Many men around America celebrate Father’s Day every June, but for some the day meant to honor them can be a bitter pill to swallow. In Illinois and elsewhere, fathers of the children of divorce are having to fight to prove their value as parents. For one Illinois group, this has culminated in a tireless effort to redefine what it means to be a good dad when it comes to child custody.

June 10 marked a gathering a loosely affiliated group of Illinois dads called “Fatherless Day,” in which divorced dads descended upon the state capitol building to raise awareness about the struggles faced by divorced fathers. According to them, they are frustrated by the fact that their relationship with their children is so often dictated by a court system that asks them to prove they are not “deadbeats”. They argue that, contrary to popular belief, many so-called “deadbeat dads” are actually exhausted by a system that seems to work against them.

The group alleges that far from trying to avoid paying child support, the prevalence of financial assistance available to women and children without a father present makes it difficult to argue successfully to be present. They argue that friction between couples can lead to men being excluded from their children’s lives. Court officials have fired back saying laws are designed to benefit children, not mothers in particular, but the debate rages on.

Fathers and mothers alike are deeply affected by divorce, and quite often battles over child custody play a prominent role in divorce proceedings. It may benefit Illinois moms and dads alike to understand their rights and responsibilities as parents before approaching a divorce court date. Ultimately, what is best for the children takes precedence for most parents.

Source: Illinois Times, “Fatherless Day,” Jacqueline Mohammed, June 13, 2013