Consider the following two scenarios about a former couple who shares child custody. In the first scenario, the child’s father earns vastly more money than the mother. As such, he pays thousands of dollars in child support each month. He then petitions the court for a reduction in child support, alleging that the child’s mother is basically refusing to find work.
Now, consider the exact same scenario with the parents’ genders reversed. If the child’s mother is the “breadwinner” and the father is the parent who allegedly refuses to get a job, does this change how you view the situation? For many people, it absolutely does.
This is a real-life example involving A-list actress Halle Berry and her ex-boyfriend, a French-Canadian fashion model. The two have a 6-year-old daughter together. Recently, Berry sought to reduce her monthly child support payments from $16,000 to $3,000.
In a TIME opinion piece, a writer and editor by the name of Cathy Young focuses not on the case itself but on the media and public reaction to it. Young points out that Berry’s ex-boyfriend is being called a “bum,” and it has been suggested that he’s not “pulling his weight.” The comments come from both men and women.
If the parent receiving child support had been a woman, Young argues, any suggestion that she was a “greedy vixen” would be shouted down as misogynistic. But there still seems to be a double standard when it comes to a man’s expected role as a provider and breadwinner. If we truly want to foster gender equality, shouldn’t we have the same expectations of men and women in terms of their financial responsibilities to their kids?
Double standards about child support might do more harm than simply garnering public criticism. If courts make rulings based on this double standard, it means that women who pay child support will likely have a much easier time reducing their monthly payments than men will in the same situation.
Source: TIME, “Halle Berry’s Child Support Fight: Female Breadwinners Can’t Have It Both Ways,” Cathy Young, Oct. 20, 2014