The ongoing divorce proceedings of Usher Raymond and Tameka Foster have been dominating urban news outlets.
As a result, the institute of marriage as it pertains to the African-American community has found itself on trial in the court of public opinion.
Usher’s marriage and eventual dissolution has been a hot button topic among many in the African-American community since Usher’s public courtship of Tameka began in 2007.
Questions have like, “what is the role of marriage in the African American community,” and “is there really a winner in a custody battle?” have arisen, but in order to find the correct answer, one must examine the AA marriage dynamic as a whole.
What is the role of Marriage in the AA Community?
The Institute of American Values states that “Marriage clearly appears to promote the economic, social, familial, and psychological well-being of African American men and women.”
African Americans make up about 13 percent of the American population.
Of those roughly 36 million people, only 34 percent of the African American populations (over the age of 15) have chosen marriage.
Apparently, in the AA community, marriage has taken the back seat to mutually beneficial cohabitation.
Why are so few African Americans of age choosing not to get married?
Economist Steffan Reinhold, Ph.D. states that by “…2002, more than one-half of all women aged 19–44 had ever cohabited.”
Basically, modern couples are choosing to live together and remain unmarried, as opposed to the more traditional practice of getting married and then moving in together.
With half of the American female population preferring the practice of “shacking up,” the institute of marriage has seemingly been replaced with an alternative that allows them to keep their options open.
Furthermore, research suggests that women and men who cohabit with their future spouse and then get married are more likely to divorce than those who go the aforementioned “traditional route.”
Divorce by the numbers
Research suggests that African Americans get married at a later age than whites and other minorities and experience higher divorce rates. 
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies states that by the age of thirty, nearly 81 percent of white women, 77 percent of Hispanics and Asians will marry, but only 52 percent of AA women will be married by that age.
Of the 52 percent of AA women that will be actively married by age 30, research shows that 70 percent of black women’s first marriages will end in divorce. 
To make matters worse, black women are also the least likely to give marriage a second shot after divorcing. 32 percent of black women will get married again within five years of divorce.
The custody battle: who really wins?
As with the high profile divorce of Usher Raymond and Tameka Foster, the topic of child custody often becomes a major hurdle in divorce proceedings. When parents refuse to agree on a joint custody agreement, they then choose to seek full custody of the minors they had during the marriage.
In order to gain full custody of their children, former spouses must prove to the court that not only are they the better parent, but the former spouse is incapable of handling the responsibility of child rearing on a permanent basis.
Family courts must then determine what’s in the best interest of the child; each state has their own set of determining factors.
In Usher’s home state of Georgia, for instance, if the child is under the age 14, the court must examine the relationships of the child with their parents, siblings, and other relatives in the home.
The court also examines each parent’s ability to financially provide for the child and the safety of the home environment, among others.
Parents must also submit a “parenting plan” that must be approved by court authorities.
Not only does this force the child to choose sides, but it leaves the child with no choice but to divorce a parent and begin a new life in the “winning “parent’s home, without the benefit of a two-parent household.
The conventional African American family is going the way of the dinosaur.
The middle class, white picket fence and 2.3 children ideal stands merely as a memory of yesteryear.
The recent trial of Usher and Tameka has proven that even celebrities sometimes cannot overcome the overwhelming odds stacked against African Americans in the realm of marriage.
Is this a denouncement of marriage?
No. This is simply a declaration of facts based on quantitative research and a warning for those in the African American community; the chances of failing in marriage are high.
Know what you’re getting in to, because if it goes south, no one walks away unscathed; there is no winner in divorce.
1. “African American Family Facts.” First Things First.
2. Blackmon, Lorraine, et.al. “The Consequences of Marriage for African Americans” The Institute for American Values. http://www.americanvalues.org/pdfs/consequences_of_marriage.pdf. n.p. n.d.
3. Copen, Casey E, et. al. “ First Marriages in the United States: Data From the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth.”National Health Statistics Reports. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr049.pdf. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. 22 March 2012.
4. McNamee, Catherine B, R. Kelly Raley. “A note on race, ethnicity and nativity differentials in remarriage in the United States.”DEMOGRAPHIC RESEARCH. http://www.demographic-research.org/Volumes/Vol24/13/24-13.pdf. n.p. 15 February 2010.
5. Reinhold, Steffan. “Reassessing the Link Between Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Instability.” US National Library of Medicine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3000053/. August 2010.
6. Washingon, Debrina. “Child Custody in Georgia.” About.com. New York Times, Inc. http://singleparents.about.com/od/childcustodylaws/a/georgia_child_custody_laws.htm. n.d.
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