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50-50 Shared Custody Presumption and Fathers’ Rights

50-50 Shared Custody Presumption and Fathers’ Rights

By: M. Scott Gordon

Is a 50-50 shared custody presumption the best solution for concerns about Chicago fathers’ rights when it comes to the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time? Some states currently have a statutory presumption toward 50-50 shared parenting time within their family law statutes. This means that, when the court allocates parental responsibilities and parenting time (or, orders physical custody, as the term is still used in other states), it would begin from the presumption that equal shared parenting time would be allocated and in the best interest of the children unless there was a clear reason to do otherwise. What are the pros and cons of equal (50-50) shared parenting time? And why is this presumption a basis of the fathers’ rights movement in Illinois?

Is 50-50 Custody the Best Thing for Parents or Children?

Many fathers’ rights groups in Illinois, such as “Dads Can Too,” emphasize the importance of beginning from a presumption of 50-50 custody because it pushes back against the historical assumption that children should spend a majority of the time living with the mother, while the father has less parenting time. In other words, historically, courts have favored giving more parenting time (or physical custody, as it used to be called) to mothers, while many fathers believed that they had an uphill battle and the burden of proving that they should share custody.

According to an article in Psychology Today, sometimes 50-50 shared parenting is not always what is best for children, and often represents a “compromise” between parents who are engaged in a custody dispute. Yet this perspective is not, perhaps, the most convincing. To be sure, numerous legal scholars and psychologists contend that 50-50 shared parenting should be the norm and status quo unless there is an obvious and immediate reason to diverge from the 50-50 shared parenting presumption.

International Conference on Shared Parenting and 50-50 Advocacy

It is not only fathers and fathers’ rights advocates who believe 50-50 shared parenting is best for children. According to Professor Linda Nielsen of Wake Forest University, beginning with a presumption of 50-50 shared parenting takes the burden off court systems in a productive way to attempt to “pick the better parent” when court systems really do not have the capacity to do this well. Nielsen presented her ideas at the International Conference on Shared Parenting, which addresses important questions about 50-50 shared parenting and why it is beneficial.

What does Nielsen have to say? Most significantly, “it doesn’t matter who is a better parent at the time of the divorce.” Instead, courts need to think about children’s varying and changing needs as they age, which often means that kids need both parents in different ways at different stages in their development. Given this information, the 50-50 shared parenting presumption is the best for all parties. With such a presumption, courts are not working with custody evaluators who may have very different perspectives and may lack consistency, and courts are not making decisions about a child’s best interests at one particular point in time instead of considering the child’s best interests over the long run.

Discuss Your Case with a Fathers’ Rights Lawyer

Do you have questions about how parental responsibilities are allocated in the Chicago area, or the benefits of 50-50 shared custody? A Chicago fathers’ rights lawyer can help. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information.