It's a classic scenario we all have seen. Husband and wife have a heated argument about their relationship. Maybe cheating is involved, or maybe one or both parties just can't stand the life they have together anymore. After a shouting match, she storms out, but not before taking the kids with her. As an alternate scenario, she just leaves, taking the kids and leaving a note while the husband is out at work.
The direction this trope ends up taking is largely dependent on what the motivations of the significant other are in this situation. If a woman is dealing with an abusive husband (regardless of whether he's abusive to her, the kids, or both), then she is in the right and the husband is a villainous character whom we are clearly supposed to be rooting against. If she is shown to be an unpleasant character who is very selfishly taking the kids away as a means of spiting her husband, the husband is usually the hero.
Another scenario involves relatively little animosity between the two at all- if the husband has gotten embroiled in a crazy Conspiracy Theory
and the wife thinks he is losing his mind, then she can leave while Taking the Kids
without any real hard feelings. Sure, the theory that Little Green Men
are preparing to invade the planet might actually be true
, but usually the husband and the audience can understand why the wife is skeptical and worried about the situation and don't hold it against her. In this situation, you can usually expect a happy reunion at the end once all the craziness is over with.
If the estrangement explicitly turns into a divorce proceeding, usually the wife either gains full custody or the lion's share of the joint custody arrangement- which makes this trope general Truth in Television
as custody cases tend to tilt toward the mother unless the father holds a very clear monetary advantage over his ex-wife. Even then the usual outcome is not sole but joint custody.
For extra drama, you can make one of the two abduct the kids and take them far away from the other. To take this trope in the opposite direction (or for a different sort of drama), have them argue over who gets the dog instead.
It should be noted that in some countries, leaving and taking the kids counts as both spousal abandonment and kidnapping, regardless of their sex.
Anime and Manga
- In Kure-nai Souju managed this posthumously by getting Benika to promise to kidnap Murasaki and take her away from the Kuhoin estate.
- Used as an Establishing Character Moment in Monster: early into his first spotlight episode, Inspector Runge comes home from work to find his wife and daughter standing by the door with their bags packed, waiting for a taxi. He barely notices.
- In Oniisama e..., this happened in the past of one Professor Misonoo. The kid is Takehiko Henmi... who years later becomes the titular "Oniisama" and Big Brother Mentor to the heroine Nanako.
- The Spiderwick Chronicles is built on this. The mother took the kids and left because her husband was cheating, and one of the kids still idolizes the dad because he was Locked Out of the Loop.
- In Olivia Goldsmith's Young Wives, Jada gave her husband an ultimatum: give up his mistress and try to make the marriage work. He then filed for divorce and complete custody, although she'd been sole breadwinner and doing all the homemaking, hence the ultimatum, crowning it with a demand for alimony. In the end, played straight as she kidnaps the kids and takes them out of the country, albeit with their last-minute consent.
- In Alice Hoffman's Turtle Moon, one of the plot points is that the female lead insisted on taking the kid after her divorce, even though said kid despises living in Florida with her and has his calendar rather spectacularly marked for when he goes to visit his father in New England for the summer - he refers to it as "home".
- In the backstory of Laurie R. King's Locked Rooms, Mary Russell's mother did this in the wake of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, although her parents did not divorce.
- When Ekaterin walks out on Tien in Komarr, she takes Nikki with her, which presents several unfortunate legal complications in the next book. In spite of Tien being dead, not least because Miles had to go to great lengths to prove he didn't bump the man off to get a clear shot at Ekaterin.
- The "divorced dad as a hero" angle is so common that it was parodied in Arrested Development with the Film Within a Show Homeless Dad: "I just want my kids back
- A line uttered by Tom Jane, who in Hung went on to say "Who do I have to fuck around here to get my kids back?!"
- Happened in an episode of Criminal Minds where Hotchner took back his decision to transfer to Virginia with his wife and son to a less time consuming job. The episode ends with Hotchner coming home and finding it empty.
- Somewhat gender-flipped on LOST: Susan is able to take Walt from Michael partly because she's the mother and partly because she's the one with the money and the good job.
- This is the whole premise behind the 1970s sitcom One Day At A Time: The mom took the daughters and left her husband. Why? Just because she wanted to prove that she could.
- Used in The Shield. At one point, Mackey's wife leaves with the kids and he doesn't know where they are. Mackey is the hero well, at least we ''think'' he's the hero, so he's still portrayed positively.
- This happened to Ayu in the Deep Love adaptation as a child when her parents divorced her mother took her to her new lover and the father never visited her again even though he had shown her nothing but love when he was allowed to see her.
- A rather unusual perspective on this trope is used in Star Trek: The Next Generation with the backstory of villain Sela. She explains that she was raised on Romulus where her mother (a time-traveling Tasha Yar) was a prisoner of war. One night her mother tried to flee the planet and was taking the girl with her — but Sela was afraid of the idea of leaving her home and raised the alarm. When her mother was executed, Sela says "Everything in me that was human died... all that remains is Romulan!"
- Two and a Half Men has the antagonist ex-wife use this as a threat from time to time in order to drum up zany sitcom conflict so that the main characters try to find some way to appease her.
- Dropkick Murphys' song "The State of Massachusetts" is about child services doing this to a woman because of her husband who is "violent, malicious, and distant."
- Montgomery Gentry's "I'll Keep the Kids" has the narrator telling his wife that she can take whatever she wants, including his favorite shirt that he hopes fits old what's-his-name, but that he'll keep the kids.
- A comic for The Far Side showed an angry female insect telling her husband "I'm leaving you and taking the grubs with me!" Larson was going to have her say "And I'm taking the maggots with me!" but the publisher said that was too gross.
- Kevin Hart describes in one of hits bits how he couldn't storm out after arguments with his ex-wife because his son would always want to go with him. He talks about how dumb it sounded when he was cursing out his wife while swinging a diaper bag behind him.
- Used for drama in The Order of the Stick. Vaarsuvius goes crazy with power and terrifies hir mate and their children in the process of saving them from a vengeful dragon. After V saves them and leaves to try and singlehandedly defeat the Big Bad, hir partner sues for divorce and full custody of their children. With V having undergone an enormous My God, What Have I Done? realization in the meantime, shi does not fight the motion, thinking that it is far better for hir now former partner and their children to be safer away from hir adventuring.
- Marge Simpson did this when Homer bought a gun. She does it again in the movie.
- Lois is Family Guy when Peter gets amnesia and starts going and having sex with other women.