UPDATE — In Springfield, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is reviewing a bill that would change the way courts decide child parenting responsibilities. Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D) is sponsoring the bill alongside Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R).
When we spoke to Ford today he was very open about his passion to move this bill forward to give parents the ability to start custody hearings at a 50/50 slate.
Family law attorney Linda Watson says Illinois is working on becoming the second state in the nation to offer parents a 50/50 starting point. “This makes a presumption that each parent is to have equal time with the children. That is quite frankly groundbreaking,” said Watson.
State Representative Ford says it’s outdated to assume one parent does more for a child than the other. “The goal is to make sure we build an understanding and tear down misconceptions,” explained Ford.
Watson says this bill, if passes, would not guarantee parents 50% custody, but would ensure them the opportunity for it. She explained, “What’s new about this bill is the baseline that courts start at, and trying to figure out the timing between households.”
Under the new bill, Watson says there are 17 factors the court would still consider before giving one parent more time with a child than another. She says those 17 factors would be “universally the same as what they’ve been in the past.
Ford and Watson say the process for deciding parenting time should be in the best interest of the child. Watson said, “So many times unfortunately it’s not..it’s about control.” Ford and Watson also explained that parenting time agreements that have already been made won’t be affected, unless one of two parties decides to take it to court. Watson said if it’s been over 2 years since that agreement was made, there should be a good opportunity to go back to court.
Lawmakers have filed a bill that would compel courts to give divorced parents equal custody of their kids.
The bill has been making its way through the legislature since 2017. The authors point to statistics that show children are better off with both parents in their lives..
The bill would also give each parent decision-making responsibilities. Critics argue this could lead to unfit parents having time with their kids. Illinois Fathers for Equality, who’ve been pushing for the bill, say they have safeguards in place.
“We don’t want to put any children in harm’s way, but we want fit and loving parents to receive and have the ability to have their kids in their lives,” said Chad Loudermilk, co-founder of Illinois Fathers for Equality.
There bill includes 17 factors for the judge to consider when deciding custody time, including mental health and abuse history.