For most of American legal history, mothers held a decided upper hand in a divorce regarding child custody arrangements. According to the “tender years” legal theory, young children needed their mothers more than their fathers. Millions of fathers lost out on crucial years with their children, making it hard to ever recover a fully developed relationship when the children became older.
Today, Illinois family law takes care not to favor one parent over the other–in theory, at least. Although judges are charged with applying the law regardless of their personal beliefs, personal values and biases can still impact a judge’s perception of whether a father is fit to share equal parenting rights with a mother. A father may have to enlist the help of a skilled divorce attorney to help him fight to protect his relationship with his children in a parenting agreement.
How Are Decisions About Child Custody Made in Illinois?
It is important to note that the terms “child custody” and “visitation” are no longer used in Illinois family law. Instead, the terms “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” are used, which mean, respectively, important decision-making authority and time spent with a child as his or her caregiver. Parental responsibilities and parenting time are addressed in detail in a legally-binding document called a “parenting plan” that parents create as part of their divorce agreement.
Whether a divorcing couple’s parenting plan is created by the couple or a judge depends on several factors. With few exceptions, divorces in Illinois now take place outside of traditional courtroom litigation. Instead, couples are encouraged or even mandated to attend divorce mediation meetings, during which they negotiate their wishes and priorities and create a parenting plan together. Although neither spouse is likely to feel entirely satisfied with a negotiated parenting plan, both partners are more likely to be able to live with the terms of an agreement they created themselves, rather than those a judge created for them.
The Best Interests of the Child
When parents cannot agree on the terms of their parenting plan, if there is a history of domestic violence or if the conflict between the parents is so serious that negotiation is off the table, this issue in the divorce may proceed to litigation. A judge will then try to determine the best interests of the couple’s children and make decisions about the parenting arrangements. Judges will consider many factors in this regard, including, but not limited to:
The wishes of the parents;
The wishes of the child, if age-appropriate;
The child’s relationship with each parent;
The child’s relationship with each sibling;
The child’s health and wellbeing;
The child’s adjustment to her school and community;
Whether any abuse has occurred in the past ;
Whether either parent has a criminal history, especially with regard to crimes against children.
Meet With Our Oak Park, IL Divorce Attorney
As a father going through a divorce, you may feel as though you are facing an uphill battle and fear you may not get a fair chance in connection with parenting arrangements. Fortunately, our highly-skilled Hillside, IL fathers’ divorce attorney at [[title]] has 34 years of experience advocating on behalf of Illinois fathers who care deeply for their children and want to secure the best possible outcome as to parenting arrangements in their divorce. To learn more about what we can do to help you, call our offices today and schedule a complimentary consultation at [[phone]].