life-long loss of a parent-child relationship. 97 Because of the high cost associated with custody
proceedings, 98 the difficulty maneuvering through the legal system, and the public notion that
courts are biased toward mothers, 99 the primary caretaker approach disregards that many fathers
consider court a last resort.
Also, the impression that whichever parent has been the primary parent in the past is the
parent who is more capable of being primarily responsible for the child in the future is a flawed
and counterproductive approach to determining custody. When expecting the arrival of a new
child, many couples plan how their lives must change and discuss how to arrange their lives to
best serve their household needs and the needs of the new child. Throughout different chapters of
the child’s life, these decisions are often revisited and adjusted to better fit the changing needs of
the household and family. Though situations that prompt a change in family or household
dynamics commonly occurs in intact families, the primary caretaker approach does not consider
the possibility of adapting prompted by separation. 100 Instead, it attempts to keep parenting
schedules as similar as possible101 – even if another alternative would better serve the growing
needs of the child in this stage of adjustment or even if the primary caretaker’s parenting would
be different under the new circumstances. 102
97 See ELROD & DALE, supra note 87, at 391.
98 Anne-Marie Dorning, How to Beat the High Cost of Divorce, ABC NEWS (July 2, 2007),
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/LifeStages/story?id=3323282 (in major cities, a high-conflict custody battle could
cost at least $75,000-$100,000).
99 Nina Shapiro, Ripped Apart, SEATTLE WEEKLY NEWS (Jan. 17, 2012), http://archive.seattleweekly.com/2012-01-
18/news/ripped-apart/; see Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU,
http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/childsupport/chldsu07.pdf (Courts are more likely to award custodial mothers
more child support than custodial fathers).
100 See ELROD & DALE, supra note 93, at 388.
101 ABRAMS, supra note 9, at 682-683.
102 ANDREA CHARLOW, Awarding Custody: The Best Interests of the Child and Other Fictions, 5 YALE L. & POL.
REV. 266, 275 (1987).