November 3, 2015

Illinois Divorce: Fathers and Custody

I represented this year a Father who was facing what is called a "termination of parental rights" in court, due to actions that the Mother of the children had taken. Sometimes, if one parent neglects the child or children, both parents can be found to be jointly responsible and the courts can take action to terminate the rights of the parents.


I was told at the outset of the case that the State's Attorneys never lose these cases; in a sense, once the boulder starts to roll, there is no way to stop it. A week before the trial, I met my client at the courthouse, and I told him that I wanted to fight this termination case. I felt it was wrong to deprive a good Dad of his rights as a Father, only due to the failures of his partner in parenthood. I had been warned by many, including lawyers watching the case, that the State never loses these kinds of cases.

I told my client at our meeting that I wanted to take the case to trial. I wanted to resist the efforts of the State to terminate his rights. My client, a good man and a good Father, agreed to fight. He knew the downsides if he fought and lost, for at that point the court would adjudicate him as having lost his parental rights. He could agree to sign away his rights, and hope to get some visitation rights, but to go to trial meant adjudication.

My client knew he was a good Dad, and perhaps it was his resilience, and the fact that he did most all that had been asked of him to keep his rights to his kids, that inspired his confidence. But, most of all, he and I agreed together to push back, and to take the case to trial. In the end, the State decided not to fight us...perhaps they saw our resolve to win...the State agreed to suspend its termination case, and allow this good Dad to get his kids back.

Representing parents in difficult cases is what I treasure about this practice. But, without a client with the heart and courage like this man I've described, it's a tougher battle. We were a good team, and a good Dad is getting his kids back.

June 11, 2013

What Dads Should Know in a Custody/Parenting Case

1. Fight as hard as you can to get the most time possible from the very start. Whether you want the kids to live with you (as primary residential custodial parent) or you simply want to have an "aggressive" visitation access schedule, be clear about your goals and push for what you want. If you want equal time (or any decent amount of time), you need to push for more from the very beginning of the case.

2. Find an attorney who gets it. (Blog Author's Note: Illinois Attorney Michael F. Roe "gets it!") Many divorce lawyers just don't understand why dads want more access time. You are dealing with a system that has historically favored mothers' custody wishes, and is only now very slowly changing.

3. Do not bring child support issues up in custody conversations. Period. Many people -- even some lawyers -- will assume you want more time with your kids because you want to pay less child support, even when faced with facts that you are the more nurturing parent. While some states tie access time to pro rata support (like New Jersey), some, like Illinois, do not.

4. Draw your calendared schedule -- literally. This is a highly effective tool because you might think "alternate weekends and Wednesday night dinner" doesn't sound so bad. Draw it. You'll see that the child will go seven days (twice a month!) without seeing dad at all. That's an eternity to a young child accustomed to having dad around every day. Not only is drawing a persuasive tool for a reluctant "old school" attorney or judge, but many times mom will be persuaded as well. After all that's seven straight days of no help from dad!

5. Cautiously extend the olive branch to your children's mom. At the end of the day, once the lawyers are paid, the court hearings are over and the dust settles, you and your ex will be co-parenting your children. A horrible custody battle can set a toxic model for the rest of this long-term relationship. Be reasonable and even giving on certain issues that are important to her. The long-term payoff might be a positive co-parenting relationship -- and that will directly benefit you and your kids.

Credit: HuffPost Morghan Richardson

October 11, 2012

Kane County Divorce: A Father's Rights

Fathers in many countries suffer the loss of their parenting rights with their children. In Illinois, we have laws and procedures that allow an aggressive lawyer to achieve full parenting rights for Fathers. No matter where a Father may be fighting for his parenting rights with his child or children, having experienced and aggressive representation is important. No Father should have to suffer what Vincent, whose story is told below, suffered with the complete loss of contact with his child.

The Hell of Japan’s Divorce Laws

By Vincent Poirier

An ex-resident of Japan tells the story of how he may never see his daughter again, as a result of the country’s laws governing divorce
Vincent and his daughter, Emilie

MONTREAL — I need time to heal. I am still raging at my Japanese ex-wife and the way the laws of Japan allowed her to gain custody of our daughter. The shock of the outcome shook my faith in people. After living in Tokyo for 23 years, I moved back in with my parents near Montreal on June 30, 2012.

