Last week, we began discussing the concerns of some Illinois fathers who believe that the Washington DC family court system continues to favor mothers over fathers in child custody cases, even though the court system is supposed to approach each case by evaluating what will be in the best interest of the child. As a result, many have joined father’s rights groups in Illinois to fight for the equal rights of mothers and fathers in child custody cases.
Prior to Illinois adopting the “Best Interests” doctrine in the 1970s, the state’s family law court system followed the “Tender Years” doctrine when determining child custody. The Tender Years doctrine basically implied that it was more important for a child to be with his or her mother from birth through the age of 13 because women were viewed as better caretakers than men. Many fathers argue that judges are still more inclined to misinterpret a child’s best interests for needing the care of a mother instead of the equal care of both the mother and father.
When determining what will be in the best interest of a child, one attorney said that a judge will most importantly look at the stability each parent can offer to his or her child. If each parent lives in a different community, a judge may be less inclined to award shared parenting or joint custody in a case. Some believe that extensive traveling and going to different schools may also disrupt a child’s life.
Illinois Fathers, a father’s rights group, determined that mothers are granted custody nearly 90 percent of the time in Illinois while fathers are only granted primary custody 3 percent of the time. The group believes that only 7 percent of child custody cases result in joint custody or shared parenting in the state.
Fortunately, the importance of fathers’ rights is gaining recognition throughout the state and the entire country. Fathers’ legal rights have improved when it comes to adoption, child custody and visitation cases. However, Illinois Fathers believes that the state still has a ways to go before the family court system truly treats mothers and fathers equally.