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How often are fathers’ rights ignored in child custody decisions?

How often are fathers' rights ignored in child custody decisions?

It has long been a subject of great concern here in Illinois and across the U.S. that far more mothers than fathers appear to be awarded primary physical custody of children after divorce. Family courts have been accused of arbitrarily favoring a "traditional" physical custody model in which mom gets the kids and dads are granted "visitation." This unfortunate trend was the impetus for the fathers' rights movement.

Before 1970, it was extremely uncommon for fathers to be granted shared physical custody at all, much less awarded roughly equal time with the kids. Over time, family court policies have gradually but surely moved away from the "traditional mom" stereotype and toward requiring objective evidence of what arrangement would be in the best interest of the children involved.

Nevertheless, a 1997 study of outcomes in Massachusetts child custody disputes, for example, found that mothers were still being granted sole or primary physical custody more than 83 percent of the time.

Recently Natalie Gregg, a Texas family law attorney who blogs for the Huffington Post, shared her own experiences of how fathers can improve their chances of being granted sole custody or roughly equal parenting time with their kids.

In conservative Texas, Gregg notes, while there may be a few biased judges, the main factor in child custody decisions is each parent's degree of involvement with the children. This is also one of the primary factors in Illinois family courts.

Dads who want an equal share in parenting need to demonstrate that they have been involved in the parenting all along. For example, if a dad has been involved in parenting activities such as cooking meals for the children, being involved with their schools, and taking them to doctors' appointments, he should demonstrate that to the judge.

Co-parenting is challenging for everyone -- even married couples. If there is considerable friction between the parents, it might be tempting to seek sole custody. Keep in mind, however, that courts don't limit one parent's child custody rights simply because the other parent doesn't wish to be involved in co-parenting.

Fundamentally, decisions about custody and parenting time are not meant to promote either parent's convenience. Ideally, they are not about either the mother or the father's rights. They should be about developing a plan that is in the children's best interest.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Father's Rights In Divorce: Myths and Facts," Natalie Gregg, March 22, 2013

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