I met my former wife on the Internet. We were divorced, she in her late 30s, I in my early 40s, and neither of us had children. After dating for a few months she got pregnant. The news was exciting and we eventually got married. Our daughter Emilie was born on February 9, 2011.

However, the marriage didn’t work out. We constantly fought and once the police were called to our house. Then after Christmas in December 2011 my wife returned to live with her parents in Tokyo and took Emilie with her.

The divorce proceedings were inhuman and brutal. I almost died. I walked out of the court mediation in shock and fainted. Luckily, I had asked my father to come for moral support. I had prepared documents that I had professionally translated, and I had hired an interpreter, but I wasn’t prepared for the process. I won’t go into details but the whole process of a contested divorce would have taken two years during which time I would not have been allowed any visits with my daughter. After walking out of the first mediation hearing, I realized the Japanese system was biased towards whomever the child was currently living with.

What I did know is that I wasn’t going to waste my life on what I believe is a rigged process. My dad couldn’t stay with me in Tokyo for the many months it would take in court, so I signed the divorce papers giving my wife full custody of Emilie. I saw what had happened to my divorced friends, how their ex-wives manipulated them or cut them off completely. If I had been employed in Japan, I would have fought on principle, but without a job I didn’t have the financial or emotional resources to do that. I left Japan soon after the divorce, a broken man.

In Montreal, I visit friends and family, I read, I go to the theatre. I wrote a short book on Shakespeare’s plays. I need to get my mind off things and when a friend invited me to sail the Caribbean with him, I said, ‘yes.’ He needs someone to help him with his boat and I need to get away. I almost died and I still need to heal.

My parents are very supportive. In order to function and to be productive and happy again, I have to do exactly as my father says: I have to move on the same way one moves on after losing a child. But I can’t just forget my daughter when I know she is alive, when I know she’s been deprived of her father. I have to juggle my feelings.

I avoid talking about Emilie with friends and family. When asked, I give a very short account but I explain that talking about it is painful. When I talk with friends, it’s difficult for me to get off the topic once I’ve started and it ruins the evening.

I believe my wife and her family treated me in a shameful manner. But I have plans to meet with my daughter again, but I don’t know how I can do it. I am hoping that in the next few years Japan will change its laws and force my ex-wife to allow contact. We’ll see what the future brings.

Credit: Majirox News

September 20, 2012

DuPage County Divorce Lawyer: Single Fathers

Every so often a study or article comes along that reaffirms what my practice has known to be true for many years: there are increasing numbers of primary custodial fathers in society. I was fortunate being selected as one of the original directors of Responsible Single Fathers, a national group founded by Vince Regan to inform, educate, and be of support to single and custodial Dads. Through my divorce and custody practice, deserving Father/Clients have been awarded primary custody of their children, and in cases where is it appropriate, I fight for shared parenting orders so that my Dad clients enjoy the same rights, responsibilities and parenting time as the Moms do. Unlike some other states, Illinois has not adopted presumptive Shared Parenting, so the crux of some of my work is in achieving for my clients (both Dads and Moms) a positive custody result that the Illinois statutes don't award.

The Single Dad is Rising Fast: by the National Post

"While eight in 10 lone-family households are headed up by women, the growth in single-households led by males was more than twice as strong between 2006 and 2011. “Men are taking on a much more intense role in child-rearing across all families, so it makes perfect sense that we’re going to see an increase in fathers as head of single-parent households” as married couples divorce or common-law couples split, said Ms. Spinks. “I think we still see that group as an anomaly,” said Janice Keefe, professor of family studies and gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University. “It’s not a huge proportion, but it’s moving up to 3.5% [of all census families].” Women, by comparison, account for 13% overall."

June 16, 2011

Father's Day: Reflections on Fathers and Parenting

Writer and Professor Michele Weldon writes today in the Chicago Tribune about her experiences with her devoted father, as well as her negative experiences with the father of her three children.

Why a father has more than rights; he has responsibility

By Michele Weldon

June 17, 2011

We don't celebrate Father's Day at our house. My three sons dread the advertising-soaked holiday the way many singles loathe Valentine's Day. It's not that they have lost their father to death, disease, military service, an act of God or misfortune of any stripe. It is that their father has chosen to lose them.

