Generational price of inequality in divorce and custody


Danica Joan Dockery
| Guest columnist

In recent years, we have been confronted by inequalities existent in society that are at the breaking point, and for some, it challenges our own personal beliefs.

Inequality in society is not a collusion by lawmakers seeking to do harm to the marginalized. Nevertheless, it produces unforeseen impact on society, thereby illuminating the need for a course correction.

Kids Need Both is an organization that has stood up for equality, not necessarily for the parents, but ultimately for the generational impact on the child caught in the middle. You see, three generations ago my grandparents had four children between them. My grandfather was the primary breadwinner and if my grandmother worked, society considered her employment merely supplementary. Her primary role in the family was to be caregiver for the children.

So when they got divorced back in the 1940s she continued to be a caregiver. Unfortunately, child support was not mandated, and neither was parental time-sharing. So, the unanticipated impact was that women and children lost financial security when the marriage dissolved, and children may have lost a relationship with a father in the process. And for my grandmother, the answer was to find another husband, which comes with other complications. To correct the financial impact on divorced mothers, mandated child support was introduced federally in 1950. Society assumed that money was the simple solution to the problem.


Jumping to this generation, mothers can have thriving careers of their own without need of a man’s income. Our families are held back by an outdated system that attempted to solve these financial concerns based upon the 1950s version of family dynamics. Additionally, it’s that very system that has kept fathers from their children because they must work twice as hard to pay for two households. It’s kept mothers oppressed because they have no time to develop a thriving career. And, of course, that doesn’t even address the added stress of being the sole caregiver of the children.

Inequality that remains hidden is much like an inactive cancer cell. If the environment doesn’t change around it, life can go on as normal. Unfortunately, if the environment evolves, and in this case, women wish to live prosperously, and fathers wish to be involved in their children’s lives, then the inequality cannot continue without detrimental impact on society.

I began by stating that our focus is on the generational impact on the child caught in the middle of custody battles. Even three generations ago, children were impacted by the absence of their other parent, and although it was considered “normal” to lose the relationship of a parent when they split up, it still had impact on children and their subsequent offspring.

Our goal is to cause a course correction. To allow children the opportunity to have both parents in their lives, even when the parents are not together. Additionally, to show women that they can have a thriving career that carries them into retirement. And that fathers can be equal caregivers in their children’s lives. It truly is a win-win for parents, children and for society.

This year, 2022 can be considered the Year of the Father in the state of Florida because there is pending legislation that would provide these very changes for families. The legislation awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature is designed to encourage judges to presume that both parents are equally capable of being caregivers for their children, and in fact, it is preferred, unless there is clear and convincing evidence otherwise. In the dependency court side, grant opportunities are written into that bill to train and support the active role of fathers to be caregivers instead of just breadwinners.

We use Parental Alienation awareness opportunities to illuminate this growing unworkability and its impact on children’s futures. There are thousands of families caught in the middle of a tug of war in the courts who are fighting to win the prize of sole custody at the expense of the child’s relationship with their other parent.

When our laws and courts refuse to be an accomplice to a parent’s battle to win at all costs, we are ultimately protecting the child and future generations. We as society must intervene when our laws serve to oppress and exacerbate the destruction of the family.

Danica Joan Dockery of Lakeland is a certified family mediator with the Florida Supreme Court, Guardian Ad Litem, the author for Florida’s Family Stabilization Parent Education curriculum and a personal custody coach.

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