Chapter 4. Children


        Is there any psychological evidence to suggest that a child going from one standard of living to another standard of living is harmed? What? No! So if the kid goes and visits his grandmother for the summer and she has a small place in the countryside, that’s going to somehow psychologically damage the child? Of course not! It doesn’t make any sense.

—Margaret Hagen, psychologist


        Should the child be punished just because the mother happens to make less money than the father? No. That’s not the way it should work and that’s not the way it works. Children are entitled to the lifestyle of the noncustodial parent. If the child support payment happens to benefit the mother, then so be it.

—Gloria Allred, attorney

THE CUSTODIAL PARENT

The Bible tells the story of two mothers who lived in the same house with their infants of about the same age. One night one of the infants died of suffocation. Upon finding a dead child in her crib the next morning, that mother claimed the child was not hers and accused the other woman of switching the infants in the middle of the night. The other woman denied any such thing. The matter was brought to King Solomon. After hearing the women’s stories, the King asked for his sword and said that he would solve the dispute by cutting the child down the middle, at which point the woman with the living child screamed, “Please don’t kill my child, your Majesty. I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don’t kill him.” The woman with the dead child replied, “Go ahead, cut him in half; then neither of us will have a child.” And thus Solomon determined who should have the child.

But determining the fate of children upon divorce, for most of recorded history, required no such drama. Women and children were the property of the man, and thus the children went with the father, no questions asked. But an extraordinary individual, Caroline Sheridan, who was born to an aristocratic English family in 1808 and blossomed into a beautiful young lady (Caroline was so beautiful that the novelist Mary Shelley wrote, “Had I been a man, I should certainly have fallen in love with her”), would change that. The fate of George Norton, a well-connected Tory with a seat in the English House of Commons, was sealed when he first set eyes on her. He proposed marriage when Caroline reached age 16. Although she never loved Norton, her mother pressured her into marrying him to shore up the family’s finances, which had begun to crumble after Caroline’s father died years earlier.

The loveless marriage was rocky. Norton was abusive and beat her mercilessly at times. Three years into the marriage, Norton lost his seat in Parliament. Caroline, meanwhile, had become a successful writer and had established many literary and political contacts, including Lord Melbourne, a widower and known womanizer 30 years her senior. As the friendship between Caroline and Melbourne strengthened, Melbourne arranged for Norton to be appointed magistrate in the Police Courts at a generous salary. Three children were born to Caroline, but a scandal broke when George Norton accused Melbourne, who had subsequently become the Prime Minister of England, of having an affair with his wife. In 1836, George Norton sued Prime Minister Melbourne for alienation of his wife’s affections and “criminal conversation.” Charles Dickens covered the trial as a reporter. Although Norton lost the case due to a lack of hard evidence, Melbourne tendered his resignation; but King William IV refused to let Melbourne go. Buy the book to read more…

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