How can fathers best secure equal custody time?
Article provided by Jeffery M. Leving
We know that more often than not shared parenting is the best option for children of divorced parents. Study after study has supported this reality. In one example, the American Psychological Association examined 1,846 children who were in a sole-custody arrangement and another 814 in joint custody situations. Researchers with this study found children in joint custody arrangements reported fewer behavioral and emotional problems. They also had higher self-esteem and school performance when compared with children in sole custody arrangements. In another report, a clinical psychiatrist reviewed over 50 studies on joint physical custody and found that children who spent a minimum of 35% of their time with each parent did better socially, academically and psychologically.
These studies show the importance of arrangements that encourage children to have ongoing relationships with both parents and beg the question of why this type of arrangement is not the norm.
Isn’t a joint custody arrangement the presumption in most states?
First off, it is important to point out that the answer varies depending on the state. Family law is guided by state law, and each state handles this differently. Many states are rethinking child custody laws in light of the findings noted above. Some states, like Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri, and Maine, have taken steps to better ensure child custody decisions are more gender equal. But not all, and according to a study discussed in more detail in a previous article, Illinois is one of the worst in the nation when it comes to fathers’ custody rights.
A number of states, often including Illinois, still fall into traditional gender roles when it comes to child custody arrangements. They continue to award the vast majority of custody time to mothers. As noted by researchers behind a study for Pew Charitable Trusts, custody arrangements still tend to reflect life as it was in 1975. It appears the only way to shift this trend is to pass laws that encourage judges to take a different approach. One option is a presumption of 50/50 parenting time for both parents in these types of cases.
Will Illinois lawmakers pass a 50/50 parenting time law?
The question is not a new one. In 2017 the Illinois House of Representatives considered a bill that would have given mothers and fathers equal parenting time. The bill did not move forward, but legal scholars argue that now is the time to pass this type of legislation. They state the pandemic has highlighted the importance of a need to start with the presumption of shared parenting time.
Critics of this presumption point out that joint arrangements are not always the best for children. This need not be a hurdle. The proposed legislation can and does include language that continues to allow the judge discretion to make changes as needed for each situation.
What’s a father to do?
Although advocates for fathers’ rights continue to fight for the passage of legislation that will reflect a 50/50 presumption, this type of law is not yet the reality in Illinois. As a result, fathers who are interested in the custody of their children need to take steps to defend their position.
One step is to get an understanding of what the courts are looking for when making their determination. They generally look to the best interest of the child, which includes a review of the parent’s wishes, previous caretaking responsibilities, child’s needs, mental and physical health of all involved and parental willingness to support a relationship between the child and the other parent.
Fathers who are in this situation can also benefit from the fact that they do not have to go through this process on their own. The Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd., has experience in the plight of fathers who are fighting for custody rights. Attorney Jeffery Leving can review your case and help build a plan that better ensures your rights are protected during the divorce process.