is a successful career woman. She has moved up rapidly in a
competitive field, and is advancing her career by attending
law school at night. I work out of our home and I do most of
the child care. If I decide I don't want her anymore, should
I be able to move our kids 2,400 miles away from their mother?
California National Organization for Women thinks I should.
California NOW, the California Women's Law Center, and the dozens
of other feminist organizations who recently argued the LaMusga
move-away case in the California Supreme Court support granting
primary custody to the children's primary caregiver (that's
me), and contend that custodial parents should have the presumptive
right to move as stated by the Court in its 1996 decision in
In re: Marriage of Burgess.
Burgess, which involved
only a 40 mile move within the same county, is being interpreted
by California courts to permit moves of hundreds or thousands
of miles. In some cases, these courts have even allowed children
to be moved out of the country, as far away as New Zealand and
In LaMusga, a Contra
Costa County custodial mother sought to move with her two young
boys first to Ohio and later to Arizona because her new husband
allegedly had better job opportunities in those states than
in California. The father fought the moves, arguing that moving
would be harmful to his children because it would damage their
relationship with him. He is unable to move with them because
he operates a small business in Northern California and has
stiff child support obligations.
Switch the genders
and it is not hard to see how LaMusga and other move-away cases
should be decided. What would readers' opinion of me be if I
explained that I am moving our children 2,400 miles away from
their mother because my new honey got a better job offer? The
Letters to the Editor section would be filled with women wanting
to tear me limb from limb--and they'd be right. All us of would
agree that it's harmful to take children away from one of their
parents, even if that parent was not the children's primary
caregiver during the marriage.
The Georgia Supreme
Court recently "switched the genders" and made a just
ruling in the Bodne move-away case. In Bodne the court ruled
in favor of a mother who sought to block her ex-husband, who
had primary physical custody of their children, from moving
them out of state. The majority condemned the move-away father
for "placing his interests first" and said the move
"affected Ms. Bodne's ability to continue her equal involvement
in the children's lives and also had a direct negative effect
on the children." The mother's attorney noted that the
decision will "even the playing field" in a game currently
stacked in favor of custodial parents.
Of course, there
will be no divorce in my home. Even if there were and I had
the upper hand, I wouldn't dream of hurting my children by moving
them far away from their mother and pushing her to the margins
of their lives.
hundreds of thousands of fathers have been pushed to the margins
of their children's lives because of move-aways. My wife and
mothers like her don't deserve to have their children taken
from their lives simply because they have pursued careers and
supported their families. And if mothers don't deserve to be
treated this way, neither do fathers.
column first appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (2/23/04).
Sacks is a men's and fathers' issues columnist. His radio show,
His Side with Glenn Sacks, can be heard every Sunday in Los
Angeles and Seattle. His website is GlennSacks.com.
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