I found a most interesting blog this morning, by Sophia van Buren, that discusses her role as a non-custodial parent. In her view, being the non-custodial parent and a mother has created issues and challenges that many women in divorce do not encounter. Part of what she comments on is the stigma associated with being designated the non-residential parent. Here in Illinois, the stigma is worse, as parents who do not have “primary residential custody” are awarded “visitation.” In Illinois, some parents, usually the Dads, become “visitors” of their own children; a tragedy.
Ms. van Buren discusses why she became the non-residential parent:
Not only was it up to me to “fix” and clean up the mess my ex had made of our family, home, and finances, but I couldn’t let my personal feelings get in the way. There was too much work to be done. My husband could not be counted on for help. His tremendous indiscretions at work had lost him his job and there was no indication as to whether or not he would ever be able to the take care of our family again financially. Common sense told me that, since he couldn’t do it, I would have to. As the mother, it was up to me to put my feelings aside and simply make sure I could feed, shelter, clothe, protect, and insure our children.
I would have to “man up.”
What Ms. van Buren and others may be suggesting, and what I have been writing about for years, is question as to why in many states, Illinois included, we still see the need to designate parents as “winners and losers” in custody cases. In the case above, the Mom needed to be the out-of-house worker, and provide income to the family. Why, then, should she, or any Dad that must also work and provide, be stigmatized as the non-residential or visiting parent? In my view, the best approach is to create individual parenting plans for each family that do not create, among fit and loving parents, a stigma of a “winner or loser” of custody.
It’s time for Illinois to create presumptive shared parenting, appropriate, nonprejudicial parenting plans for Mom and Dad, and for many Dads, and some Moms, the removal of the stigma of the “visiting parent.”