There is no doubt that women who give up custody of their children are judged more harshly than men who do the same.
In a Topic documentary called The Last Taboo, mothers who had given up full custody of their children revealed why they had done so and how they had been judged by others for their decision.
Why mothers give up custody of their children: Rebecca’s story
One woman interviewed as part of the documentary, called Rebecca, revealed that before she fell pregnant at the age of 23, she had never been desperate to be a mother or a wife.
Rebecca and her partner, an Estonian man, moved to her partner’s hometown in Estonia to raise the child.
“Even after one day I thought ‘no, this isn’t OK, I’ve made the wrong decision’,” Rebecca said.
She described feeling like a “caged bird” once the baby was born and explained that when her son was weeks old, she wanted to “get out massively” and to “come home”.
Rebecca was invited to her brother’s wedding when her son was almost two years old. She decided to leave Estonia permanently and returned to England without her child, whom she now sees several times a year.
“I just didn’t think I’d have the strength to bring my son back with me and look after him and raise him by myself,” she said.
“If I was a man I wouldn’t be sitting here having this interview. It’s the most normal thing in the world for fathers to do that yet I’ve never met another woman in the world who’s done this.”
Why mothers give up custody of their children: Nataly’s story
The documentary also features Nataly, who discusses how she felt pressured by family to get married and have children. She reveals that she had never planned to have kids and wanted to be a career woman.
“Even though I wasn’t emotionally ready to have kids I forced myself to and I had one baby and then 12 months later I had another baby,” she explained.
She described feeling as though her brain was “turning to goo”.
In the end, Nataly decided to give up custody of their children to her husband.
“It’s hard not to see my children all the time but every single time I have a visitation with them it’s like a reunion all over again,” Nataly said.
How is child custody decided after a separation?
If you are going through a separation with your partner and there are children involved, you will both need to make decisions about who the children will live with and how often they will spend time with the other parent.
Ideally, you and the other parent would come to an agreement about child arrangements by discussing and agreeing what would work best for all of you.
If this is not possible, you could try mediation (where an independent third party aids discussions between you and your partner) or reaching an agreement through solicitor-led negotiations.
When an agreement cannot be reached, you may need to ask the court to decide who the children should live and spend time with. This is known as a Child Arrangements Order. Going to court should normally be viewed as a last resort, as it can be both time-consuming and costly.
Book your free initial consultation with one of our specialist family lawyers to discuss how we could help you with your child custody arrangements after separation.