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Scarlett Johansson recently declared in a Playboy interview that monogamy wasn’t natural, which may or may not be why she’s divorcing her husband of barely two years, Romain Dauriac. The couple have a child together, 2-year-old Rose, and according to news reports, it appears as if they are heading toward a nasty custody battle.

None of this is new or unusual — haven’t we seen that with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and their six children, and Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry and their daughter? But what makes this a bit different is that while Pitt and Aubry were both hands-on, equal partner working dads, Dauriac gave up his career as a magazine editor and manager of a creative agency to stay at home with Rose in his native France.

Financial and career risks

In other words, Dauriac did what many women have traditionally done, and often still do — or are expected to do: give up their careers to care for their kids. That often comes with some real financial and career risks, especially if the couple then divorces, but often divorced moms end up with full or partial physical custody of their children.

Now, more men are doing what Dauriac has done, and what is unknown is whether the courts will see him as the primary caregiver; even though it seems pretty apparent, who knows? Johansson is asking for residential custody of Rose, but because Dauriac lives in France (she’s been splitting her time between France and L.A.), well, let’s just say it’s complicated.

But is Dauriac’s story a cautionary tale for would-be stay-at-home dads? The Telegraph’s Martin Daubney

Now, it will all be about lawyers proving who was Rose’s “primary caregiver.” This standard tries to determine which parent has been responsible for meeting most of the child’s daily needs, such as feeding, bathing, playing, waking and putting to bed, making doctor appointments, arranging for child care, and so on. Faced with a raft of skilled lawyers propelled by an endless torrent of money, for Dauriac the outlook is stormy. … In an age when equality is expected, and even demanded of dads, it’s a tragic footnote that the family courts seem stacked against them. tweet

And, as he mentions, the majority of divorces are filed by women.

Is he wrong?

The complications of being a stay-at-home dad

Dads have historically been hurt by the legal system when it comes to custody. This is troublesome to me. But is that what’s really preventing men from becoming stay-at-home dads, as Daubney suggests?

Hmm …

It’s true that more men are at home caring for the kids than ever before — there are about 2 million stay-at-home dads — but, and this is a big but, the largest number of stay-at-home fathers, 35 percent, are at home because of illness or disability, according to the Pew Research Center, not by choice, versus 73 percent of stay-at-home mothers, who either are choosing to be at home (presumably with the blessing of their partner) or who have had to opt out for any number of reasons (the cost of child care perhaps).

Not too long ago, a Gallup poll indicated a huge proportion of men — 76 percent — would chose to work out of the home than “stay at home and take care of the house and family” while just 51 percent of women said the same.

So it’s not as if there’s a huge amount of men clamoring to be stay-at-home dads. At the same time, the majority of women (well, 56 percent) say they would rather be at home — although their reasons may be less about the blissfulness of being at home than the realities of the juggle and struggle working women face. If we didn’t make less and have to deal with sexism and etc., maybe that would be a different reality. But then again, men who stay at home often face their own stigma.

Fear of getting screwed

Which gets me back to my original question — is the fear of being screwed by custody courts why

Want to learn how to create an equitable marital plan? (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

 


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