Why do Mothers Always Seem to Win Custody in Oregon?
I hear this question a lot as a family law attorney here in Oregon. I think there are quite a few answers to this question. The first one is, that I think this type of thinking is still a remnant of days past. It used to be, decades ago, that the courts treated mothers as the preferred parent in a custody case. Our society used to believe (much more strongly than it does today) that raising children is the woman’s work. So, when the time came for a judge to decide who the children lived with, they deferred to the Mother.
I wish I could say that this type of thinking is completely gone, but in my experience, it’s not. At least not completely. In my experience, when I have traveled to some of the smaller counties in Oregon, particularly when I’ve sat before older male judges, I’ve felt that this type of thinking still ran the case. However, I can say from experience that I have never seen a hint of this with any judge in the larger counties, and also not with any female judges.
So Why do Mothers Tend to get More Parenting Time, Custody, and Financial Help in an Oregon Divorce?
With that said, there are still some other, more valid reasons why woman appear to win more often than men do in divorce cases in Oregon. It’s not as nefarious as it might seem.
Primary Caregiver and Parenting Responsibilities: A Case for Custody/Parenting Time
Oregon law is established so that when deciding who gets the children more, the preference is given to the traditional primary caregiver. Statistically, more women are stay at home parents than men. Also, statistically, more men choose to defer the parenting responsibilities, like attending parent teacher conferences and making medical appointments, to the mothers. So when the time comes for these two parents to argue in front of a judge about who is the best fit to care for the children, often the mother has more evidence to present of why they should be the primary parent. Therefore the mother would more often win custody and more parenting time than the other parent.
The Lower Financial Earner is Awarded Spousal Support
Similarly, when dealing with the financial components in an Oregon divorce, the person who makes less often gets a better money award. So using the same statistics as above, more often than not the man still earns a higher salary than the woman does. So when the time comes for a judge to decide how to divide the finances, and how much support to award, the woman often gets a higher award because they have a lower income. Also, often even when men are entitled to receive spousal support, their ego makes them not willing to take it. Many men hold to the stereotype that tells them not to accept this financial help from their spouse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to try to convince my male clients, who earn less, to accept some spousal support.
So do Women Really Seem to “Win” More in a Divorce and Custody Case in Oregon?
So really, the truth is that the person who earns less, and the person who typically has provided more day to day care for the children “wins” in divorce and custody cases. Statistically that just happens to be women more often than men, so I think this myth persists because of that fact more than anything else.