Anyone in the Chicago area who is thinking about filing for divorce and has children may know about a bill that is currently pending in the Illinois legislature concerning shared parenting. In brief, House Bill 4113 aims to amend the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) in order to have a presumption of equal parenting time, or 50/50 shared parenting time. Numerous father’s rights advocates have championed the bill while it has been met with many questions and concerns from other advocacy groups. Is such a bill necessary in Illinois? According to a recent report from Illinois Watchdog, a new study reports that fathers in Illinois only see their children 23.1% of the time, even when they live close by and have no criminal history.
That study assesses the ways in which fathers tend to have less parenting time than mothers. Should the study lead Illinois residents to reconsider the importance of a presumption of 50/50 shared custody in the state?
One of the major takeaways from the study is that fathers in a majority of U.S. states, including Illinois, see their children less than 50% of the time in a given year. We already told you that fathers without criminal records in Illinois only see their kids 23.1% of the time. How does Illinois fare in comparison to other states? Some states already have 50/50 shared parenting laws on the books, and states such as Florida, New Mexico, Minnesota, Virginia, and New Jersey have parenting time statistics that are closer to 50/50. While many other states do not come close to 50/50 shared parenting, as it turns out, Illinois has a much bigger disparity than other parts of the country.
When it comes to disparities in the amount of parenting time that parents share, Illinois only ranks higher than Tennessee (21.8%), Oklahoma (22.4%), and Mississippi (23%). To put that number another way, Illinois comes in 47th in the country in terms of the percentage of parenting time for fathers. According to Ben Coltrin, the president of Custody X Change (the service that conducted the study), there is a wide gap between Illinois and a state that has 50/50 custody laws, in which children get equal parenting time with both parents. In comparison with a state that has 50/50 shared custody laws, kids in Illinois on average spend 100 days less per year with their fathers.
One of the reasons that Illinois lawmakers replaced the terms of “child custody” and “visitation” with “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” was to emphasize the importance of the parent-child relationship. However, even with these changes to the law, fathers still continue to have less parenting time than mothers after a divorce.
Coltrin suggests that politics play at least some role in the development and passage of 50/50 shared parenting laws. Would Illinois be better off with a 50/50 shared parenting law? Coltrin argues that many other states are already awarding 50/50 custody to fathers, but it is important to consider both sides of the issue.
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