Equal Parenting Time Law in Illinois Stalls

Equal Parenting Time, Divorce in Illinois

There is a currently a bill pending in the Illinois legislature that mandates both parents receive equal parenting time in the event of a divorce or child custody case.  Here is the synopsis of bill HB 4113:

Provides that it is presumed that it is in the child’s best interests to award equal time to each parent. Provides that it is presumed that both parents are fit and the court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time unless it finds by clear and convincing evidence (instead of a preponderance of the evidence) that a parent’s exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. In specified situations, requires the court to issue a written decision stating its specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of its ruling. Provides that the court may restrict or modify parental responsibilities after a showing of clear and convincing evidence (instead of a preponderance of the evidence) that the restriction or modification is warranted.

The bill was sponsored by a father’s rights group(s) and had many co-sponsors, however, it it was not supported at all by family law attorneys at all.  The reason is the law is poorly drafted and too extreme.  Equal parenting time can work in many cases and many people do agree to it, but it does not work in all cases.

First, people who do equally parenting time usually live in close proximity to each other (less than 15 minute commute).  Second, many parents work schedules do not allow them to have equal time.  If you travel for work or work second or third shift, you are not able to have equal parenting time.  If you work any kind of schedule outside of normal business hours Monday through Friday, then equal parenting may not work.   Third, the amount of bouncing back and forth with an equal parenting time schedule may not work for a particular child.  Fourth, some parents should not have equal time if they have not been an equal parent or even involved parent in the child’s life leading up to the separation.  The presumption of equal parenting time could be abused by that parent wanting equal time just to pay less child support or receive child support, but that parent was never involved in the child’s life (or was very little) prior the separation.

It should be easier for a parent who was significantly involved in their child’s life prior the separation with the other parent to get equal time with the child if the circumstances warrant it.  Hopefully there can be a new bill or this bill can be revised to help those type of parents obtain equal time if it is not otherwise agreed.