The Rise of the Single Father? Skepticism Before Plaudits

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The local public radio station in New York reports here that the number of single fathers in New York City increased by 9% over the last decade.  For explanation of this statistic, the story relies in part on surveys and interviews with matrimonial lawyers:

[T]he American Academy of Matrimonial lawyers said 61 percent of their members who responded to a 2006 survey said they had experienced a growth in joint legal custody.

“These are fathers who I think are legitimately pleased about their role as a parent,” said Manhattan divorce lawyer Michael Stutman, who noted moms are more willing to share custody, and men are more eager to spend time with their kids.

I found myself wishing that the story went deeper.  Are women “more willing to share custody” than they once were, or have courts become more hostile to mothers’ claims for sole custody?  When is a woman’s acquiescence to joint custody a strategy to secure a promise of child support?  Are men who report themselves to be “single parents” the primary caretakers for their children, or someone who sees their kids every other weekend?  Who does the day-to-day nurturing of the children?  Who buys shoes and clothes and school supplies for the children?  What resources — capital or human — does the “single father” have at his disposal?  If he has a girlfriend or babysitter who looks after his children more than he does, what significance does the label “single father” have?

Before I jump on a bandwagon to celebrate the single dad, I want to know more.

-Bridget Crawford

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