These notions are supported by Pew research findings:

About three-quarters of Americans (76%) say men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially, compared with 40% who say the same about women. And while about two-thirds (68%) say men face a lot of pressure to be successful in their job or career, fewer than half (44%) say women face the same type of pressure.

By contrast, far larger shares of the public say that women are pressured to be an involved parent. 77% say women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent; 49% say the same for men.

Pew

This outdated arrangement holds women, men, families and the economy back.

I can tell you first-hand it is a heck of a lot harder to get ahead professionally and financially if you are the sole – or majority care provider for children.

If we unburdened the 10 million single mothers in this country from this responsibility (64% of millennial moms have had at least one baby outside of marriage, according to Johns Hopkins), and forced fathers to be true co-parents, gender economics in this country would look very, very different.

More surprising single mom statistics: prepare to have your mind blown


Listen to my Like a Mother podcast episode on the topic:


How does time-sharing affect the pay gap?

When parenting time is shared equally, single moms would have so, so much more time to invest in their careers and businesses.

When parenting is equal, moms are not the default caregiver when kids barf in the night and need to stay home from school.

50/50 custody means moms would not automatically be the parent that must leave work early for teacher meetings, or systematically forgo career-advancing work travel or evening networking events.

More equal time affords moms much-needed time to rest, exercise and develop relationships and interests outside of their kids that make women happier mothers and more productive citizens.

When dads not only have equal parenting time, but also equal parenting responsibility, fathers are forced to make the hard work-life decisions that women have known for generations, leveling the workplace playing field.

Decisions like whether to take time off after having a child, or scale back a career to nurture young children — the very hard decisions that women have made for generations, and are at the root of the pay gap.

Finally, joint physical custody equalizes parents not only in separated and divorced families, but all families. Laws supporting 50/50 custody change family culture. If equal parenting were the norm, this would create a collective mind shift at home, work and in the bedroom.

After all, time and again when asked how we will ever close the pay gap, experts cite affordable child care. Having half of the time off from your kids, who are in the safe and loving care of the other parent, is as good as it gets. No expensive state or federal budgets required! No politically charged policy to pass! JUST SPLIT TIME EQUALLY BETWEEN PARENTS!

Why is child support so unfair to fathers

While the world is changing for the better in many ways, the majority of child support payors are men. Here are all the reasons this is unfair to dads:

  • Child support is built on the presumption that one parent (mothers) care for the children while another (father) pays for them. This shoehorns men and women into sexist roles, with men forced to be the breadwinner.
  • Often, whether by law or practice, child support is tied to the amount of time a man is allowed to spend with their children — heightening an already adversarial family court system, and making men pay to see their children.
  • Child support calculations rarely factor in a man’s ability to afford payments, and in states where failure to pay leads to jail time, forces poor men trapped in a cycle of imprisonment, unemployment, and more imprisonment. Meanwhile, no money is paid in child support, and fatherlessness is perpetuated, as outlined in this New York Times article:

Though the threat of jail is considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay, many critics assert that punitive policies are trapping poor men in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.

The problem begins with child support orders that, at the outset, can exceed parents’ ability to pay. When parents fall short, the authorities escalate collection efforts, withholding up to 65% of a paycheck, seizing bank deposits and tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses and professional licenses, and then imposing jail time.

“Parents who are truly destitute go to jail over and over again for child support debt simply because they’re poor,” said Sarah Geraghty, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed a class-action lawsuit in Georgia on behalf of parents incarcerated without legal representation for failure to pay. “We see many cases in which the person is released, they’re given three months to pay a large amount of money, and then if they can’t do that they’re tossed right back in the county jail.”

Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Job. Repeat. — The New York Times

While many assume child support mandatory in divorce — it does not have to be. If you settle out of court through a low-cost online divorce service, you can negotiate joint, 50/50 custody, equal parenting time, no or lower child support, and any other arrangements that you and your child’s other parent agree to.

If you go to family court, however, a judge will likely apply your state’s child support calculator, with no flexibility.

Child support reform promotes father involvement

Fatherlessness is a public health crisis, that affects every facet of American life. Antiquated child support laws and collection enforcement are at the root of this issue.

A whole body of work studying lack of father involvement finds that when a child is raised without active involvement of a father, they are likely to suffer:

  • Diminished sense of physical and emotional security (children consistently report feeling abandoned when their fathers are not involved in their lives)
  • Behavioral and social problems, including with friendships
  • Poor academic performance. 71% of high school dropouts are fatherless
  • High crime, as 85% of youth in prison have an absent father
  • Fatherless children are more likely to have sex before age 16, not use contraception during first intercourse, and become teenage parents, and transmit STDs.
  • More likely to use and abuse alcohol and other drugs.
  • 90% of runaway kids have an absent father.
  • Mental health disorders (father absent children are consistently overrepresented on a wide range of mental health problems, particularly anxiety, depression and suicide)
  • As adults, fatherless children are more likely to experience unemployment, have low incomes, remain on social assistance, and experience homelessness)
  • Poor future relationships (father absent children tend to enter partnerships earlier, are more likely to divorce or dissolve their cohabiting unions, and are more likely to have children outside marriage or outside any partnership)
  • Higher mortality rates (fatherless children are more likely to die as children, and live an average of four years less over the life span)

A dad explains: “Why I don’t see my child.”

