As a family lawyer, people often ask me the most common reasons that my clients go through a divorce. The truth is that there are a variety of reasons why marriages end, as every family is different. I do learn intimate details about the inner-workings of families, however, and how spouses often divvy up household, childcare, and work responsibilities. I can say that my clients often express frustration at a lack of respect by the other spouse for the work that they do, either outside or inside the home. I have seen that families often make decisions about childcare and work that lead to power struggles in later years when one parent takes time out of the workforce to raise children. The spouse who took time out of the workforce often feels underappreciated and has less financial power, while the spouse who works outside the home often feels that he or she is carrying more of the financial burden of supporting the family.
A leading driver in the decision to take time out of the workforce is the ability of the parents to take parental leave and the cost of childcare. I recall looking for childcare when my son was born. The availability was low. The cost was high. That led me to decide to work part-time for the first two years of my son’s life. I was recently talking with a friend who is about to have a baby, and the cost of quality childcare has only increased. While the parental leave offered by my firm is richer than what was available to me when I had my son, a recent article in the Washington Post about parental leave in Sweden caused me to consider whether American families would make different decisions if parental leave options were different or more affordable, and better childcare options were available, and whether that would impact marriages in the long-term.
The article, called “These Dads Aren’t Superdads” by Samantha Schmidt references a photography exhibit by Swedish photographer Johna Bavman, which depicts Swedish fathers caring for their children as they take some of their parental leave, which in Sweden provides 480 days of paid parental leave per child. Three months of the paid leave, however, are reserved for each parent and cannot be transferred. The article cited a study that found that giving fathers more work flexibility improved mother’s health and decreased the risk of postpartum depression. In addition, according to the article, eighty-eight percent (88%) of Swedish women age 25 to 54 participate in the workforce, while seventy-four percent (74%) of American women age 25 to 54 participate in the workforce.
I don’t know whether it is possible to determine a link between parental leave and the likelihood of divorce, as the reasons for divorce are numerous and varied. I do believe, however, that opportunities to allow both spouses to take on similar parenting burdens or at least experience or have empathy for the burdens that the other spouse has taken on, would likely allow both spouses to feel respected and appreciated. That can’t be a bad thing.
If you have questions about this or any other Family Law issue please contact Catherine H. “Kate” McQueen at (240) 507-1718 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT KATE MCQUEEN
Catherine H. “Kate” McQueen is a family lawyer and principal in Offit Kurman’s Bethesda office and is licensed to practice in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Ms. McQueen focuses her practice on the many legal issues that impact families, including all the issues arising out of a divorce, such as custody, child support, alimony, and other financial and property issues. She also has extensive experience in guardianship matters for children and incapacitated adults, including assisting clients in petitioning for guardianship, serving as court-appointed counsel for alleged disabled persons, and serving as court-appointed guardian for individuals when their family members or friends are unwilling or unable to do so.
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