Defending Your Rights as a Father in a Chicago Divorce

Defending Your Rights as a Father in a Divorce

By: M. Scott Gordon

Much is made these days over shifting parental roles and the increasingly shared burdens of child upbringing in a marriage. But while our society has made great strides in recent decades toward shared parenting responsibilities, many fathers still feel left out of the process. This is especially true in the context of a divorce or custody battle.

If you are a father who is going through a divorce or custody dispute, you need a skilled hand to defend your right to take a central role in the upbringing of your children. At the Chicago family law firm of Gordon & Perlut, LLC, we defend the rights of fathers in a host of divorce and child custody cases. Read on to learn more the rights of a father in child custody proceedings.

The History of Fathers and Child Custody

Traditionally, fathers were rarely granted custody of their children in divorce proceedings. In fact, many states used to require that custody of children under five years of age be awarded to mothers. These rules have changed with shifting gender roles and stereotypes. Today, mothers and fathers officially begin child custody proceedings on equal footing.

These trends are visible in the data. According to one particularly thorough Wisconsin study, the percentage of cases where the mother was granted sole custody dropped from 60.4 to 45.7 percent from 1996 to 2007. That corresponds with a sharp increase in equal shared custody and even a rise in child support being granted to fathers.

Steps to Take to Obtain Custody as a Father

If you’re going through a divorce or child custody case and want to continue taking an active role in your children’s upbringing, what steps should you take? First, make sure that you are actively parenting today. Illinois courts look to one primary factor in awarding child custody: the best interests of a child. If they find that awarding sole custody to the mother would deprive a child of valuable time and input with an emotionally invested father, they are much less likely to take this step.

Here are a few more factors the courts use in awarding child custody:

  • The emotional health of both parents;
  • The wishes of the children themselves;
  • Any history of domestic violence; and
  • The relationship between the parents and their children.

In recent years, the concept of the “friendly parent” has emerged in family law circles. This idea holds that courts are much more likely to grant favorable custody rights to the parent who is open to shared parental responsibilities and a continued dialogue with the other parent. Parents who are unduly confrontational or resistant to shared responsibilities are increasingly looked upon unfavorably by the courts.


Overall, courts have gotten much better in recent years at taking a father’s rights into account in child custody proceedings. That said, stereotypes about gender roles can still impact a court’s decisions. To counteract these forces, it is important to demonstrate your suitability for child custody through your own actions. Simply put, being a good father will greatly increase the chances of a favorable outcome in your custody case.
At Gordon & Perlut, LLC, we skillfully guide fathers in Chicago, Skokie/North Shore, and throughout the surrounding Chicago areas through their child custody proceedings. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free phone consultation.