50/50 parenting and time-sharing is better for all families, everywhere

If women know they can never rely on a man outside of marriage for income, we will make different, better decisions about our careers, and money.

When divorce courts force both sexes to participate in the workforce and with children in equal measure, that message trickles into all families — including married and single-people homes.

When both sexes are forced by court or social pressure to parent equally, men and women on corporate boards, in Congress, in C-suites, and on down make different, better policies for workers and families.

Plus, this presumed, equal and fair arrangement relieves courts of the endless bickering and petitions that distract from extreme cases — like actual abuse and neglect — for which deviation from this rule would be appropriate.

Strong workforce participation by women is great for children, as studies have shown. Strong workforce participation by women is great for the economy, national security and societal stability.

I know the pushback:

I am the better parent. I am the mother! I don’t want him to have more than 30% visitation. It’s not good for the kids.

If he is safe to be with the kids 30% — or 10%, or 20% — he is safe to be with them 50%.

There are 60 peer-reviewed studies that find that shared parenting is best for children in separated and divorced families.

This is true even in cases where there is high conflict between the parents, or one is richer than the other.

Just because the child lived in your uterus does not mean you get more say in how they are raised.

However, if you work on practicing equally shared co-parenting, you may find that both parents can grow in their parenting — and know that their children benefit from it. More tips on how to co-parent in this post.

Men will never step into their full father potential if we keep assuming they are the inferior parent. In fact, many men and women both attest to the fact that fathers really improved their parenting after divorce. These parents say that this happened because:

  1. They were forced to — the mom wasn’t there all the time to swoop in when parenting was stressful. This is hardly surprising. Parenting is not rocket science, and men and women are born equipped for the job. Keep in mind that humanity has thrived based on the model of very young, uneducated people raising other to adulthood. Parenting is not a higher calling requiring of special skills or education.
  2. There was no mom nearby micromanaging his parenting. Now alone with the kids, the dad now had room to grow into the father he was meant to be.

We agreed I would give up my career to stay with the kids, and it is not fair that my standard of living is compromised because he wants to divorce!

You’re not a child, and he is not your father. You entered into marriage knowing the risks.

You are an adult woman who as political and economic rights that you chose not to exercise.

That was not a good decision, and I am sorry you made them, but it is not another person’s responsibility to pay for those decisions.

If you want a higher standard of living, you are free to pursue a career that will afford you that.

Now that he has the kids 50%, you have plenty of time to do that.

How to file for divorce 101

He is supposed to take the kids half the time but never shows up. I still shouldn’t pursue child support?

That is a decision that you have to make.

Yes, if he doesn’t care for the kids half the time, he should step up and care for them financially.

But keep in mind these things:

  • He will always and forever resent giving you that money and it will be a wedge between you in any co-parenting.
  • Psychologically, taking that money will likely hold you back. He is a man you are no longer tied to romantically, and from whom you are (or should be) striving to create a separate life. Money ties people together. You risk being dependent on him. Tread carefully.

What to do if your ex shows up late or not at all — all the time

My kids are so little! My baby is nursing! 50/50 doesn’t make sense!

I agree. This is about being reasonable and what is good for the greater sum, without abandoning the individuals.

Nursing babies and their moms, temporarily, require certain circumstances. So do disabled adults, and deployed military.

If today you commit to 50/50 parenting starting at age 1 with increased time with the father now, that defuses conflict and builds trust that the spirit of your agreement is indeed fair.

A broader societal move to default, equal parenting and no child support will not be painless. But they are necessary steps in an evolution towards financial and parental equity.

Note that in cases where ‘standard’ visitation is awarded — every-other-weekend — fathers become depressed and non-involved, and within 3 years, one study found, 40% of children in an unequal visitation arrangement had lost complete touch with their non-custodial parents, which are nearly always the father.

Related documentary and books on shared parenting:

Divorce Corp and Erasing Family documentaries

Kickass Single Mom, Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children, By: Emma Johnson

Blend, The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family, By: Mashonda Tifrere

Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex: What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Tries to Turn the Kids Against You, By: by Amy J. L. Baker, PhD and Paul R Fine, LCSW

Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, By: Dr. Richard A. Warshak


Are you part of the Facebook group, Millionaire Single Moms? No income requirement, though BIG GOALS and a positive MINDSET required! Join now!

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.

256 Comments

[…] I need a society that nurtures our youngsters, that values schooling and ensures they’ve a secure social life with out the concern of mass shootings or the trauma of lockdown drills. I need a society that helps them course of the existential menace of a pandemic, which causes them to vary on a dime how they’ve been indoctrinated to be taught their total lives. I need a society that doesn’t, within the face of mentioned world disaster, anticipate me to be the default proxy instructor whereas my ex-husband focuses on work. […]

So what about when the father has his child every weekend, all vacations, days off, sometimes days in between the week (school days), and still has to pay child support (640.00/month for one child) as he was a dead beat parent? And believe me Im not rich at all!!

