In recent years, there has been a growing movement to change the way child custody is handled in the United States. Traditionally, courts have favored awarding sole custody to one parent, usually the mother. However, research has shown that children are better off when they have equal time with both parents. As a result, many states have passed laws that create a legal presumption of 50/50 parenting time. In fact, Missouri just passed a bill with this presumption this month. One of the key people who helped get this bill passed is my friend and colleague, Jeff Millar, who volunteers with Americans for Equal and Shared Parenting (AEFSP).
Jeff began volunteering with AEFSP for two reasons. First, he had the old-fashioned parenting schedule applied to him when his son was young. This made him a mere visitor at times in his child’s life. Second, he faced the same problems I did as a family law attorney: telling an otherwise awesome dad that he, too, was probably going to go from seeing his child/children daily to seeing his child/children 6-10 times a month.
From my point of view, the old system enforced a sexist stereotype that moms should forgo careers because their primary societal worth is to raise children, and dads primary societal worth is to work and have fun with children. The sheer sexism of the idea irritated me – it told women their careers meant less, that they should forego being professionals because they chose to have children, and that because they chose to have children, they should be the primary parent. It also said that only women could do the job of parenting and that men were never up to the task.
Second, handing out sole or primary parenting encouraged people to dig up every tiny shred of dirt they could on the other and prepare for an all-out-war. This means that two people, who presumably loved each other at one point, became participants in a battle to prove the other to be the worst human ever. They learned to hate, to war, to never agree and never compromise. Both the children and their parents lost while attorneys made a lot of money.
So, Jeff and countless others like him have been working with State Legislatures to create a presumption that all fit parents are presumed to be capable of 50/50 parenting if the situation fits. Are there exceptions? Sure. But let’s first explore what the 50/50 presumption is.
A legal presumption is NOT a requirement, but it does give judges a starting point when making parenting time decisions. If both parents are fit and capable of raising their children, then the court in Missouri (but not Illinois) will presume that they should have equal time with their children. This presumption can be overcome if there are specific reasons why it would not be in the best interests of the child. However, this legal presumption is good for children – even if Illinois does not have it encoded fully in its laws. Illinois courts will grant 50/50 parenting times if the parents agree.
There are many reasons why a legal presumption of 50/50 parenting time can be good for children:
First, it allows children to maintain strong relationships with both parents. When children spend equal time with both parents, they are able to develop close bonds with both of them. This is important for their emotional and psychological well-being.
Second, a legal presumption of 50/50 parenting time can help to reduce conflict between parents. When parents are forced to share parenting, they are more likely to cooperate with each other. This can help to create a more stable and peaceful environment for their children.
Third, a legal presumption of 50/50 parenting time can help to ensure that children have access to both of their parents' resources. When children spend equal time with both parents, they are able to benefit from both parents' financial resources, as well as their love and support.
Fourth, it allows parents to have better opportunities to shape their own professional lives and careers. When women are not burdened with being the primary parent 75% of the time, many women are able to advance their salaries, education and work responsibilities in the same way men can. In other words, they are not penalized because they cannot work more hours and have the freedom to pursue their career aspirations in different ways than do women who have to get children from day care or school 4 out of 5 workdays.
Fifth, it encourages men to maintain a closer relationship with their children. Studies show that men who have a parenting role as opposed to being a good time, weekend dad remain more involved with their children. In other words, dads given the opportunity to parent use that opportunity to be a parent.
Of course, there are some cases where a legal presumption of 50/50 parenting time may not be in the best interests of the child. For example, if one parent is abusive or neglectful, then it may not be safe for the child to spend time with that parent. If the parents live a sizeable distance apart, then one parent will have less time, as it is not in the best interest of a child to spend hours in the car daily.
The passage of the bill in Missouri is a positive step for children in that state – and the hard work of Jeff and the many people involved with AFESP is truly commendable. Their work results in both parents having a chance of being equally important in a child's life and that they should have equal opportunities to raise their children. This can help to create a more stable and loving environment for children of divorce.
If you are going through a divorce, it is important to remember that your children are the most important people in this situation. Do everything you can to ensure that they have a positive experience and that they continue to have strong relationships with both of you. Until Illinois passes its own 50/50 rule, which may never happen, the Illinois courts do not make such a presumption. Instead, the Illinois Courts presume that both parents should have time with their child, that each child deserves to have a relationship with both parents, and that sometimes, this means that children do not spend a lot of time with one parent or the other, even if the lesser-time parent is a good parent living close to the more-time parent.
For more information on the bill in Missouri: https://www.einpresswire.com/article/633539784/missouri-passes-landmark-legislation-setting-50-50-for-child-custody-cases-first-such-change-in-35-years. To find my amazing colleague and friend, Jeff Millar, check out his website, the5050guy.com or millarlawfirm.net His office does work quite similar to mine in Missouri and he has a similar billing strategy. He can help you turn your agreements into a divorce in Missouri (unless he is at the Cardinals game or following them on the road).
I have written many 50/50 plans in Illinois, and any other variation of parenting times you can think of. If you can agree with your child’s other parent, I would be happy to apply my nearly 20 years of experience and craft your parenting plan for your Illinois divorce. Reach out to my office through my website or call me. I would love to turn your parenting ideas into your parenting plan.