As it is for many fatherless families across the globe, this Sunday is a reminder that fatherhood should be more than a biological feat; it is a primal moral responsibility and one that many men regrettably fail to fulfill.

I empathize with Prof. Weldon, and appreciate that she recognizes the thousands of fathers who love, mentor and raise their children well. I also can suggest that for many fathers, Father's Day is a difficult day, especially if Dad is a noncustodial Dad who sees his children far less often than he wishes.

A big part of my practice is representing parents in complex divorce and custody cases. I enjoy representing fathers who seek to have either the residential custody of their children, or who seek a full and shared parenting agreement.

While there are fathers who do not maintain their connection and investment in their children's lives, as Prof. Weldon discusses, there are many fathers who wish for, and fight for, more time with their children, and fight to have an equal and active parenting role in the post-divorce lives of their children.

It is these fathers that desire to have the fullest involvement possible in the lives of their children that I celebrate, and I am proud to represent any parent in a difficult divorce case that truly has the best interests of their children in mind, and wishes the fullest and most devoted parenting role possible.

To these Dads that put their hearts and souls into their parenting, we celebrate you, this Father's Day.

June 5, 2011

A Study: Nonresidental Fathers and Contact with their Children over Time

The article below appeared in a recent Huffington Post. The article explores a study investigating patterns of father-child contact following divorce. Left out of the study seems to be the inclusion of fathers who benefit from a shared parenting agreement, whereby father and mothers share the parenting of the children and agree to live reasonably proximate to each other. In my practice, shared parenting agreements are primary goals of my approach to managing custody cases for fathers. In other cases, I am seeking outright primary custody for my Dad clients. Good and devoted fathers must have the same rights as good mothers in divorce. The study below, however, adopts some stereotypes of nonresidential fathers , but the study itself is interesting and worth reporting here:

By: Robert Hughes, Jr., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Professor of Human Development

The general assumption about fathers following divorce is that they gradually have less and less contact with their children. Everyone seems to know some exceptions, but most generally think this is what happens. But what really is the case?

A recent study by Jacob Cheadle, Paul Amato and Valerie King published in Demography in 2010 suggests that the pattern of father involvement is more complicated and more interesting. Cheadle and his colleagues note that most scientific studies up to this time have confirmed the view of diminishing contact over time, but these researchers use a large longitudinal data set and more sophisticated data analysis methods to suggest that all fathers don't act alike.

Four patterns of father involvement emerge. The largest group of fathers (about 38%) consistently had high contact--roughly about once per week over the entire 14 year period. Children in this group were older, had better educated parents and these fathers were more likely to be paying child support. The next largest group (about 32%) were fathers who had contact only about once a year from the initial separation and continued to have little contact over the entire period. These fathers were more likely to have had children outside of marriage, were young and had less education. Importantly, many of these fathers lived more than 100 miles from their children within the first year following the separation.

The two other groups changed their pattern of involvement over time. Almost 23% of the fathers began with almost weekly contact, but by eight years post-separation were having contact only about once per year. Even by two years this group was only having contact every other month. Interestingly, these fathers were still likely to be making child support payments, but many also lived father away from their children due to a residential move (either themselves or their former partner). The final group representing 8 percent of the fathers increases their contact over time. They start at a few times per year and then increase until around 8 years when contact is almost weekly. This change in many cases appears to have resulted from the fathers living farther away the first years following separation, and then moving closer to their children. Both of these patterns suggest that geographic distance from children may be the biggest factor causing changes in the amount of contact with children.

These findings provide a much clearer picture about the patterns of contact by nonresidential fathers. There are clearly various patterns suggesting we should think about these fathers in more varied ways and begin to understand some of the factors that may cause more or less involvement. Those fathers who initially have little involvement may be the ones that need support in becoming more involved with their children.

February 27, 2010

Responsible Single Fathers and Illinois Divorce

If you are a single parent, or a parent involved in a pre-divorce or a divorce process, consider spending some time with, the home site for Responsible Single Fathers. I was one of the original directors for this organization, at the invitation of Vince Regan, who created and was the driving force behind, RSF.