I do work out of town, but I am 110% involved in my 8 year olds life. When Im not home for the weekend (im working), she stays at my parents house the entire weekend (friday-sunday), sometimes Mondays too; every weekend since she was born. My mother and I practically raised my child her entire first year cause her mother was out partying (her being 10 years older then me (im 35). She couldn’t even tell her pediatrician what formula she used her entire 1st year of life.

So in the last 4 years now, Ive had the worst luck ever. First I get a case of DVT and PE (bunch of blood clots) january 2016 and that leaves me dying for almost a year in bed; also caused me to develop diabetes which has significantly reduced my physical agility and immune system. So, I was behind on CS. So I go back to my job; Which I was banned from cause my doctors say I can die with the blood thinner im supposed to take the rest of my life (I do industrial construction).

CS forced me to go back to work (and for my own sanity too, Im a workaholic). Now, 2 months ago I end up in a car wreck. Behind on CS again. 2 herniated discs, messed up waist, and concussion. Job wont allow me to work until im 100% (thats gonna be a while); out of a job again and no unemployment. My daughters mom asking when am I gonna catch up on CS constantly (im behind 3k very little work last year). Shes gotten to use my daughter in her taxes every single year (extra 4k for her), im caring for my daughter all this time. I buy everything my daughter needs too. So, in what way does my daughters mom need CS if I practically spend the same amount of money and time (which Im sure its alot more) caring for out daughter then she does? Why doesn’t the court see that? What makes a mother a better parent then a father? Cause she pushed out the baby outta her Vagina? What if the reason I left her is cause I caught her cheating with her causins husband (which happens to be a sherrife) while I was at work for months? Oh, and while she was pregnant with our daughter too.. she was also an alcoholic and a drug addict. Things for which she made me the bad guy because I was trying to get her to see that she was better than that. And no! I dont smoke, drink often, and definetely dont do drugs. what makes her a better parent then me?

And sorry for venting but please enlighten me.

I m raised by a single father who never received any child support from my mom. It wasn’t easy but it made me a better woman. You failed to address woman like me in your piece at all. You can’t talk single parent families and leave us out, it’s just sexiest honestly.

I’m very disturbed by the comment made after the statement “ we had an agreement for me to be the stay at home mom….. etc etc” – which was “ he isn’t your father , grown up and go make yourself a better standard of living …..etc” . As a divorced woman who did make that agreement – i find that very insulting . I had a career and I did put my career on the back burner to be a stay at home mom because it WAS the financially smart move to make for our family . My ex was/is a traveling agent and has always made great money . I made a decent living in live music production. We chose to move to a rural area of population 299 and start our family away from pollution and crime and endless noise . We knew the job market was non existent there. We knew he could still do his job by way of phone email or car. He and i chose for the benefit of our new child and family to live in a place where our child could be free to explore and safe to wander. I would get the chance to be a stay at home mother and not have a babysitter or daycare raise our child . We would and did bring home more income as a family by not paying for childcare – than we would have if we both worked and paid someone else to keep
Our child while we did our work. It wasn’t a bad choice – it was a smart choice financially and for the health and well
Being of our child
. So when the marriage ended years later and I have been left to keep a home and pay the bills – and every cost that comes with the lives of my daughter and I – it’s very difficult to see your point . Where am
I to get a job in population 299? There are no jobs . But then you say not to move – well if I’m
To get a job I must move , but it costs money i don’t have to move . It was a fine choice and a fine idea – i don’t think that was the problem . I think the problem was that he didn’t keep his end of the deal nor did he care about what would happen to me or my child when he lost interest and left . We have lost everything and he has gained so much since he left . I would love to take on the work force. Now I’m in my forty’s I have no college education i live ina Town with no jobs and I have no one to hel
Me raise my young daughter . I have time
For a career. I have a part time job, a full
Time schedule parenting , an overdrawn bank account and a child that went from
Riches to rags and can’t understand why . I don’t agree with the statement I’m referring to above . I think it’s small
Minded and not taking into consideration other circumstances . I am grown. I do take responsibilities . I don’t think or act as if my ex was or is my father . He made the choice as I did – your comment is very shallow . Thanks

This is funny the women dose no more or less then a man fathers do just as much as mothers do the problem is the mothers screwing there’s baby’s father over and thank God the courts are stating to go more 50/50 and it’s about time.

I completely, 100% disagree with Emma Johnson and her article. This article completely dismisses the fact that men and women are not biologically the same. When men start giving birth to children, then we can revisit the idea of the 50/50 split. In my experience, men can thrive without needing to be around their children 50% of the time. I have yet to meet a mother who is thriving while having her children just 50% of the time. Even the moms I know who agreed to a 50/50 arrangement are curled up in balls on the sofa when their children are gone for so long. Again, it’s the women who suffer in this situation. Again, it’s the women who are getting screwed over by the men. Again, it’s men wanting to control and take over the biological role of the woman. This current 50/50 fad is not the result of feminism. It’s just the opposite. It’s the lack of feminism that continues to let men control women. The 50/50 split is just another way men exert their power over women.

