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Group offers help for separated fathers

Divorce, child custody, and child support rulings can often be difficult for separated fathers to cope with. The prospect of being denied a role in the lives of their children is one that many Illinois men must confront after their traditional role as family provider and protector is revoked. When a father in this situation is also bouncing back from a lost job or time behind bars, the combination of hardships can seem insurmountable.

Fortunately for fathers in the Chicago area facing futures as a parent without child custody, one thriving group offers counseling and community. Founded by a 54-year old local man, the Fathers, Families, and Healthy Communities Demonstration Project offers fathers advice and a chance to meet others who share their situation. The group gathers regularly on Monday nights, working toward a goal of becoming "better men, better fathers and better nurturers."

Numbering over 100 with an average age of 30, fathers without child custody rights are encouraged to look inward and recognize both their capabilities and limitations. The group aspires toward helping its members secure a safe, responsible lifestyle through both reliable employment and a shift from the old attitudes that might have landed them in divorce court and/or prison.

Members come of their own free will, rather than by court order, and are offered help with legal issues, including paternity, custody and visitation, and child support. While working personally with each father to reconstruct values of good parenting, the Fathers, Families, and Healthy Communities Demonstration Project also aims to better the overall relationship between once-absentee dads and the court system.

This Chicago fathers' group serves as a two-pronged lesson, underlining both the difficulty of noncustodial fatherhood and the opportunities that remain for men to turn things around after a legal separation. In addition to the Community Project and other groups like it, the right legal defense can help a father stay in the life of his child. For those that are just entering a divorce process, getting in touch with an attorney experienced in family law will work to guarantee that father's rights are secured, giving dads a firm role in the future of their kids.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Helping men become better fathers," Dawn Turner Trice, Oct. 31, 2012

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