ILLINOIS — Some fathers are pushing legislation to fight for more child custody privileges. The group, Dads Can Too, wants to change the court system.
Jesse West, and several other fathers, say their goal is to get 50-50 custody time with their children as long as both parties are fit and proper parents.
Many fathers have been battling for years and hope, with lawmakers involved, it can make a big difference.
“He’s my everything. Everything I do is for him. He’s my whole world.”
Jesse West has been battling for time with his son, Jesse, Jr., for more than four years. Right now, he only gets one day a week and every other weekend.
West says, for people in his situation, they deserve more time.
“I’m a fit and proper father. I love my son. My son loves me.”
However, the court gave custody to West’s ex-wife because she has other children. West argues, if single parents like him, have no criminal background ad are ruled fit by the court, they deserve joint custody.
“The current system, whether they agree to it, is not, is pro-moms and we’re just, we don’t want pro-dads. We want 50-50.”
Illinois’ current law does not assume joint custody is in the child’s best interest, but does allow flexibility. West says, all he wants is to be more involved in his son’s life and wants joint custody to be considered first.
“We want to start a ground for all parents to be shared 50-50, as long as both parties are fit and proper.”
West’s mom, Barbra, says she understands why courts have this law in place.
“You get so many parents that don’t care and then, it’s so hard for the ones that do care. The struggle that they have to go through.”
However, Barbra says there should be exceptions.
“If you have one parent that’s willing to make the drive and to do whatever they possibly can for that time, they should be given that right.”
West says he understands things like this take time, but he’s hopeful of continuing the conversation.
“I just keep trying. I just want a good relationship between me and her for our son and to be able to agree on things and each have our son.”
One group which opposes the plan is the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Leaders say 50-50 custody is not always in the best interest of the child because each case is different.
Illinois Fathers is for the legislation. Leaders say, once a bill is drafted, it will require parents to show evidence why they shouldn’t have time with their children as opposed to a parent providing why they should have time with their children.