You are what’s wrong with women/feminism. You want respect as an individual but refuse to be accountable for achieving individuality. You want equal rights but refuse to be treated equally if it doesn’t suit you. You want to be treated as a “strong, single, independent woman while being moderately dependent on a man to support that title. You’re a joke and I pity the man that impregnates you.

In most normal situations the man leaves the woman gets the house and kids. The woman works or begins to work now that the man is gone.

The man rents a room somewhere because the entitlement card takes 30% of that mans gross pay so he has no place to do a 50:50 that only works for wealthy people that divorce not typology couples under 100k salaries.

They been taking %50-%65 of my pay since about 2006. Definitely isn’t right when a loving fit parent gets pushed into poverty. Though I’m an ER nurse, at the ripe age of 40, the most I can must is living in a camper. I’ve always worked unless I was doing school, then only worked part time, but for the system and the ex it is never enough.

I applaud you for this article, please! Get this in the public consciousness. I will support this any way that I can.

In my case the mediator recommended 70 time for me and 30 for my ex. My response was to offer my ex more time but he refused. He said he was in full agreement with the recommendation and I just wanted to change things. A month later I asked him to help with the babysitting costs but he refused. I handled all costs of my household until summer time when my babysitting costs would increase due to my school age children being on break. I applied for subsidized child care but there were no openings. I asked for more hours at work but I work at a nonprofit and it was not possible. I informed my ex that I would be applying for child support and during court hearing I offered to deviate from the state guideline and have the amount be lowered. Immediately after leaving that court he went to file for custody modification so that he would not have to pay $800 for three children. It’s sad that it took all this for him to want more time with our kids. My kids have never been a burden on me (as he stated on his modification) but our kids should spend equal time with both parents. As our kids get older and they may not want to spend that time with their father hopefully we can work something else out. When kids come back home they tell me their father asks about my whereabouts, what I buy them, who I’m keeping in contact with, etc. He has a girlfriend who will ask my girls if they would rather stay with her than go back with their mom. It gets me upset but our kids are not stupid and will see through all the bs. Thanks for letting me rant.

My Ex and I have a 50/50 arrangement and have for the past couple years. he is now currently divorcing his wife of only 1.5 years and is just now filing for child support against me, claiming zero income (since he not working) in CA. I am looking to owe him $621/month. This is 25% of my monthly income. I pay for child care, all medical expenses and all extra curricular and school supplies. I am incredibly resentful as he is perfectly able to work but is claiming an injury in an attempt to get settlements from suing his previous employer (this is his second time suing an employer for WC pay in the past 4 years. Meanwhile he is out hunting every weekend (is a felon) and spends his money on Tattoos and weed… I am currently filing for a 70/30 arrangement because he keeps missing exchanges and is extremely manipulative, as is his mother who he just moved in with. *venting sorry* The system is not working for my son.

The “Be a Dad” add campaign drives me up the wall.

How am I supposed to “Be a Dad” if my ex-wife won’t let me see the kids, and the courts won’t enforce my visitation rights because, in Her Honor’s words, “children belong with the mother?

Amen to this article. I’m a 50/50 dad that is super involved; and my ex has kept me in court for 4 years trying to suck every dime of child support she can get. She now makes $85k/year, and while I make more… she contributes nothing to extracurriculars, health insurance, childcare… yet I have to pay her every month. A wedge between us? Hell yes. I can’t even speak to the greedy parasite. We co-parent via text messaging. There is zero accountability for the $500/month she pockets… while I pay for everything.

This honestly makes me so mad. It is women like that that have caused the courts in my area to favor the father and I now share 50/50 with a lazy sue happy ex-felon parasite. He is currently divorcing his wife of 1.5 years and now coming after both of us for child support and her for alimony. He lives with his mom, doesn’t work, and is suing his most current employer for everything under the sun. He doesn’t work, is claiming zero income and I am looking to have to pay him $621/month…so he can get more tattoos and buy weed. I pay for all the medical, extra curricular activities, school supplies etc. Me and my husband work very hard, are expecting a child of our own in February and now I’m looking at months of court to attempt to have some sort of wages imputed for him. Very frustrating. i wish the system actually worked for the children.

I know the feeling, be lucky you only pay 500 a month. I pay $1400 a month with joint shared custody. And I pay 78% of any medical that is not covered by the insurance I pay for for my kids. System is severely flawed.

I have 3 daughters (16 and twins 11) and cant see the oldest because the mother poisoned her against me an my family. I haven’t gotten to spend any time with her in over 2 years and the mother is actively promoting the separation. I am paying $2250 for child support and another $500 for medical and 1/2 medical costs if they actually need the doctor. I pay the entirety of my ex’s bills and living expenses (rent, utilities, phone, gas, insurance, food, ect). She lives with her landlord (4th live in boyfriend in 2 years) and seriously doubt she pays any rent since telling the landlord I don’t pay child support. I guess she doesn’t understand it is taken out of my checks. Then she is getting $70k in her own salary. Almost none is actually going to the kids. I constantly have to buy them stuff like socks, shoes, underwear, shirts, school supplies, ect. If she does spend any money, it is for exorbitant trips and gifts. I can’t compete with that because their mother is getting the majority of my money.

