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Illinois courts listening when dads ask for equal child custody

Conflicts between separated and divorced parents can be resolved in a Wheaton family law court. Child custody disagreements for many Ohio mothers and fathers' are influenced by hard feelings about an ex. Judges consider parental viewpoints but concentrate on the interests of people too young to debate the issue -- children.

Relationship break-ups traditionally separated fathers from daily interaction with their children. Dads lived in "the other house" and saw children on a set schedule of visitations – weekends, special occasions, vacations and a few days or hours during the week. Fathers' rights groups feel the custody norm is no longer acceptable.

Lawmakers and judges are paying attention to dads who want to be with their children more often, sometimes with requests for equal physical custody. Research backs the emotional and physical benefits children get when they have fathers deeply involved in their lives. Child custody decisions steadily are moving toward gender equality.

Shared custody has different interpretations from state to state and, sometimes, court to court. Joint physical custody can describe the familiar custodial mom-visitation dad arrangement or can mean parents spend equal time with kids. The custody pie is shared but in different portions.

Custody decisions can no longer discount a willingness by fathers to be with their children or studies that support the growing trend. Two million U.S. dads described themselves as "stay at home" parents in 2012, a significant jump from 1.1 million at-home fathers 23 years earlier, according to studies by Pew Research Center. Twenty-one percent of dads stayed at home in 2012 by choice, not due to joblessness or other reasons.

Illinois courts are not granting equal physical custody by request. A judge must be convinced children will thrive when parents agree to a half-and-half custody arrangement. The good news for fathers is no gender has the upper hand when it comes to the best interests of children.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "More dads demand equal custody rights, reject child-support arrangements of yesterday" Sharon Jayson, USA Today, Jun. 14, 2014

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