When parents divorce, there is no one parenting plan that fits all families. There are many issues to consider such as a child’s ability to adapt to the new arrangement, the geographical distance between parents or even the potential for domestic violence, particularly in families with a history of abuse. Every family has a unique set of circumstances to navigate in a divorce and the needs of a child caught in the middle requires thoughtful consideration.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act (IMDMA) has historically held that the allocation of parenting time (aka child custody) should be determined with the child’s best interests in mind. However, a proposed bill, HB 4113, circumvents the courts discretion in determining what’s in the best interest of the child by proposing that courts award equal parenting time – a 50/50 split that many feel could be potentially detrimental to a child’s well-being.
In a recent Patch article, Attorney Michael Strauss, who is a board member of A Safe Place, a Lake County Domestic Abuse nonprofit, makes his position on the proposed legislation clear. “The bill would strip judges of discretion and allow for little flexibility”, he states. He goes on to say that the bill is not focused on what is in the best interests of the child, but what is best for the parents. “It simply treats kids like property.”
Under HB4113, if there are concerns regarding domestic abuse, the burden is on the victims to prove it. Experts argue that requiring a spouse to substantiate abuse is unrealistic as “psychological abuse leaves emotional scars” – no physical evidence to speak of. The time, energy, and money to prove that abuse is an issue is often prohibitive, so the best interests of the child may not be served.
“A legal presumption of equal parenting time effectively diverts focus from the child’s needs, relationship with parents, and other unique factors” by making the allocation of parenting time a one size fits all proposition. According to a local child & adolescent psychologist, as a general rule, scientific data just “doesn’t support that a 50/50 schedule is in the best psychological interest of the child.”
If you are considering divorce and have concerns regarding the allocation of parenting time, contact the Libertyville family law offices of Schlesinger & Strauss for help at 847-680-4970.
Source: Patch.com, “Proposed 50/50 Visitation Bill A Court-Enforced Nightmare for Victims of Domestic Violence by Patch Contributor”, April, 2018