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Professional tennis star Victoria Azarenka is back in action after the custody fight over her young son temporarily derailed her career.

Like many parents with professional careers, the tennis pro found her occupation at odds with her obligation as a parent. With a custody battle looming large in California and a judge's order not to remove the toddler from the jurisdiction, Azarenka wisely chose to sideline her career. She had been scheduled to play in Europe, but she dropped out of the circuit until after the custody battle was decided.

Now, she has custody of her son and is able to return to the courts overseas. Unfortunately, her time on hold has dropped her ranking from first in the world all the way down to 99th. The tennis pro has stated that she felt that she had to choose between her career and her child.

That's probably not far from the truth. When a judge looks at various factors in a custody battle, the deciding factor is always whatever is "in the best interests of the child." With young children, the court often looks at which parent acts as the primary caregiver, how much time each parent spends with the child and other factors that could be seriously impacted by a lengthy physical separation.

Had the tennis pro left her child with the child's father or other relatives while she attended tournaments overseas, that fact could have been used to influence the court against her. The father would likely have said that she was showing a lack of true concern for the child's well-being. He could have also taken that time to establish himself as the child's primary caretaker, which could have also swayed the court toward giving him primary physical custody.

Is it an unfair system? In some situations, it may be. Unfortunately, when parents can't agree to a custody arrangement on their own, judges are often forced into the position of making the decisions for them. They have to use whatever available evidence they have to try to determine who is best suited to care for the child and who has the child's interests most at heart.

For many professionals, that translates into a damaged career trajectory, regardless of their field. That's why it's often better to try to work out a custody agreement with the other parent outside of court whenever possible.

Source: sport24, "Azarenka back in Europe after US custody battle," April 30, 2018


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