Copyright (c) 1997 Georgia State University
Georgia State University Law Review
NOTE & COMMENT: THE HIDDEN GENDER BIAS BEHIND "THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD" STANDARD IN CUSTODY DECISIONS+
+ The Author wishes to thank Prof. William A. Gregory, Georgia State University College of Law, for his staunch support and unwavering encouragement in seeing this project to fruition, Associate Prof. Victor B. Flatt, Georgia State University College of Law, for his patient guidance through the maze of statistics, and Laura Story for her creative vision.
13 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 845
Susan Beth Jacobs
A. The Jennifer Ireland Case: A Manifestation of Gender Bias
In 1994, a Michigan judge aroused bitter emotion and fear across the nation when he awarded custody of three-year-old Maranda Ireland to her father because her mother used daycare while attending college classes. 1 Jennifer Ireland's plight touched the hearts of people around the country 2 and revealed the threat of hidden gender bias 3 that may lurk behind the amorphous "best interest of the child" standard in custody decisions. 4 Ireland, the nineteen-year-old unmarried mother of little Maranda, was an honors student when she became pregnant while in high school. 5 She and Maranda's father, twenty-year-old Steven Smith, never married, and Ireland raised Maranda on her own. 6 When Ireland received a scholarship to the University of Michigan, she placed Maranda in a licensed daycare facility while attending class. 7 The custody battle over Maranda began when Ireland sued Smith for the weekly twelve dollar child support payments he had failed to pay; 8 Smith countered by suing for custody of Maranda. 9 On July 25, 1994, Judge Raymond R. Cashen of the Macomb County Circuit Court awarded custody of Maranda to Smith, because it was in the best interest of the child. 10 The judge found that "but for the daycare issue, [Ireland and Smith] were equally good parents" 11 and stressed, "the day care issue was 'pivotal' to his decision." 12 He held that Smith should have custody of Maranda because he lives with his ...
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