The system is broken and not even CLOSE to being fair. The sad thing is the ones who really lose are the kids, and fathers are a close second. Kids need BOTH parents.

I don’t agree with this article. Perhaps because my circumstances are different. We can all assume everyone’s is the same. I think in certain situations it’s ok to take more money for your children. You can’t prepare for all life’s mishaps. If the father has more income and choices not to see his kids often. While having joint 50/50 joint custody. Don’t hurt the kids out of pride just don’t take alimony. He help create those kids. His also responsible. Who cares if he is mad at your forever. Mine tried to not have to pay any child support and could careless. It was more about pay as little as possible and as little responsibilities as possible. Statistics / studies suggest unless extreme situations like abuse both parents should have equal time with the kids. Children thrive better and it’s much easier for a non wealthy single mother to have a thriving career and income if they have equal to joint custody with their children.

People used to dream of having a family one day. Now most people are all about themselves. It is a “what about me” world that we live in. Sacrifice for the family simply does not occur but it should. We are becoming a lost society. Sad state of affairs.

There needs to be some incentives for the family unit to stay together. Men and women are not the same, they never will be. We are just different, with unique values. This article disregards women and couples who make conscious decisions to spend more time with their children instilling values they would like to pass down. Women make less than men and are not in leadership roles. Most studies point to the cause as time lost childbearing. Employers expect young women to have less time devoted to work because of family obligations. Google has paid women to preserve their fertility with the expectation that they will work harder and be more focused. Now women must also give up theirs inherent rights as mothers and their rights to bear children while also being screwed professionally and financially. Women who pursue careers are delaying childbirth and in many cases are no longer able to have babies. I guess if they focus too much on their career like the author suggests and take responsibility then it’s “their fault” for not devoting enough time to bearing children…. let’s blame women for everything! More and more women are deciding to avoid these toxic laws by having children on their own. More rights should be given to mothers but everything should be evaluated on a case by case. Men can move around and have children at 70 or 80 whereas women cannot. Our biology is not balanced to begin with and you cannot erase this with civilian laws and sing gumbaya 50/50 and everyone is happy. This is not the case.

Agreed. With the current feminist mentality why would any woman want to become a mother. I personally think it’s the handmaidens tale. It’s like “suck it up cupcake, you sacrificed your career, your body, and your health. Your physiological bond means nothing, take the loss and move on, have your children ripped from you and start again on a career. He doesn’t owe you crap even though he didn’t make that sacrifice. He goes unscathed and you get shoved into poverty and duress, deal with it”. I friggin’ HATE feminism.

All divorce and child custody should be fault. The start of no fault divorce has destroyed the family and ultimately leaves women and children in dire straits emotionally, psychologically as well as financially.

I know some dads get screwed, but this “progress”has hurt more women and children than helped, it should be called regressive as women and children suffer more in its wake.

I seriously feel this so much. I agree with everything you said here and agree that shared parenting is in no way, shape, or form fair to ANYONE. Also, it is a well known fact that kids being shared equally between homes also have a hard time feeling as though they have a home or any sense of possession.

Emma, I’m REALLY not sure where you get your data, but it’s probably somewhere around 1950’s. Even GOOGLE – the most liberal search engine on the planet – just published a study that indicates the gap has not only closed, it’s moved to women actualy being paid MORE than men for similar jobs, in similar circumstances. While I agree with shared custody, convincing parents isn’t usually the problem – it’s convincing the courts! Anytime there’s a dispute between co-parents before/during a divorce, and the courts get involved, MEN pay the price – in visitation, child support, etc. I’d love you to ask me how I know this, becuase I’m happy to provide detail. The short version of this: I asked for equal custody, custody evaluators recommended equal custody and the judge granted me 20%, which has since been eroded as a result of a cancer diagnosis in 2010. I have paid over $430K in child support alone, for 2 children, since 2006 and only two of those years have been higher on the income scale. My ex has earned MORE than me the past 2+ years, I have been unemployed and am now on disability which might be permanent. I have done everything to stay current on support, but the courts have done everything possible to prevent that, including forcing me to pay $33K in attorney’s fees and sanctions while unemployed – also setting the child support order at $2K/month, plus medical expenses and 1/2 of daycare. Once I had a new job, I was earning 1/4th that of my ex but the court’s refused to change the $2k/month award, then adding $400/month for arrears, seized my IRA and again denied a request for medical hardship. My medical expense are between $500-$900/month depending on sample dates. I was forced to forgo all medical care for 10 months, stil got behind on child support thus resulting in my now disability. Nobody has won becuase now, my disability income is even lower and I’m quite certain the courts will again refuse to acknowledge my disability income, resulting in more arrears. My ex cares not – even making statements like “I’m going to get as much out of you as I can before you die.” All of this has been expressed to the courts in California who routinely ignore me. And beyond that, they call me a liar, even though my presented evidence is irrefutable (federal unemployment statements, employer statements, check stubs, etc.). My civil rights have been routinely violated, especially under the Americans with Disabilities act where they effectively denied me the right to medical care for a federally recognized disability as a result of an illegal child support order.

