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Is a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time Coming to Illinois?

 

During the 2018 calendar year, the Illinois legislator failed to pass House Bill 4113, which would mandate a presumption of equal parenting time for couples with children embroiled in custody litigation. House Bill 4113 did not pass; however, certain legislators are once again attempting to raise the issue in Springfield.

House Bill 185, once again attempts to create a default standard in divorces and parentage cases, which assumes that both parents should be provided with equal parenting time.

The current Illinois law regarding parenting time relies on a  “best interest” standard. This means that parenting time in every divorce or parentage case is decided on a case-by-case basis.

The best interest standard simply mandates that the Court hear evidence as to what type of parenting schedule is in the best interest of the child involved in the case.

Currently in Illinois, there is no presumption that either parent should be entitled to a specific amount of time with the child.

House Bill 185 would change this long running legal precedent.

If House Bill 185 was to pass, judges in divorce and parentage cases would be mandated to begin a parenting time analysis by providing each parent with equal parenting time. If either parent wished to deviate from an equal parenting time schedule, then they would need to convince the judge that an equal parenting time schedule is not in the best interest of the minor child.

House Bill 185 and the proposition that judges should be required to provide both parents with equal parenting time (unless either parent can prove it is not in the best interests of the child) has its fierce opponents. Currently, the following organizations oppose the presumption of equal parent time:

The Illinois State Bar Association

The Chicago Bar Association

The Kane County Bar Association

The Du Page County Bar Association

The Lake County Bar Association

Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Archdiocese of Chicago Domestic Violence Outreach

Jewish Child & Family Service

The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence

 

The main argument against a presumption of equal parenting time lies in the fact that each household is unique and different. The current “best interests” standard recognizes that each household and couple is unique and therefore a default parenting schedule (whether equal or not) cannot be forced onto families. The current best interest standard requires judges to create parenting scheduled on a case by case basis. Some of the organizations opposed to the equal parenting time presumption believe that the focus should be on the needs and relationships of the child, and not on the parents.  They say a presumption of equal parenting time improperly places the emphasis on an overly simple bright line test for putting parents on “equal footing” which could very well be contrary to the best interests of the child. Lastly, opponent of the bill state that if a presumption of equal parenting time was implemented, the child at issue would be treated more as a piece of property, because the sole focus is on what's best for the parent, and not what is best for the child.

 

On the other hand, many people who have been through divorces of custody matters in Illinois courts can attest to the fact that they feel as if the system is against them. Proponents of the Bill state that they simply want to place parents on equal footing. One parent should not be assumed to be better than the other.

 

What do you think? Would a law requiring judges to award equal parenting time (unless not in the best interests of the child) be better for children and/or the parents? Would this increase or decrease litigation?

 

If you have any questions regarding parenting time or any other family law issues in Lake, Cook, or McHenry counties, please contact one of our top reviewed divorce attorneys. We offer free consultations at our Lincolnshire and Hoffman Estates Offices.

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