Tennessee child custody determinations: for richer or poorer?

In a recent Huffington Post article, blogger Pauline Gaines related her experience with a lengthy child custody battle and the bias against economically disadvantaged parents inherent in many family court systems.

Gaines matter-of-factly states that she decided to give up full custody of her son when she realized that she could no longer afford the legal fees needed to continue fighting a wealthy ex-husband who has so much family money that he doesn’t need to work. Gaines, who works full-time and earns a middle-class salary, was also justifiably worried for a time that she might actually have to pay her ex child support. (She would have if she didn’t still have primary child custody of their daughter.)

She’s not alone either. The Custody Project says there’s a domino effect in play here and that the real danger for mothers fighting for child custody or visitation rights is running out of financial resources needed to provide for her children’s basic needs. When this happens, the Project’s website states, “a good mother without money” can easily lose child custody.

In blogging about divorce, child custody and other family law issues, Gaines has come to believe that the problems stem from both a widely held presumption that parent with more financial resources is the better parent and a complete disregard of practical realities, including inherited wealth, the fact that women earn an average of 77 percent of the salaries men earn from employers, and the unlikelihood that a parent who stayed home to raise children can return to the workforce after several years and earn enough to take care of their children without the benefit of child support.

Now we ask you: Should the richer parent be awarded child custody more often than not? Or how about this: Should poorer parents ever have to pay child support to parents who are already better off economically? And finally: should access to inherited money or wealth (which are often not counted as income) be considered in making these determinations? We look forward to reading your comments.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Should the richer parent get custody?” Pauline Gaines, Sep. 28, 2012

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