Today, David Cisco directs RSF, and the site has a significant amount of information for single and newly divorced Fathers. The site has a forum where single Dads share information and legal topics. Here is a summary of the original mission of RSF:

"The development of Responsible Single Fathers allows fathers the ability seek support from others through one of four message boards at the site. We expect this forum alone will serve thousands of U.S. Fathers as they adjust to living the single life, while still loving, nurturing, and supporting their children." Regan continued, "Another section of the site allows experienced single fathers to share their tips with others by submitting their own single father articles for publication on the site. The world is full of experts on a number of subjects, but single fathers who have lived through the turmoil of divorce and the resulting conflicts have a wealth of positive information to share with fathers who are just beginning down that same road."

Responsible Single Fathers has always been about supporting single parents and their beloved children; it is not a classic "father's rights" site. The site is positive and supportive; there's no bashing or negativity. I am proud for the small part that I played at the beginning of RSF, and more proud today of what David and all of the participating Fathers are doing in support of Dads, all Parents, and their Kids.

July 26, 2009

Life after Divorce for a Malaysian Man: Do you feel a common bond?

I found this article via Twitter. It highlights the life of a Malaysian man who shares his life experience after being legally separated from his wife and kids.

Saturday, July 18, 2009
Is there life after divorce? Depends...

A subject that not many would want to dwell upon but which is a sad reality affecting many all around the world.

In today's materialistic world, many couples live a strained life devoid of true love and compassion.As a result, domestic squabble and violence takes place almost daily in the life's of couples who got married not due to love but circumstances.

A marriage of convenience. A marriage born out of pity. A marriage due to forced pregnancies. A marriage that is arranged. A marriage to strengthen family or business ties.All kinds of marriages take place today and when such marriages turn sour, the ones who suffer most are the children from such hasty unions.

When we speak about divorce, many suffering spouses fear to cross that line because they have become so dependent on their beaus to such a stage that they can't imagine living life all alone?

Some spouses abuse their partners so much that they resort to physical abuse such as assault and battery. Some drive their partners nuts to such an extent that the suffering victims border on the verge of a mental breakdown and turn insane! I myself lived through such a marriage before and I confess to almost losing my mind myself due to the tremendous pressure and mental agony that only those who are in similar situations can imagine how it feels to live a life full of delusions and false pretenses.

In our Asian society, suffering couples often put up a show that all's well when in reality raging tempests drive them nuts within the walls of their homes.

When I divorced, custody of my two children, a son and a daughter went to their mother. I also surrendered whatever little property I had to them and started a new life from scratch. I came to KL with just a given shirt on my back.

For almost a year, my tears would stream down my cheeks whenever I saw children who resembled my own. I yearned for them and missed them like hell.I was not allowed to speak to them and lost all contact with them. I only got to see my daughter when we attended the funeral of my niece who passed away due to a doctor's botched prescription for her health condition.

Continue reading "Life after Divorce for a Malaysian Man: Do you feel a common bond? " »

May 18, 2009

Dads and Devotion

A quick story about a Father's dedication to one of his children.

I visit a Starbucks in town, and one of the baristos is a very friendly, intelligent gentleman that I've chatted with while buying my usual grande coffee over the years. Turns out he's Dad to a young man who suffered a traumatic brain injury some years ago in a motor vehicle collision. The boy's brain was badly damaged, and only this year has the young man recovered enough to resume active life, and even attend college. The early days of the injury were, to say the least, catastrophic and frightening. Only through Marionjoy and days and weeks of this Dad's caregiving and love and dedication did this young man pull out of his injury far enough to allow the brain to heal, and allow him to attend school on a part time basis.

I think with compassion of the Dads who work hard and struggle to pay child support. I think without fondness of those biofathers that hide, and avoid work, refusing to support their children. I think without fondness of parents who really don't want to put the effort into parenting their children.

And then I think of Dean, who defines what the word "hero" means. His heroic support, love, and caregiving to his son has allowed this young man to recover. They don't give out combat medals to Dads like Dean, but if they did, he'd receive a Purple Heart for the blood, sweat, and tears he's lost over the last years, as well as a Silver Star for bravery and dedication to his son's recovery.

There are hero Dads among us. Just stop in this Starbucks, and meet a veteran of a war to rehabilitate a child with a TBI.