March 10, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Among a large and growing number of states, Illinois has a bill before its legislature that would amend current child custody laws to encourage post-divorce parenting time of not less than 35% for each parent. Here’s an important article on the bill.
And here’s the bill itself, i.e. the underlined portions amending existing law.
The bill would add to the purposes to be achieved by divorce that it is presumptively in the best interests of children that each parent have at least 35% parenting time post-divorce.
Beyond that, it would require parents to file a parenting plan with the family court within 90 days of the divorce filing. If the parents don’t do so, the judge would be required to issue a parenting order. That order would require equal parenting time unless the judge finds the parents aren’t fit or that it would otherwise be in the child’s best interests for less time to be allocated to one parent. In that event a minimum of 35% must be ordered to each parent. Either parent may waive his/her right to that 35% minimum. The parents are entitled to agree to any parenting time they wish.
One obvious strength of Illinois HB 5425 is that it closely conforms to the social science on family arrangements post-divorce and their impact on child well-being. As Professor Richard Warshak and 110 of his eminent colleagues worldwide have recently reported in a comprehensive review of the social science literature, when parenting time drops below that 35% threshold, the benefits to children of shared parenting start to diminish.
Another strength of the bill is that it presumes parents to be fit. Of course the presumption is rebuttable, but the fact is that most parents are entirely capable of continuing in their children’s lives following divorce or separation. As we’ve seen from the recent survey of almost 400 child custody cases in Nebraska, the issue of fitness wasn’t even mentioned about 95% of the time. And it’s likely that in at least some of those in which it was made an issue, unfitness wasn’t proven. In short, according to the parents themselves – parents who were otherwise none too happy with each other – there was no problem with parental fitness in almost every case.
So it seems a presumption of fitness is appropriate.
And of course the usual factors can be used to rebut the presumptions of HB 5425. So issues like child abuse, domestic violence and the like can always be raised to prevent parents who are clearly not beneficial to their children from having equal, or almost equal, custody.
As we’ve come to expect, any improvement in children’s rights to maintain healthy, loving relationships with their fathers will get considerable opposition, and the same is true in Illinois. HB 5425 is stuck in the Rules Committee and has until March 28 to be voted out. Failure to do so will mean the death of shared parenting legislation in Illinois for this legislative session.
The linked-to article urges people to contact the bill’s sponsors and ask them to have HB 5425 released from the committee. So do I. Here’s a list of their names and contact information.
Please call HB 5425 sponsors John Cabello 217-782-0455, Monique Davis, 217-782-0010, JoAnn D. Osmond, 217-782-8151, William Davis, 217-782-8197. Let these representatives know that you support shared parenting and HB 5425. Specifically ask that the representative make a special request that HB 5425 be released out of Rules Committee. Be friendly but firm in your support of HB 5425 because your fair share of democracy is on the line.
Please call House Speaker Michael Madigan at 217-782-5350 or secretary “April” at 773-581-8000 and simply say “Children need BOTH parents now more than ever — Please support HB 5425.” Specifically ask that the representative make a special request that HB 5425 be released out of Rules Committee.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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