In short, my point? This is less about the parents and MORE about changing state laws and the courts themselves. As soon as the states stop being reimbursed 33-100% for every dollar they collect in child support under Title-IV, Section D of the HHS sectio of the Social Security Act, signed by Carter and reaffirmed by Clinton, the states will stop making family court a source of revenue…. Last year the feds reimbursed California $480M+ in matching funds. There is ZERO incentive for the courts to make fair and reasonable orders – they get paid for NOT doing that. And if the non-custodial parent can’t pay, they make money when they send him/her to jail…. it’s a racket. This is NO conspiracy theory – I’m happy to provide citations from federal documents to confirm what I’ve said. BTW – the family courts in 5 counties in California are under investigation by the FBI for RICO violations like the ones I just mentioned.

Thanks for reading.

BTW – my ex earns over $200K and has a $400K+ cash reserve bank account – not including her retirement accounts. I have ZERO and what little I have in retirement is being eroded by medical expenses.

@abusedbankruptdad I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. I did not know that the state was reimbursed for collecting child support? California is a particularly BAD state for just about everything including fanily court issues.
My husband and I are currently going through a NIGHTMARE situation as well. My husbands ex girlfriend and mother of their 3 1/2 year old has told us she is going to make this situation as difficult as possible and unfortunately her family encourages this kind of evil behavior by financially supporting her (34 years old and has NEVER worked) she had my husband falsely arrested by making up lies about him and it took almost a year of in and out of court until he was completely exonerated. Turns out she had him falsely arrested because she was wanted to move to the other side of the state amd thought it would be a good way to bolster her case. When my husband was falsely arrested (which caused him to lose his job) he got behind on child support and his license was suspended! Good luck finding a job in the construction/contracting industry without a valid license..not to mention how will he get to work without a license? (Did the courts ever think if this???) After getting further behind on support a warrant went out and everything was such a mess. And at this time I was 4 months pregnant. For a year after she had him arrested (over a LIE) a no contact order was put in place and she was granted permission to move so now it has been almost 2 years that we havent seen my husbands daughter. The courts have fed into her bullshit and it has empowered her to do WHATEVER she wants. She has even told my husband that since he wont be with her, he will not be able to see his daughter. I can not believe how one sided the courts are! We finally were able to afford a new lawyer so looks like she will be caught for falsely accusing my husband of a crime (just so she can move with their child) AND making up a fake job offer to also bolster her case to move…we will see if she will finally be held accountable. We have now spent over 6k in lawyer fees on top of child support that is extremely difficult to pay since we are surving on solo income since our baby was born 10 months ago. We are basically paying her to keep fighting us in court. It makes NO SENSE. If anyone has the time to read this and give me feedback or ideas it would greatly be appreciated. This situation is discouraging and feels like a never ending battle. It is also very scary because his ex has no character or morals so I’m just waiting for her to make up another lie to prevent my husband from being in his daughter’s life.
It is SO important to have both parents in the childs life! This evil women uses her child as a pawn for revenge against my husband. Its truly sickening. My step-daughter only has us to fight for her so even though we are going broke and struggling to keep fighting…we ARE NOT GOING TO STOP. Better believe that.

Sad reading much of the comments. So many argue against co-parenting and have their version of why not. I am very curious if the other parent was given the opportunity to respond, if they would give a different story, or would it be the same? My guess is that only half the truth is being told in most instances.

I agree with letting the father have their choice if they want 50/50 custody, kids should not be without their father. But there should be some kind of equalization out on the expenses of the kids, currently I am in the situation where the dad has shared custody and is expected (as per the provincial regluations) to pay $460 a month and doesnt pay it, nor does he pay or reimburse me for any extra curriculars or help me with expense for the kids when asked. I am out working 3 jobs to make ends meet, pay my bills and support my children because their father will not step up financially. So dont expect the dads, or moms that get shared custody (because it works both ways, just unfortunately moreso unfairly for the father) to pull their fair share of the weight of raising the kids just because they have access to the kids.

I did not fight my ex husband for custody. He got 50/50 custody of our 3 daughters (11, 13 and 16) and the moment he got it, he stopped being a parent. He had been an awful husband. Mentally, emotionally and financially torturing me for almost 20 years. But he had turned over a new leaf and wanted to be the father that God instructed him to be.
It was gut wrenching. He would leave the girls every night to go to his girlfriends house. Leave them for weekends at a time. My daughters would cry on Sunday when it was time to go back to his house. They hated moving from house to house every week. My oldest daughter stood up to him to stop the emotional abuse of her 2 younger sisters and he threw her out. The next day, he changed the locks and got a security system. He told her he would call the police if she ever came back. That was 5 years ago. He has never spoken to her again. He did the same thing to my youngest daughter. He has not spoken to her in 4 years. But all 3 of my daughters HATED the shared parenting. My middle daughter chose to do 2 weeks at a time when she turned 18. But it was still far from ideal.

