Winning a child custody case can be an uphill battle for many fathers going through a divorce. However, shifting attitudes towards gender over the past decade are helping dads be seen more often as equal partners in the eyes of divorce courts.
Illinois joined other states adopting the Uniform Child Custody Act, which seeks to minimize custody conflicts, allowing parents and guardians the option of joint custody as well as the visitation rights of grandparents.
Actions fathers can take in custody cases
While both parents should make their children’s well-being the priority, fathers can help their cases by taking the following steps:
- Pay support: Dads who seek custody must make their regular support payments and keep records. If they have difficulty maintaining payments, they should request a modification to the court’s order.
- Be present: Fathers must continue to build strong relationships with their kids, calling and checking on them frequently. Dads can also introduce themselves to teachers and school administrators to show they are engaged parents.
- Attend events: Fathers should attend their kids’ social, religious, educational and other events demonstrating a positive involvement in their children’s lives.
- Prepare a space: Dads should have a bedroom in their home for their child, even if they live in a small apartment. Courts are adamant that adequate living accommodations are available.
- Show respect: Many courts consider a father’s treatment of his ex-spouse a factor in determining custody. Fathers who are rude or disrespectful of the child’s mother may hurt their chances.
- Be honest: Dads should ask themselves what level of custody they can handle. If you have a demanding job requiring a lot of travel, take that into account.
- Have a plan: Courts expect you to have a parenting plan ready for child custody arrangements. Judges presume dads will have answers for their children’s living accommodations, financial support and educational needs.
Working in the best interests of your child
In Illinois, children 14 and older can choose which parent they want to live with, but a judge can overrule those wishes if it’s determined they are not in their best interest. However, courts recognize that most children of divorce have a better chance to thrive when both parents are positively involved in their lives.