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McHenry County family law attorney parenting time

Unlike divorcing couples with children, parents who were never married do not automatically receive rights to parenting time. Instead, they must pursue it. Further, an order requiring the payment of child support does not guarantee parenting time to the paying parent. With this in mind, it is important to understand how you can get time with your child if you were never married.

Why Pursue Parenting Time?

Fathers who are not married to the mother of their child often wonder if it is worth pursuing parenting time with their child. They may be concerned about cost, or they may fear their rights will not be acknowledged by the courts. Rest assured that as long as you are not considered to be a risk to the child’s safety or emotional well-being, it is likely that your presence may be considered a positive influence on the life of your child. Further, studies have shown that children often fare better when they have two loving and connected parents. Since you may be required to financially contribute to the rearing of your child, regardless of whether you pursue parenting time or not, why not consider making an emotional contribution as well?

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3 Common Divorce-Related Issues Every Father Should UnderstandThree or four decades ago, a mother was typically granted full custody of her children if she and her husband got a divorce. The father would usually be awarded visitation rights, and he may have been able to see his kids every other weekend or possibly a couple of days during the week. In today’s world, attitudes toward parenting have changed. Fathers are more likely to be given equal decision-making responsibility for children, and they have the right to parenting time. While this is usually true, many fathers still feel that they are not treated the same as mothers when it comes to the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities. In order to protect fathers’ rights, there are some specific issues that fathers should pay attention to when getting a divorce:

Parenting Rights

In the state of Illinois, the courts encourage divorcing parents to come to an agreement on parenting time and decision-making responsibilities on their own. This can be done through the parents themselves or with help from a mediator. If they are unable to come to an agreement, the court will make decisions for them based on what is in the child’s best interests. 

Both parents are legally entitled to have a reasonable amount of parenting time with their children. If a father played a significant role in raising and caring for children while married, he should be able to continue having this same relationship with them following the divorce. The only reason a court can restrict parenting time is if there is clear evidence that spending time with a parent would endanger the child’s physical, mental, emotional, or moral well-being. 

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Illinois Fathers Near Bottom Nationally in Parenting TimeFathers’ rights advocates and some Illinois lawmakers are pushing for 50-50 parenting time to become the default when parents divorce or separate. Illinois law currently presumes that it is in a child’s best interest to spend a majority of the time with one parent unless proven otherwise. Fathers claim that this puts them at a disadvantage in receiving parenting time because mothers are more likely to have a majority of parenting time. A recent study by the child custody scheduling service Custody X Change seems to support the argument. The results ranked Illinois fathers as having one of the lowest percentages of parenting time amongst all of the U.S. states.

Study Findings

Custody X Change surveyed family law attorneys in the most populous county in each state to determine what the most common parenting plan is for that state. Researchers used cases with no extenuating circumstances, such as a long distance between the parents or legal limitations on parental rights. The study concluded that:

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Four Facts Fathers Should Know During DivorceFathers often start at a disadvantage when trying to obtain a majority of the parenting time during a divorce. There is a lingering societal assumption that mothers are the caregivers, and some believe that the bias affects the courts' decisions. However, it is a father’s resignation towards a negative outcome that hurts him the most. Assuming that a court will rule against him, a father may cede a majority of the allocation of parental responsibilities without a fight. A father must base his decisions on what is best for his children, not what he believes a court will decide. There are four facts fathers should understand during a divorce:

  1. The Law Has No Gender Bias: The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act does not differentiate between mothers and fathers. The law assumes that both parents will share responsibility for their children, unless one of the parents is unfit. It is left to the parents to define their individual roles with the children.
  2. Equal Parenting Time Is Not Preferred: Illinois believes that a child is better off living with one parent a majority of the time because it creates more stability. The primary caregiver, which could be either parent, usually receives a majority of the parenting time. However, the court will also consider which parent will provide a better living environment, which may not be the primary caregiver.
  3. There Are Several Ways to Split Parenting Time: A court may allow a 50/50 share of parenting time if the parents show the arrangement would benefit a child with minimal drawbacks. If the court decides to grant the mother a majority of the parenting time, the father can still try to maximize his parenting time. A 60/40 parenting time split can give a father an extra day with his children, as opposed to a more traditional 70/30 split.
  4. Children Benefit From Being With Their Father: Numerous studies have shown that children grow up happier and more well-adjusted when they have a relationship with both parents. Even if he is not the primary caregiver, a father can provide wisdom and emotional support that helps a child mature into a better adult.

A Father’s Rights

As a father, you should enter your divorce knowing whether you want to have a majority of the parenting time with your children. If you do, you can expect that the mother will contest you. A McHenry County divorce attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will help you show why your children are best off with you as the primary parent. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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