Under Part VI of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), courts presume that parents in Chicago who get divorced should both play a role in their child’s life unless there is a clear reason that one of the parents should be excluded. For example, in cases in which one parent has been convicted of a violent crime or has been tied to acts of family violence or child abuse, the court might determine that it is not in the child’s best interests to spend time with that parent or for that parent to play a significant role in the child’s life. In most other scenarios, the court recognizes that it is usually in the best interests of a child to develop and maintain a strong parent-child relationship with both parents.
Yet this presumption is not one of equal, or 50-50, parenting time. Rather, the court considers an allocation of parental responsibilities based on what is in the best interests of the child. Since Illinois child custody laws changed (to reflect the new allocation of parental responsibilities, including parenting time and significant decision-making roles), some people have argued that Illinois should have a presumption of equal parenting time. According to a recent article in the Illinois News Network, a fathers’ rights advocacy group has again pushed for amendments to the law.
The recently proposed legislation, House Bill 185, reintroduces the possibility of equal, or 50-50, shared parenting time as a presumption when courts allocate parental responsibilities.
The language of the bill says that it is designed to amend the IMDMA so that Illinois law “recognize[es] that the involvement of each parent for equal time is presumptively in the children’s best interest,” and to say that there is a “rebuttable presumption in favor of equal parenting time.” It would also require that the IMDMA “delete language providing that nothing in the Act requires that each parent be allocated decision-making responsibilities.”
As the article explains, the proposed legislation was introduced in late February 2019 and has met with opposition from many of the same groups who opposed a similar bill last year. In 2018, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence opposed legislation that aimed to amend the IMDMA to begin with a presumption of 50-50 shared parenting. At that time, Carrie Boyd, the policy director for the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, emphasized that “courts should not be required to start from this presumption that 50-50 time is always in the best interest of all children everywhere.”
Other advocacy groups have also opposed the recent legislation, largely thinking about family situations involving domestic violence. However, those in favor of a 50-50 shared parenting presumption have underscored their willingness to continue pushing for an amendment to the IMDMA for as long as is necessary. For example, Chad Loudermilk, the Illinois Fathers for Equality president and co-founder, argues that research supports an equal parenting presumption. In addition to beginning from a presumption that parents will share responsibilities 50-50, House Bill 185 would also require that judges “explain in writing why they chose to deviate from the equal-parenting-time standard and why one parent should have more time than the other” in situations in which the court does deviate from the presumption.
Currently, the article reports that “dozens of other domestic violence prevention groups and crisis centers have filed witness slips opposing the measure.”
If you have questions about the allocation of parental responsibilities, a Chicago parenting time attorney can help. Contact the Arami Law Office today.
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