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Illinois State Legislature Debates Law Mandating Equal Division of Parenting Time

father hands child to mother pointing out parenting time pointing at watch

Illinois lawmakers are currently considering a law that would change how Illinois family courts divide child custody between divorcing or separating parents. The law would change the state’s parenting time laws to reflect a co-parenting model, with a presumption that parenting time should be divided equally between parents. The proposed law has garnered positive and negative reactions from members of the legal, parent advocacy, and domestic violence victim advocacy groups. Read on to learn more about the potential new law, and contact an Illinois family law attorney with any questions you may have.

The Illinois Legislature’s House Bill 4113 would alter the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to include a presumption that parenting time should be divided equally between the parents. Currently, the law states that judges should divide parenting time according to the child’s best interests. If one parent does not believe that parenting time should be divided equally, the new law would require that parent opposed to an equal division of custody to present evidence showing why a 50/50 custody split would not be in the child’s best interests.

Many US states are shifting toward a co-parenting system, moving away from the default arrangement being that of one parent holding “primary” custody and the other being allowed only occasional visitation. Some recent research into divorce and parenting’s effect on children has also shown that children who develop close relationships with both parents have more successful outcomes than children without regular contact with both their parents, even when those parents’ interactions are contentious. Several fathers’ rights groups and advocates have come out in favor of the change to the law, arguing that mothers are almost universally favored in court custody decisions.

Opposing the law are many state bar groups and representatives, as well as a number of nonprofits and advocacy groups for victims of domestic violence. They argue that the law would force domestic violence victims, many of whom cannot afford attorneys, to argue in court and present evidence of abusive conduct. These groups note that many abusers do not leave visible physical marks on their victims, or they may be perpetrators of emotional rather than physical abuse, making it impossible to prove in court. Parents who need help arguing their case for how custody should be divided are advised to contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.

If you’re facing divorce in Illinois and need experienced legal support, contact the compassionate and professional Chicago area family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker and Newitt for a confidential consultation at 630-665-9600.

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