Misconceptions: Custody Bias & Asset Division
Interviewer: Okay. In terms of other misconceptions, it seems like the wife always haves a chance or the wife is favored in court in terms of custody of the kids. How does that play out in the typical scenario?
Anitha Johnson: I think that there are some courts that have a bias toward women, but more and more, men are changing that. In a lot of situations, men are getting primary and physical custody. Some men don’t even try because they assume that the court is going to favor the woman. But if the man’s circumstances are superior to the woman’s or the mother then the he has a good chance.
I would say, in DC, they have a presumption of joint custody. In DC, the court presumes that joint custody is better, so that’s a matter of law. In Maryland, even though it’s not a presumption, the legislature already passed laws saying that there is no tender year doctrine, which used to state that the mother of very young children (maybe up to two or three) would be the preferred custodian because that age is considered “the tender years.” That’s no longer in effect.
More and more, the courts don’t prescribe that, meaning they don’t acknowledge that, but certain things tend to give mothers the advantage. For example, they often try to determine who is the primary caregiver, and many times, the mother is the primary caregiver by default.
Interviewer: Okay. When dividing assets is it always half and half or does tend to get split up another way?
Anitha Johnson: No. It’s not always half and half. In DC, you have to prove your interests. Even if you have a property with both of your names on it, if one party was the only party that contributed to the property, the court does not likely make it half and half. In Maryland, it’s pretty much the same thing. It’s based off of contribution.
Interviewer: Okay. Alright, any other misconceptions people have that you have to dispel when they first talk to you?
Anitha Johnson: Sometimes, the court will find that even though a spouse was cheating and may not have been a good spouse, they could still be an excellent parent. Just because one side is cheating, it doesn’t mean that they will lose custody.