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How Divorce Has Improved for Men in the Past DecadeDivorce in the U.S. has changed in many ways during the last decade. The divorce rate has settled down from the boom the country experienced in the 1970s. Millennials, who were the children of many of those divorces, are waiting longer to get married and start a family. Divorce has also become more amicable because of the rising use of conflict resolution methods such as mediation and collaborative divorce. Women have increasing power during the process and are less likely to be financially dependent upon men. However, men have also seen increased benefits from divorce, thanks to that same trend towards gender equality.

Father’s Rights

The presumption used to be that the mother would have most of the control over the children after a divorce because the mother was the primary caretaker in the family. Fathers would typically have less decision-making power, and equal parenting time was practically unheard of. Now, courts see the importance of both divorced parents having a major role in raising their children. This means that courts:

  • Are more likely to consider a father’s request for equal parenting time
  • May give a majority of the parenting time to a father if it is in the children’s best interest
  • May give more weight to a father’s desire for shared parenting, even if they were less active as a parent during the marriage

It is difficult to obtain equal parenting time in Illinois because courts presume that it is better for the children if one parent has more parenting time. Still, a proactive father is more likely to be rewarded, instead of getting the children every other weekend.

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Withholding Parenting Time Can Violate Civil and Criminal LawsWhen one spouse believes that the other spouse wronged them during their marriage, they may want their divorce agreement to be a way to punish their spouse. Illinois divorce laws do not assign blame to either party for actions such as infidelity, but the court may favor the “victim” spouse when dividing marital properties if the cheating spouse used marital assets to pay for the affair. Parenting time is not a commodity that you withhold from your spouse to punish them. You must base all of your parenting decisions on what is best for your children, and obstructing parenting time without court approval can have civil and criminal consequences.

Allocating Parental Responsibilities

When you try to punish your co-parent by limiting or denying their access to your children, you are also punishing your children by hurting their relationship with their other parent. Denying parenting time is appropriate only when you can prove that your co-parent is a danger to your children. Abusive behavior by your co-parent is the most obvious example of proof, but your co-parent’s infidelity is not evidence by itself that they are a bad parent. 

Violation of Parenting Time

When a parent is dissatisfied with the outcome of their parenting agreement, they may try to get back at their co-parent through parental alienation or obstructing parenting time. Attempting to alienate your children from your co-parent will cause them pain and likely damage your own relationship with them. Withholding your children during your co-parent’s parenting time is a violation of a court order that can result in:

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Attacking Your Co-Parent’s Character Rarely Has the Intended EffectDivorcing or separated parents in a dispute over their parenting time are often looking for something that will give them an advantage over their co-parent. Pointing out flaws in your co-parent’s character feels like a strong argument for giving you a greater share of parental responsibilities. However, character attacks are not always effective in a parenting case and may instead backfire on the accuser. You will be best served during your parenting case by demonstrating the strengths of your own character and only bringing up your co-parent’s lack of character if you can explain actual ways that it is harmful to your children.

Importance of Character

Someone’s character is relevant when a court rules on the allocation of parental responsibilities if it concerns their morality and judgment. Illinois law states that providing moral and ethical guidance is one of the roles of a parent. An immoral parent may fail in that role by demonstrating a lack of morality or not teaching their children the difference between right and wrong. Other parents show a lack of good judgment that puts their children in danger or neglects their upbringing. You can express your concerns about your co-parent’s character to the court, but the court will find your claims more credible if you present third-party evidence, such as:

  • Character witnesses testifying in court
  • Character letters submitted to the court
  • Child services professionals testifying on their observations of the children

If you are the one whose character is under attack, you can present witnesses that testify to your good character as a parent.

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Illinois Courts Cannot Discriminate Against Parents for Legal Marijuana UseA child’s safety with a parent is one of the factors that a family court will consider when allocating parental responsibilities during a divorce or separation. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will also consider this when determining whether to let someone adopt a child or become their legal guardian. Illegal drug use in the home is a red flag that a parent may be irresponsible and creating a dangerous environment for a child. However, some of the assumptions on drug use will change starting in 2020, when Illinois officially legalizes the recreational use of marijuana.

No Discrimination Against Legal Users

The "Illinois Cannabis and Tax Act" includes a section that is titled “Discrimination prohibited.” The section states that the lawful use of marijuana under this act cannot be the “sole or primary basis or supporting basis” for limiting someone’s rights as a parent or right to adopt or become a guardian of a child. This means a court cannot reduce your parenting time or decision making responsibilities based on your co-parent complaining that you use recreational marijuana, as long as you use it in a legal and responsible manner. Likewise, the Illinois DCFS cannot cite your legal marijuana use as a reason for denying your adoption request.

Irresponsible Use

As with other legal drugs, marijuana use will still impact your parental fitness if you are irresponsible with it. A court may decide that your marijuana use is a danger to your children if:

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How a Criminal Case Could Affect Your Parental ResponsibilitiesAn ongoing criminal case or past criminal conviction can be an important factor when determining how parental responsibilities should be allocated between parents in a divorce. A criminal charge may cause a court to doubt whether you can be a responsible parent and provide a safe environment for your children. However, the details of your criminal case will determine how much weight the family court will give it in your parenting case. Here are three relevant questions about your criminal case in relation to your parental responsibilities:

  1. What Is the Nature of the Criminal Charge?: Violent criminal charges cause the greatest concern about your children’s safety. Domestic violence or abuse charges, in particular, suggest that you may be violent towards your children if left alone with them. Crimes based on poor decisions, such as driving under the influence or drug possession, also reflect badly on your ability to be a responsible parent. A court may strictly limit your parenting time until you can demonstrate that you are not a threat to your children, which may require counseling and parenting classes.
  2. Is the Case Ongoing?: An active criminal case could be good news or bad news for your parenting case. If the case ends without you being convicted, your criminal charge may have a minimal effect on your parental responsibilities. However, the family court has the discretion to hold the fact that you were charged against you if you got off on a technicality or demonstrated poor judgment by putting yourself in the situation that led to your arrest. An ongoing criminal case also casts doubt on your future availability as a parent if a jail sentence is a possibility or you may lose your driving privileges as a result of your conviction.
  3. How Long Ago Was the Conviction?: If you have a criminal conviction on your record, your spouse may present this information to the court as a reason to limit your parental responsibilities. However, you may be able to downplay a previous conviction if it occurred a long time ago and you have demonstrated good behavior since then. A one-time mistake may not hurt you much if you can explain what you learned from the incident and why you will not repeat that mistake.

Contact a St. Charles Divorce Lawyer

A divorce court will presume that you have an equal right to parental responsibilities unless there is evidence that it would be against your children’s best interests. A Kane County divorce attorney at Goostree Law Group will work with you to ensure that you receive an appropriate amount of time with your children. To schedule a free consultation, call 630-584-4800.

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