Many courts rendering child custody decisions still believe that what is in the best interests of the child is for them to maintain a home with their mother, rather than considering the facts of the situation and what is actually in the best interests of the child.
They see that both parents are looking to establish their custodial rights, but do not consider the idea that joint custody may be in the best interests of the child.
Many states are looking to change that notion and make shared custody a standard that courts look to in child custody cases. One of which is the state of Illinois.
Illinois state House Representative LaShawn K. Ford, a democrat representing the 8th District, filed an amendment, titled HB4113, onto the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which was overhauled in 2016, according to the Illinois General Assembly.
“When you go into court, the court can set the time the proper way by clearly going into the court room and giving each parent a full evaluation and a fair look,” Ford told CBS St. Louis. “And that’s what this bill is all about.”
This proposed amendment adds recognition that the involvement of each parent for equal time is presumptively in the child or children’s best interests, and it deletes language specifying that nothing in the Act requires that each parent be allocated decision-making responsibilities. As it stands currently, the Act specifies that both parents are not allocated those privileges.
The proposed amendment creates the presumption that it is in the child’s best interests to award equal time to each parent, as well as the presumption that this is in the cases where both parents are fit to provide a stable and loving environment for their shared children.
HB4113 also states that the court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time, unless it finds by clear and convincing evidence that a parent’s exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s mental, physical, moral, or emotional health.
In those specified situations, the amendment would require the court to issue a written decision stating its specific findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting this ruling, it would provide the court with the ability to restrict or modify parental responsibilities after a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the restriction or modification is warranted.
Support of the proposal
The amendment was first read October 12, 2017 in the Illinois state House of Representatives and has been co-sponsored by 11 other representatives all interested in making sure that the best interests of children are met in child custody cases.
Along with Rep. Ford and the rest of the Illinois lawmakers interested in promoting shared parenting is an advocacy group supporting the rights of fathers who could use more support in child custody situations.
The organization, Illinois Fathers of Equality, are looking to defend a parent’s right to be a parent to their child, and supporting HB4113 amendment is the first step in making that happen.
“The cards are stacked against one parent,” Chad Loudermilk, president and co-founder of Illinois Fathers for Equality told WTHI-TV10, “It is so much harder for them to prove that they are deserving of 50/50 (Custody).”
Fellow advocacy group, Dads Can Too, also looks to promote the equality among co-parents to ensure the best lives possible for the children that often are caught in the crossfire of a parental divorce.
The current system, whether they agree with it or not, is pro-moms,” said Jesse West, founder of Dads Can Too, told WCIA. “We don’t want pro-dads. We want 50-50.”
The hope with this legislation is to ensure the place that both parents have in the lives of their shared children. Lawmakers and advocacy groups understand the need for exceptions, but for the devoted parents who just wish to have the same opportunity as their co-parent, this type of legislation is desperately needed.