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Study: Michigan parents' roles and rights still unequal

As Michigan parents know, the perks of parenthood also involve enormous sacrifices. However, the pressure to provide for their children increases when parents choose to divorce.

The total income of two divided parents -- earning separate salaries, paying uncoupled bills and living in different households -- should continue to meet the needs of the children. Unfortunately, child support is not always that easy to obtain and give.

Fathers and mothers today scramble to secure jobs and divide work time with parenting time. The tasks are not simple in a fragile economy. Gone are the days of 9-to-5 jobs and mother-dominant parenting. Fathers are expected to jump into parenting roles with equal fervor, a tough feat for dads with multiple jobs.

The extra hours at work also rob noncustodial parents of time with children. Job schedules dismantle visitations and create unwanted distance in parent-child relationships. Many dads face criticism for not living up to new cultural expectations. "Good" fathers attend parent-teacher meetings, athletic events and school musicals and shame on the dads who don't make time to attend.

Divorce has yet to become a level playing field for parents. Even with changing societal attitudes, most mothers retain primary child custody. Dads are still viewed less as caregivers and more as money givers.

The faces of biological fathers are changing. Some fathers are married. Others are divorced or never-married dads. Divorce often rigidly minimizes the time a dad can share with kids. The bonds unmarried men have with their children can be nonexistent, sometimes due to laws that limit parental rights.

A recent study published in Research in Human Development suggests instituting new policies that reflect the way families truly are. Study authors say today's dads need more job flexibility and less gender inequality in child support and care giving. If society expects mothers and fathers to co-parent, both parents need the same opportunities and legal support to succeed.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Is The 'New Father' A Myth?" Vicki Larson, June 16, 2012

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