Stay-at-home dad? Make sure you’re effectively fighting for custody

by Arthur S. Kallow

Census data and statistical research reveals a marked increase in the number of stay-at-home fathers in America. For years now, more and more "house-husbands" have been opting to manage the household and raise the children while their wives take on the responsibility of being the "breadwinner." A 2014 Pew Research study shows that, at that time, fathers made up about 16 percent of at-home parents, having grown from just 10 percent in 1989.

The maternal presumption of old

Progress has definitely been made when it comes to the rights of dads in contested custody proceedings. As recently as a generation ago, mothers were all but guaranteed custody thanks to assumptions and generalizations present in both the minds of family court judges and the laws themselves (in particular the "tender years" doctrine and other similar legislation). Thankfully, these presumptions are slowly being eroded by our work in modern family courts.

Nowadays, many states - including Illinois (thanks in no small part to the actions of our firm's founding attorney, Jeffery M. Leving, who co-authored our state's joint custody statute) - have laws that favor joint custody arrangements where both parents should play an important role in their children's lives. The presence of a father in his children's lives is vitally important, as sociological and psychological research has shown that children who have a good relationship with their dad regularly do better in school, hit development milestones earlier and are overall more successful than those who are lacking a paternal influence.

Even with recent research recognizing the positive impact a present and loving father can have on his child, it is sometimes hard for dads to have their say in custody proceedings. This is true even when a dad has been the main caretaker and psychological parent for the children while mom has worked full time outside the home. There is, for whatever reason, sometimes a level of social stigma or bias involved with being a stay-at-home dad that women in the same situation don't usually face.

None of these issues is impossible to overcome, however. If you are fighting for custody of your children, you just need to make sure you are acting strategically and presenting the strongest case to the court as to why it is in your children's best interest that you be granted custody.

The stay-at-home advantage

Traditionally, when one parent was singlehandedly responsible for the bulk of the child-rearing, that parent was virtually guaranteed custody in a divorce. Of course, this scenario has overwhelmingly favored women since they've always made up the majority of stay-at-home spouses.

Logically, it would seem that if the father is the one who made the child's meals, helped with homework, handled doctor's appointments, volunteered at the school and dealt with all the other minutiae of day-to-day life, then he should likewise have a built-in advantage when it comes time to make a custody determination. That isn't always the case, but it will give you a "leg up" on the other party. Being able to argue that you are the primary caretaker for the children and are in a better position to meet their needs is very persuasive for a family court judge. You just have to be willing to fight for your rights and for those of your children.

Logic, preparation, and reasoned, impassioned argument on behalf of a loving father who wants primary custody or shared-but-equal custody is key in any disputed custody proceeding. An attorney like Jeffery M. Leving, who has long championed fathers' rights across Illinois (and around the country) and has been nationally recognized for his pioneering work, has the strength, skill, and ability to hand-craft a well-supported case for granting a father primary or shared custody to protect and safeguard his children's future. This is done through persuasive and strategic argument, as well as uncovering evidence that it is in the child's best interest that the dad's role as the primary caretaker and day-to-day "main" parent should continue.

Whether you are a stay-at-home dad or a working one, you play an important role in the lives of your children, and you should be able to continue your relationship with them even if your relationship with their mother ends. To protect your rights as a father in a custody or divorce proceeding, contact the Chicago-based Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd. Call 312-702-0862 today or send us an email to schedule a consultation.