Illinois fathers of young children often dread divorce for many reasons. One is the fear that they may lose custody over and access to their children. There is a reason why so many unhappy marriages have stayed together ostensibly for the sake of the children, after all. However, there is an increasing preference by child development experts and even family courts for shared parenting and joint custody.
Shared parenting means that the parents have joint physical custody of their children and share approximately equal time with their children. It honors and respects the contributions of both parents to the child’s life with equal parenting time and support for full and mutual involvement in a growing child’s life. In countries around the world, shared parenting is widely recognized not only as the ideal outcome of co-parenting after divorce but as the standard default option for family courts. In the United States, the same is beginning to happen. Many states are considering legislation to mandate a preference for a joint custody default in family courts, and a few have enacted such laws.
This preference isn’t just supported emotionally; it’s backed up by science. Studies have found that children of shared parenting arrangements have improved health outcomes over children in sole custody arrangements. They have lower stress, improving their mental and physical health. Numerous child development and family law professionals have also championed shared parenting.
Divorce does not have to mean losing custody. In an optimum situation, a family law attorney could help to negotiate a plan that gives each parent a roughly equal amount of parenting time and which can then be submitted to the court for its approval.