Your Family Matters

Are young fathers at a disadvantage in child custody?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2023 | family law

If you are a young father who is facing a divorce in Illinois, you have questions and concerns about how this will affect your children and your relationship with them. You wonder how the court will decide custody and parenting time, what factors will influence the outcome and what steps you can take to maximize your chances of getting a fair and favorable arrangement.

Custody and parenting time

Illinois law does not use the terms, “custody” or “visitation” anymore. Instead, it uses the terms, “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” Allocation of parental responsibilities refers to how parents share decision-making authority over major aspects of their children’s lives, such as education, health care, religion and extracurricular activities. Parenting time refers to how parents divide the physical care and supervision of their children.

Best interests

The law presumes that it is in the best interests of the children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, unless there is evidence of abuse, neglect or domestic violence. The court will determine the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time based on several factors.

The factors include the wishes of the parents and the children (if they are old enough to express a preference), and the children’s adjustment to their home, school and community. The Illinois family law judge will also take into account the mental and physical health of all parties involved, the ability of the parents to cooperate and communicate effectively and the level of conflict between the parents. The judge will also look at the history of each parent’s involvement and contribution to the children’s upbringing, and the distance between the parents’ residences and the impact on the children’s daily activities. This is in addition to any other relevant factor.

Maximize parenting time

As a young father, you may face some challenges and stereotypes that can affect your parenting time arrangements. For example, some people may assume that mothers are more nurturing and capable than fathers, or that young fathers are less mature and responsible. These assumptions are not true or fair, but they can influence others.

To overcome these challenges and stereotypes, you need to be proactive and prepared. Be involved in your children’s lives before, during and after the divorce. Show that you are interested and invested in their well-being, education, hobbies, etc. Attend their school events, doctor appointments, etc.

Be respectful and cooperative with your ex-spouse. Avoid bad-mouthing them or arguing with them in front of your children. Communicate clearly and calmly about any issues related to your children. Follow the court orders and agreements regarding your parenting time arrangements.