Illinois News Network

Backers of an equal parenting time bill in Illinois are trying again to get legislation passed to change custody negotiations in the state.

They say they are asking for what is best for children, but opposition persists.

While judges have the discretion to decide what’s in the best interest of the child in custody disputes, House Bill 185 would change the starting point in custody negotiations to a 50-50 split, said Chad Loudermilk, president and co-founder of Illinois Fathers for Equality.

“Before a judge would hear any evidence from either side to determine if one parent should have more time or the other, what it would do is it would just put the starting point at equal time,” Loudermilk said.

Loudermilk said judges could deviate from that presumption if evidence showed that one parent should not have equal time.

“That’s all based on national research,” he said. “That shows what works best for children after divorce or separation is that they have equal time.”

The bill would require judges to 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.

The bill was introduced last week and sent to committee. Opponents has said the 50-50 presumption doesn’t make sense in cases where there is domestic abuse and violence.

“Courts should not be required to start from this presumption that 50-50 time is always in the best interest of all children everywhere,” Carrie Boyd, policy director for the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told NPR in 2018.

The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence along with dozens of other domestic violence prevention groups and crisis centers have filed witness slips opposing the measure. Some law groups and lawyers filed slips in opposition, others in support.

Loudermilk said he believes much of the opposition comes from people with misconceptions about the bill.

“We hear a lot of the opposition say that it’s a mandate for judges to give parents 50-50,” Loudermilk said. “And that’s absolutely not true.”

Supporters of equal parenting time introduced a similar bill last year, but it never got out of committee.

“We don’t want to put any children in harm’s way,” Loudermilk said. “And we understand there’s going to be cases where some parents ... shouldn’t have 50-50, but we believe that as a starting point, you should all be looked at as equal parents.”

A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.

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