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Mothers Who Give Up Custody of Their Children

Why Some Women Give Up Custody of Their Children

No matter how egalitarian people say they are, there's still an assumption that a woman's connection to her children is stronger — and perhaps more sacred — than a man's, and when a couple splits, she should naturally retain custody.

Rebekah Spicuglia understands the stigma of noncustodial motherhood all too well. She got pregnant when she was 18 and started taking classes at community college. Her husband, a restaurant worker who enjoyed staying at home and being around his family, didn't want to move when Spicuglia's educational ambitions landed her a spot at UC Berkeley. So she made the decision to move and leave her 3-year-old son Oscar with her husband. Now living in New York and divorced from Oscar’s father, she sees her son regularly and believes her decision was good for everyone involved. To hear what a psychologist has to say about the phenomenon and to weigh in yourself,


Spicuglia joins the 30 percent of women in the US— over 2 million noncustodial mothers — who don't retain custody of their children after a divorce. If they are anything like Spicuglia, they may face judgment, hostility and disapproval.


Clinical psychologist Judith Sills explains why this is unfair and acknowledges that sometimes these decisions are best for the children, too. "The fact is," she says, "some good moms can protect their children best by recognizing someone else is the better parent . . . maybe they're emotionally overwhelmed; maybe to get financially on their feet; maybe because in a divorce, mom is desperate to leave the house, but she knows the kids need stability." The child's perception, she continues, has more to do with whether he or she has a stable, happy home than it does with the social norms that adults contend with.

How do you feel about women who decide to give up custody? Does it contradict your idea of what a "good mother" should do?

Image Source: Getty
Tammy15149150 Tammy15149150 3 years
I was a single mom of 4 for 7 1/2 yrs. My mother is a narssasist, martar,biggest control freak I ever met and psychopath but never has seen a doctor to confirm what we all know.I was in a bad relationship, instead of helping me she calls DCF. And She starts screaming at me im a bad mother cause I refuse to raise my kids her way and wont listen. Since my son was born she said my kids are her kids...That's crazy. She got thrown out of delivery room for screaming at x-husband he wasn't the father she was. Because of her I slipped into major depression with my bipolar and MDD and lost everything. My home, my job, my life, everything I owned and I ended up having to give my 2 older children to her and my twins to my sister since 2008. I was homeless for 3 years she never cared no one did never got a phone call to see if I was alive or dead and I went through a lot on the streets. Now that im remarried and on my feet Im trying to get them back, I first had to fight to get on disability for Physical reasons, now on waiting lists all around me for a 3 bedroom apartment. We cant afford more than low income housing due to my low income under $600 a month. My kids are being mistreated, verbally abused, emotionally and psychologically neglected and abused. And there is nothing I can do. I am going to court next month to fight her on visitation due to she was giving me extra unsupervised at my house for a year and than just took it away Oct 26, 2013 because I bought the kids bikes for my house so they had stuff to do and didn't ask her permission. I don't know if it is legal to have my son move home if I have a one bedroom and I give him the room, if so Im gna fill out paperwork for him to come home.
rachel77 rachel77 8 years
i gave my son to my aunt and uncle when he was 5 years old. its been 7 years and he's now 12. i had serious mental health issues. i never meant for it to become permanent but it did. when he left, i only got worse. he was whole life. we were never apart until then. we still talk regularly but i only see him a few times a year. he lives far away. there was no one else to take him for me. i have not had anymore children and never will. i grieve as much today as the day i sent him away. however, he is a happy, healthy, very smart little boy. he has had many experiences since being with them that he would have never gotten with me. he has been to several different countries and is very well rounded. i will never forgive myself for having the breakdown that i did that led to sending him away. i still see him sometimes, and have to take a second look. i hear his voice sometimes also. i gave him up for his own safety. i have complex PTSD and dissociative disorder from events in my own childhood. i love my little boy than anything on this planet. i want to say that for the ones that are judging really need to stop. you will NEVER know the pain of giving up a child(even if for his own safety) until youve had to do it.
rach716 rach716 8 years
My parents divorced when I was nearly 2 years old and I think that was definitely the best. My Mom had custody of me my whole life and when I was younger I would see my Dad every other weekend or so. To this day my Dad hasn't grown up, he's still as selfish as he was 20 years ago and so my Mom having custody was without a doubt the best situation for me. My Dad lived around the corner from me until I was 8 and then he moved away and naturally I didn't see him nearly as much which I hated. So for that reason, and in my own personal opinion, this woman moving to New York while her kids are in California is not the right thing to do. Even if they don't say it I'm going to guess those kids would prefer to have their mother close by.
Sarana Sarana 8 years
I think that as long as one of the parents has custody it's ok. What I don't agree with is moving to the other side of the country without your child. You made a choice to have a child and that means you have to sacrifice things for that. It's like Nicole Kidman living in Australia while her children are in the US.
dikke-kus dikke-kus 8 years
Its not so bad what she did. Her husband was the better parent and she got a chance to improve her life and in a sense she can give more to her son that way. She sees him regularly, and so I'm thinking the boy is going to be fine. I have a little boy and went through divorce and I have shared custody. That's a pain because you have to live near your ex husband for the rest of your life. By law I can't move very far. In order to get full custody I would have to go to court and spent my life's savings on a attorney. Many women know that going into a divorce and if the kids are old enough they just leave the kids with the ex and move where they want to. That way your not bound by law to be near your ex and you can start your life over. Then you just have the kids for the summer or holidays and weekends. Otherwise if you take custody the ex moves nearby and calls you every week about this day or that day or this weekend or that. It's a miserable existence for the kids and the parents in my opinion.
dani17731 dani17731 8 years
I have mixed feelings about this as well. I just hate to see such harsh judgments about these things when nobody knows the whole story. While I admit to reading these stories and having strong opinions about it, I would never go so far as to call this woman selfish or a bad mom just because she isn't the primary custodial parent. And if the gender were reversed, I would say the same thing. "I agree that your life isn't over when you have kids, but they HAVE to be a priority. It's just part of the responsibility of being a parent." I agree, but as most people know, this sadly isn't always the case. Irresponsible people have kids all the time (not calling this woman irresponsible).
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