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Single Fathers, Single Mothers, and Child Custody Statistics

Couple decides who will be guardian of little girl

Determining Custody

Couple decides who will be guardian of little girl

In just over 51% of custody decisions, both parents agree that the mother should become the custodial parent. In roughly 29% of custody decisions, this is made without any assistance from the court or from a mediator. 11% are determined with the assistance of a mediator, and 5% are determined following a custody evaluation. By comparison, only 4% of custody cases require going to trial before primary custody is decided. Overall, 91% of custody decisions do not require the family court to decide. 

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Custody Lawyers

Determining Custody in Illinois

In Illinois, the courts will determine custody based on what the court feels will be in the best interest of the child. The court will factor in the child’s school and community involvement, the impact on a child’s physical and mental health, as well as whether domestic violence is an issue in the divorce. Even though Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, the presence of domestic violence can still be considered when awarding custody and parenting time.

The court will also consider the child’s wishes, the parent’s wishes, and any recommendations offered by a child’s counselor. The courts have considerable latitude in this decision and will not rush to award custody until all of the information has been carefully reviewed.

Parenting Time – Married Parents & Divorced

Married fathers spend roughly 6.5 hours per week conducting primary parenting duties such as taking children to appointments, helping with homework, cooking, reading bedtime stories, etc. Conversely, married mothers spend roughly 13 hours per week on their parental responsibilities.

Conversely, divorced fathers spend far less time on these tasks. Roughly 22% of fathers see their children once a week. A further 29% see their children less than four times per month. Most concerning is that 27% have absolutely no contact with their children at all and spend no time parenting their children.

Number of Single Fathers on the Rise

Even though the number of households headed by single fathers is still far less than single mothers, the rate is increasing. In 2011, the number of households headed by a single father in the United States was 8%. 55 years ago, there were only 300,000. In 2011, that number had risen 900% to 2.6 million. This means that roughly 25% of households are now being headed by single fathers. For comparison, the rate of single mother households recorded in 2011 was 8.6 million. This was a 400% increase from 1.9 million in 1960.

Single Parents & Cohabitation

Single fathers are more likely to live with a cohabitating partner. On average, 41% of single fathers have a significant other within the home as opposed to just 16% for single mothers. This means that in many cases, the father’s partner often shares in many of the parenting responsibilities.

Single Parents Education & Income

  • 33% of single fathers have a high school diploma or less
  • 17% of single fathers have a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 26% of single mothers have a high school diploma
  • 40% of single mothers have some college
  • 18% of single mothers have a college degree or higher
  • 27% of single fathers are between the ages of 15 & 29
  • 29% of single fathers are African American
  • 28% of single mothers are African American
  • 36% of single fathers live at or below the poverty line
  • 43% of single mothers live at or below the poverty line
Child Custody Attorney Denise Erlich

These statistics show a clear impact on the median household income of both single fathers and single mothers. They also show what many child custody lawyers are very familiar with; that many single mothers have paused their educational careers in order to raise their families. This has a significant impact on their ability to provide for, and care for their children should they get divorced.

In 2011, the Pew Research Center indicated that the median household income for single fathers was $40,000. For single mothers, that number was just $26,000. Moreover, the study showed that two-parent households had a median adjusted household income of $70,000.

Child Support & Custody

Nationally, 2013 data from the US Census Bureau indicates there are 14.4 million custodial parents in the United States. Of these, 48.6% have agreed to either a legal or informal child support agreement. 88% of these agreements were established via the court or other government entity. Only 11% were established between the divorcing parents.

As part of their data, the US Census Bureau $37.9 billion dollars of child support was owed to custodial parents in 2011. The average amount owed was $6,050. Of this amount, only 62.3%, or $3,770 was received per year, per child. This mean that custodial parents were receiving on average $311 per month, per child.

Similar studies showed that in 2012, 53.4% of custodial mothers were awarded child support, and 28.8% of custodial fathers were awarded child support.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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