By Gerri Elder
Although it's a widely known fact that child custody is the central issue in dispute during a lot of divorce proceedings, many people fail to realize the far-reaching ramifications for a child custody ruling beyond the obvious issues of residence, care and child support. For example, child custody decisions can often dictate the living conditions, locations and jobs of both custodial and noncustodial parents.
Consider the issue of adoption--a social procedure that is often directly related to the outcome of divorce proceedings--as new partners and spouses often adopt a child as ex-spouses move on with their lives after a divorce.
A new study, issued by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, profiles adoption habits across the United States and challenges many stereotypes about the most likely type of individual to adopt children.
According to Jo Jones, the author of the study, the common perception is that of a "childless white couple that adopts from overseas," a perspective that the study soundly debunks.
In fact, within the study group of individuals aged 18-44, men are more than twice as likely to adopt than women. The study also found that minority women are more likely to pursue adoption than white women, and only one in four women between 40 and 44 who had sought help from a fertility clinic--and therefore more likely to be unable to bear children--adopted a child.
The finding that men are twice as likely to have adopted than women is interesting, and Jones offers a reasonable explanation as to why this might be the case: "When parents divorce, children are more likely to live in households with their biological mothers than with their biological fathers. When these single parents remarry, the new husbands have greater opportunities to adopt these stepchildren than the new wives."
Thus, as the study concludes, "these findings may support the role of adoption as a mechanism by which both stepmothers and stepfathers formalize and solidify their relationships with their stepchildren."
This conclusion may be obvious, but it's far from trivial.
As courts have moved from openly favoring a default award of physical custody to the mother to an approach that more evenly evaluates the situation of both parents, and with the possibility of joint physical custody in certain cases, new opportunities for adoption after a divorce have seemed to continue to fall to men.