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Shifts in child custody practices

Just as the concept of the typical American family continues to evolve, so does the idea of the typical American divorce. While it was once assumed that it was in the best interests of the child to be placed with the mother after divorce, now more Illinois families and family law courts alike recognize that joint child custody is an option worth considering in most cases. One interesting side effect of the growing popularity of joint custody may be, however, that the number of single dads raising their kids is also on the rise.

States like Maine, Minnesota and Oregon are among those that are consistently implementing joint custody arrangements. Typically, joint custody is encouraged to provide both parents with equal access to their child. Recent figures suggest, however, that such policies also encourage more fathers to have sole custody in some cases.

One of the reasons that single parenting among fathers is becoming more common is that some families may prefer sole custody over an arrangement that encourages equal parenting time. There are instances where parents opt for their children to have a more stable living arrangement that does not involve transitioning between two homes, and sole custody may be the more obvious choice in such cases. Another factor that may play a role in more fathers having primary custody is that more are asserting their custody rights. Since family courts are increasingly implementing shared custody policies, more fathers are encouraged to view themselves as capable primary caregivers.

According to one Pew Research study, more than 2 million households were headed by single fathers in 2011. That is a considerable increase from the number of single dads with primary custody in 1960, which was less than 300,000.

Source: theatlantic.com, “The Rise of the Single Dad,” Caroline Kitchener, Feb. 24, 2014

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