I did stay at home with my daughters, not because I was lazy or ignorant, but because I did not think someone else should be raising MY children. I’m not sorry. Those years were precious. And by FAR harder than working full time. Which is what I did after I got divorced.

He was able to get a masters degree and go to work because I was taking care of our home. I cooked and cleaned and painted and sewed and gardened etc.

He took every penny from our checking and savings. I had to borrow money to get a divorce. He also used the money from their college funds. Not every man deserves 50/50 custody. He spent little time with them when they were growing up and he fooled me into thinking he wanted to change that. He was only avoiding child support.

I have seen the 50/50 work beautifully. It is all about the kids being raised in a true coparenting style. I would have loved this when my son was growing up. Every family is different but, if that is the standard then we can adjust for individual circumstances. As a society, we have forgotten how important it is to have children and fathers together. Dads are not just throw away parents. If dads do not see their children enough, they can’t relate to them. They do not get the benefit of experience with their children. The father of a toddler is very different than a father of a teenager. If they do not grow with the children they detach themselves. Mothers need the time away from children to grow as people. If we can move towards this goal even a little, our children will be better for it.

A lot of if’s in this theory. Here’s one; “If men know they cannot skirt their parental responsibilities, they will be more thoughtful about bringing babies into the world.” L.O.L. Are you kidding? 7 Billion people on this planet, hundreds of years of evidence to repute that, but you think that’s a sound opinion? Good grief. 50/50 responsibliity *sounds awesome. Welcome to the real world sugar. It may even work in your life, good for you, doesn’t make it the majority experience. Sorry, but being delusional or completely unaware of the reality outside your own experience does not make you anywhere close to “kick ass” in my book.

Awesome comment you are spot on!!! What a narrow-minded self-righteous person to think her own experience is the only one. Try some empathy-something many of our husbands lacked entirely. You chose it blah blah blah””… there is something called doing the right thing by someone who has poured their heart and soul into raising your children. But doing the right thing is so rare these days. Grow up-not all situations are involving sane ex husbands or wives for that matter. Like a girl who is blamed for her rape-that is what this article sounds like to a person who has endured abuse for decades, all for the sake of keeping her family together. Them she is left with someone who essentially says-hey-you wore the short skirt, deal with the consequences of your choice. Despicable.

This is fantastic! Mothers AND fathers have an EQUAL responsibility to support your child(ren). This means emotionally, physically and financially. Just because he doesn’t want anything to do with you doesn’t mean he should have less time with the kids. Just because he doesn’t want anything to do with you, doesn’t mean you should try and collect max support. Who is that really benefiting? Get some independence! Support yourself and your child(ren). I work full time and have kids. I also cook dinner and clean house. And guess what? We have plenty of time together to foster a healthy loving relationship. Sure, I would have liked of been a stay at home mom. But I made a decision to have kids and I acknowledge my equal responsibility to support them. Don’t blame the farther for a choice you made to stay home. Most fathers wouldn’t be forced into spending more time. Many are fighting the system whom claims their main goal is what’s best for the child, for more time. 50/50 is what’s best for the child so long as it’s a safe environment. What makes mothers have this sense of entitlement to more? How is that allowing for a positive, growing relationship with the child and father? AND when only 20-30% is granted because YOU didn’t agree to more…don’t talk about what a POS dad he is that he doesn’t spend more time with the kids. YOU wouldn’t allow it because you then lose control of the situation. If both parents could just put their pride to the side and TRULY only consider what’s best for the child, we could shift focus to them. They are the ones that matter the most in these situations.

What a fantastic article! Visionary, objective and balanced. Every judge in every court, every family law attorney and every state legislator should read it. Completely agree — society is always in a state of flux, change is constant and yet family law is locked I. Antiquated precepts and creating lots of problems. With divorce rate so high in this country, laws need even more change. The system is setup to allow exponential abuse and in the end, lawyers win and children are the big losers. Well stated Ms Johnson!!

It’s hard for me to spend time with my son because his mother has all my money. When I do have him, of which is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday every week, I never have any money to go hang out and do stuff with him. Plus his mom takes all the money I give her and gets him video games. I dont have video game systems in my house, we love the outdoors. So when he is at my house all he wants to do is play video games. He now says he’s bored at my house and would rather stay with his mom, due to her having full influence in that Manor. I’m still his baseball coach. I chose Tues to Thurs every week to be more involved with his studies. Im a teacher, health and pe.. if we are to teach our children to be fair, we must teach them how to share.

Bobby Dad, I am glad you posted, I’m in a similar situation. Your comment seems to be one of the few rational ones, as it’s clear the women don’t want to give up their meal ticket. I keep seeing females say men don’t do their part, but I know for a fact women lie about what fathers do or don’t do, just to keep people believing they are the victims.
Some day I hope the legal system corrects it’s errors in favoring the females, but for now good fathers have to struggle to survive while raising their children.

