Fighting for Fathers’ Rights in Illinois

Fighting for Fathers’ Rights in Illinois

Fathers continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to achieving equality in child custody cases in Illinois and throughout the nation. Although the law no longer presumes that mothers make better parents, single fathers are still less likely to retain custody of their children. According to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, there were approximately 2 million single fathers in the United States in 2013, but only about 17 percent of custodial parents were men. And while equal parenting is on the rise, still just 15 percent of child custody cases result in equal parenting time for both parents.

Fathers as Caregivers

Many years ago, the main role of fatherhood was typically viewed in terms of financial support. This is partially because moms were traditionally more likely to take on the role of “primary caregiver” while dads worked outside the home to provide financially for their families. As American families continue to evolve, more moms are employed outside of the home and an increasing number of dads are staying at home to care for their children. In 2013, it is estimated that there were 214,000 stay at home dads caring for around 434,000 children in the United States. And studies show that even when dads are employed outside the home, many have become more involved in their children’s lives, taking on a larger portion of child-rearing duties that ever before. Although family dynamics have changed significantly, however, fathers are often still viewed as the “breadwinners” while mothers are frequently seen as primary caregivers. Since Illinois courts place a heavy weight on who has been the primary caregiver when determining who will receive the majority of parenting time with children in custody cases, an accurate evaluation of the dynamics of each family is necessary.

Fathers Play and Important Role in the Lives of Their Children

There is emerging evidence that fathers play a crucial role in the development of their children. Despite the benefits of father involvement, however, many courts award minimal parenting time to dads and the allocation of parenting roles is frequently one-sided. According to research, high-quality father involvement and support is associated with:

  • Improved Academic Performance: Children with fathers who are actively involved are a whopping 43 percent more likely to earn A’s in school and 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade than those who have dads who are not actively involved. Additionally, kids with involved dads are about twice as likely to go to college than those who do not have an active father in their lives.
  • Better Behavioral and Social Outcomes: When dads are more involved in their children’s lives, kids are less likely to display behavioral problems. They are less likely to act out in school or engage in risky behaviors. In fact, kids with a close father-child relationship abuse drugs and alcohol less frequently, are 75 percent less likely to become teen parents, and are about 80 percent less likely to become incarcerated.
  • Reduced Psychological Problems: Kids whose fathers are actively involved in their lives experience fewer psychological problems than kids without a consistent father figure. They demonstrate greater tolerances for stress and frustration, fewer episodes of depression and anxiety, and they are better able to adequately manage their emotions and impulses. Additionally, they exhibit greater levels of self-acceptance and confidence than kids without involved fathers.

Parenting Time in the Best Interests of the Child

In Illinois, courts decide the allocation of parenting time and parental duties based upon the best interests of the child. While current law does not automatically presume that joint custody is in the child’s best interest in every case, there is some flexibility allowed. Factors courts consider when determining a child’s best interests include:

  • The wishes of the child and each parent and the relationship held between the child and the parents, as well as the willingness of each parent to encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The mental and physical health of all parties involved
  • Any violent or criminal history or threats of violence
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community
  • Each parent’s living accommodations

If parents are awarded shared parenting time and duties in Illinois, they are required to create a parenting plan. Unfortunately, a child custody lawyer often sees many cases where the parents’ inability to agree on the allocation of parenting time and other significant factors that affect the child cause the courts to award the majority of parental duties to one parent or the other.

Father’s advocacy groups across the nation continue to push for equal rights in the courtroom, and this has been a hot topic for years in Illinois. It is hoped that new legislation will soon be created that requires a more equal split of parenting time so fathers can enjoy the rights they deserve.

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