If divorce can be “no-fault,” then custody can default as equal

By now, you’ve probably heard just about enough about The Great Huggies Redemption of 2012. The story is more than three months old, and I’m sure everyone, including Kimberly-Clark, would just as soon move on, lessons learned and understandings reached. I’m down with that. I want us all to move on with this story fresh in our minds, so that we can discuss its wider-ranging ramifications.

On my personal blog, I wrote a post about how The Huggies Redemption was and is about more than just a scuppered-and-reborn ad campaign. Because if “you can tell the idea of a nation by its advertisements,” you can infer that the Idea of Dad is getting a makeover. And it’s happening not because we’re tuning out the rotten messages, but because we’re trying to take them down at the source. We’re trying to tell their authors that we don’t relate to them anymore (or never did, really), and that we don’t want our sons to grow up destined to fulfill the limited expectations of what a man and father should  be.

That’s the future, but the present is also just as compelling. Especially when it comes to divorcing parents.When I was in the deep depths of my divorce, I spent most of my time scared to death that I would lose my sons. Divorce wasn’t all that prevalent among the crowd I ran with as a kid, but I did know that the kids whose parents had split didn’t see their fathers all that much. I also knew about the longstanding Tender Years Doctrine, and how even though the “best interest of the child” had largely supplanted the TYD in name, it hadn’t necessarily done so in practice.

If I’d seen a pieces like this, which advocates for both parents to start with equal footing in any custody case, I would have slept a lot better.

Now that I have the perspective of four years as a 50-50 custodian, and I’ve written about it on the blog Magda and write together, I get a fair amount of calls and e-mails from men who are where I was in 2007. And they’re as scared as I was.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The good news (if there is any good news to be gleaned from divorce with kids) is that among most of the couples I know who’ve recently split up, the dad is a lot more than an Every-Other-Weekender. They have to step up if they want to be a part of their kids’ lives, and most of them are more than up to the task.

I’d like to see a time when a father’s custodianship is given just as much merit as a mother’s. And not just in our minds or on our screens, but also in our courts.

Read more from Doug on his personal blog, Laid-Off Dad.

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