This got a little lost in all the lockout/decertification news out of the NFL. There are other sports you know (I have just learned this).
Dwayne Wade of the Heat was granted custody of his two sons on Friday. Full physical custody. They arrived to live with their father in Miami on Friday. His teammates gave him a standing ovation in the locker room when he shared the news.
It was sadly a very long and nasty custody battle. The final opinion of the Judge was 102 pages, the longest in Cook County history. That is a long opinion for any case, let alone a family law case. According to the article, Wade's ex-wife made several baseless allegations against Wade and his fitness as a parent.
That is just wrong. Parents should not be tearing each other down just to gain an alleged advantage. Leaving aside the fact that this often does not work (Courts aren't stupid, they know when someone is trying to put something over on the court), it only hurts the kids. The kids become pawns in the divorce. Whoever gets the kids "wins." It becomes about winning, not the best interest of the kids.
Most courts have done away with maternal preference for custody and the "tender years" exception. The "tender years" exceptions means that young kids should be with their mother. The law has caught up with reality -- dads can change diapers (if I figured it out, anyone can), dads can feed the children (okay breast feeding is a problem but no kid died from being a bottle baby that I know of), dads can get up in the middle of the night when the kid is cranky. In other words, either parent can provide a loving, caring environment for the child.
It used to be that for dad to get custody, he had to prove mom was unfit. This lead to a lot of baseless allegations against mom. Thinks like "mom has a boyfriend, she shouldn't have the kids," "mom has a drink after dinner, she is an alcoholic and shouldn't have the kids." This led to mom fighting back. And a horrible double standard. Mom having a boyfriend was considered bad because who knew what that guy would do to the kids. Dad having a girlfriend was good because there was a woman there to help him care for the kids. REALLY??????? It all got very insane for dads trying to get custody of their kids.
Now the standard is Best Interest of the Child. No more showing the mom is unfit. It means showing which parent is better for the child in this particular case. Dad may love helping the kids with homework and getting them up and out the door for school. Mom may want to scream everytime she thinks about having to make dinner. Mom may love all the projects associated with Girl or Boy Scouting. Dad may prefer root canal without anesthesia to attending one more PTA meeting. Doesn't mean either parent is bad. Just means one is a little better at parenting than the other. The perfect solution would be each parent caring for the kids according to their strengths.
Well, that's the perfect solution. In the real world, it rarely works that way. Dads still have a heck of a fight on their hands to even get joint custody. Many courts still assume mom is the best parent until proven otherwse. Mr. Wade had the money to fight his ex-wife for several years. Not every dad has the money or the energy to fight that long. All I can say is Dads, don't give up. Your kids are worth it. Just ask Mr. Wade.