Wow. FORCE the dad into spending 50% of the time with the kids. You knew the risks when you got married. Dad will resent you for having to pay ANY child support.
I’m starting to think Emma Johnson has a penis, left his wife and kids and wasn’t able to get the 50/50 shared custody arrangement that would let him off the hook for child support and force his exwife into giving up their original family values as quickly as he did.
This article is a JOKE. There’s nothing wrong with having traditional family values where one parent works and the other stays home to raise the kids. I find it offensive that you look down at women who choose to give up thier careers to raise thier children- everything else you say is plain stupid (FORCE dad to take kids half the time? How would that be good for the kids dipshit? It’s do monumentally DUMB), but thinking I’m inferior to you bc you sacrificed your children’s sense of family and well being to prove you can work is just insulting and awful. I gave up my career knowing my kids would benefit from ME being thier MOTHER, and I knew crap stains like you would think I’m pulling the women’s lib cry down by doing it. But I’m not, I didn’t. Tards like you make me proud that I made THE REALLY hard choice of being a stay at home. Just because I CAN work and pan my kids off to whomever doesn’t mean I should. What your suggesting isn’t nearly as hard as having to stick to thr original family values children are born into after a divorce. Wtf? My ex doesn’t want anything to do with me OR his kids, which is fine- but he’s paying for it. He’s more than welcome to start a whole new life elsewhere – but thankfully the judge didn’t absolve him of his responsibilities to his old life.
You are so bitter sounding. Please, take some yoga and find a therapist. Then ask your kids how they are doing. IF you can handle the response. You might not like it. If you do that just means you beat thier self esteem down so far they will only tell you what you want to hear.

I find it offensive that you expect the father to pay for you to have the luxury to stay home. That is your choice and your choice only…he shouldn’t have to support you! Did you not partake in the decision to have children? Do you not understand your responsibility to support them? How will they know how to be independent or even develop social skills when they’re at home with mom all day? Mothers refuse to admit that THEY need to feel needed by their children. It is one of the most selfish acts when raising a child. Truth is they need their father just as much as they need their mother. Clearly, after divorce, family values are no longer relevant as they need to be reestablished in separate households. Your placement of judgement on another proves your lack of understanding in the matter and how entitled you feel to be support by a person that was NEVER obligated to.

I agree with the points of this article insighting a feel of looking down upon women who stay at home. I didn’t want to get a divorce but had too for the mental safety of myself and the teachings that would have shown our children.

I filed for custody because of fear of his actions and choices he was making with his addictions. I didn’t and don’t want our kids raised with those ideas or thoughts. I also filed for support as I wasn’t able to pay off my college fees to finish my degree because of how he made me feel about being able to spend money by his words and actions.

We have shared now but the kids don’t get to see him as much due to his job and his living arrangements. I make an effort to help find time for them to see him as I know it’s important to them and him. He has made changes for the better yes and we do communicate better but until I have my college fees paid off and my degree done then yes I will continue to ask for support.

I love being a mom and miss being a wife to the person I love but being to feel infuior because I’m a divorced mom with custody and support which I have yet to receive and it’s been almost a year since filed is wrong.

Sure there are those that abuse and use the system and that is wrong but we shouldn’t be made to look less than because of it.

Oh my goodness. I love this post in so many ways. It’s refreshing because you never hear this point of view. I live in TN and when I got a divorce, I told my lawyer that I wouldn’t consider giving my ex every other weekend or anything like that. My ex was horrible to me but the kids need him and he loves the kids. I did get child support based on the calculator from the state because that’s what’s required. I think that’s a good thing because it helps to balance the standard of living in both homes. Did my $220 every two weeks get me rich? No. Did it help with my groceries? Yes. Now that I am booming in my Nashville real estate career, I am volunteralily going back to the lawyer to get rid of his child support. We make the same amount now, so that’s fair.

I love your point that we need to hold men to a higher standard and have a 50/50 balance with the kids. Nursing moms and babies are a totally different thing, but if we are ever going to balance the power in our society (which would be a very good thing for everyone), we must have balance in the children’s division of households.

I wanted this so bad when I divorced. I had been a drunk and pain pill addict for nearly my entire marriage. The damage had been done and I understood why my ex wanted a divorce. I sobered up and have remained clean since before the divorce. It was more painful than anything I’ve ever felt and encourage every couple to work through their pain together if possible. I ended up getting a grueling job driving truck and delivering groceries for 14 hours a day to pay for court ordered child support, spousal maintenance and insurance for the kids. My ex wife doesn’t like me and for really great reasons. She will tell me my kids are sick and cannot come to visit me. Or that they already have plans on my days with them. I do not want to call the police as I’ve heard it won’t make a difference and I still feel bad for being drunk and high for so long and squandering our family income on drugs and alcohol. Now I am remarried to an amazing woman who understands my substance abuse issues and keeps my attitude in check. I am proud of myself for continuing to support my kids. I am in my mid 40s now and my body is wearing out. I have a hard time working so much and I dream of finishing college and not having to work such a painful job. I want to see my kids again. I don’t know how to change my path in life because I’m afraid if I don’t work at my current job I will fall behind in child support and bills however I don’t know if I can hold out until I am 55. My new wife supports me even financially however I will never let her pay for my responsibilities to my kids. Any advice to help me out of this situation would be awesome, thanks.

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