How Fathers’ Rights Are Affected by Abuse Allegations
By: M. Scott Gordon
When parents are getting divorced or separating, fathers often worry they will not be given a fair chance by the court when it comes to allocating parental responsibilities. To be sure, fathers’ rights advocates get concerned that previous preferences for awarding child custody to the mother may still be in play. In addition to biases based on old social norms, some fathers also have deep concerns about allegations the child’s mother might make in order to prevent the father from being allocated significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. According to an article in The Washington Post, child abuse allegations made against fathers do not often lead to a mother getting full custody of a child. Instead, as that article contends, “the mothers often lose custody.”
Concerns About Fathers’ Rights or Limited Worry About Actual Abuse?
For fathers who are concerned about fighting for parental responsibilities and parenting time, learning that most courts do not deny parenting time because of abuse allegations can be a relief, unless those allegations are proven. However, the article emphasizes some commentators point to this trend as a sign that courts do not always take women’s abuse allegations seriously.
On the one hand, a trend toward awarding child custody to fathers despite abuse allegations — or, in Illinois, allocating significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time — might be construed as a way of righting wrongs of the past concerning social norms. Courts may be trying to get away from the outdated notion that only mothers know what is best for their children and should be the ones to exercise a larger amount of parenting time.
The information in the article comes from a recent study conducted by researchers at the National Family Violence Initiative at George Washington University Law School, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice. According to the facts of the study, in custody litigation situations where a mother reported a father was abusive, “the mothers lost custody 28 percent of the time.” Differently, “when fathers alleged abuse, the fathers lost custody only 12 percent of the time.”
How Parental Alienation Can Affect Child Custody and Fathers’ Rights
In addition to abuse allegations, the study also explored claims of “parental alienation, or the accusation that a parent is undermining or damaging the relationship between the child and the other parent.” Like situations in which the mother alleged abuse, when the mother alleged the father had engaged in parental alienation behavior, courts were “more than twice as likely to disbelieve mothers’ claims of abuse . . . than if the father made the alienation claim.”
Further, when fathers go to court and allege the mother engaged in parental alienation, mothers tend to lose custody at a rate of about 44 percent. Under Illinois law, the notion of parental alienation might be best captured in the statutory factors under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) for allocating parental responsibilities in a way that is in the child’s best interests. Indeed, the “willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child” is one of numerous factors the court can consider when allocating parental responsibilities.
Contact a Chicago Fathers’ Rights Lawyer
For fathers who are concerned about social pressures affecting their rights to parental responsibilities, an experienced Chicago father’s rights attorney can help. The article discussed above suggests fathers should feel reassured false allegations, as well as social norms, will not hurt their chances of being allocated parental responsibilities. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information.