Children of Divorce Best Served By Equal Parenting – Support Illinois HB 0185 Now

ILLINOIS —  It was Martin Luther King who said, “We begin to die the day we begin to be silent on issues that matter.” Divorce and separation in this country almost always means that children lose sufficient contact with at least one of their parents and one side of their entire family.

No matter how good and participatory a parent has been, the standard “visitation” time forced upon almost all “non-custodial” parents in Illinois is approximately four hours a week and every other weekend. This cookie-cutter approach towards parenting time significantly prevents even-bonding, and viewed over a lifespan, unnecessarily robs the child of HALF of their identity, robs their joy and contributes to a negative ripple effect in all their future relationships.

Furthermore, systematically minimizing good parents’ time to nurture their children has contributed to a myriad of social ills, including drug use, dropping out of school, early sexual activity, criminal behavior and suicide. Looking at the big picture, it’s hard not to conclude that the greatest contributor to the unprecedented break down of the American family is the last five decades of flawed government policy, especially family law.

Once a judge has determined that both parents are good and fit, the BEST interests of EVERY CHILD would be that courts enforce an even-bonding opportunity with BOTH parents and families over the entire 18 years of child development. Thus, the best interest of every child, in general, is to have equal, or nearly equal time with both parents, especially during dramatic shifts in the family dynamic.

After exhaustive research by top experts, Speaker of the House Mike Madigan’s bipartisan Illinois Family Law Study Committee concluded it was in the best interests of every child to have at least 35 percent of time weekly with a good and fit non-custodial parent. That 35 percent was “mysteriously” gutted from 2014 legislation as soon as the Illinois State Bar Association opposed it. The ISBA supports 0 percent minimum parenting time.

In the public eye, the ISBA always supports the infinitely elastic policy of “maximum involvement” of both parents in the post-divorce lives of children. But INSIDE the courtroom, attorneys push for the best interest of their client, which is rarely synonymous with the best interest of the child in cases where parenting time is contested. Regardless of the changes made to family law in 2016, which were mostly cosmetic, in reality, the ISBA continues to support what is effectively a “winner-take-all” custody model, which maximizes conflict and reduces children to pawns. The ISBA audaciously contends that greed has zero impact on their family law agenda and, if you believe that, then you must also believe that Chicago’s Al Capone was ONLY guilty of tax evasion.

Nationally, the Washington Post reported that in 2017, more than 20 states considered laws to FINALLY require shared parenting. In Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2018 that, “Illinois ranks in the bottom five states for the amount of custody time dads get to spend with their kids”. For decades, shared parenting advocacy groups have been diligently working on legislative remedies to the epidemic of family court-created parentlessness.

In December 2017, State Representative La Shawn Ford, alarmed about the major social ills in every community due to parentlessness, held a massive equal parenting time roundtable discussion in Chicago. The opposition to equal parenting time legislation, an army of veteran family law attorneys and at least one judge, claimed to be top experts with decades of experience, and audaciously insisted that no substantive changes in family law were needed. Strikingly, that small-but-powerful opposition to EVERY parenting time reform bill has NEVER, to this day, provided ANY data evidencing that court results are successfully serving the best interests of children. And even-bonding wasn’t even on their radar.

Bill after bill, the SAME opposition to family law reform refuses to negotiate in good faith; they never compromise, but endlessly trumpet that they alone define equality and that they alone are the true vanguards of serving children. Most disgraceful, in official hearings, of which we have video footage of, the opposition have endlessly questioned our motives with proclamations like, “Fathers seeking more time with their children are really seeking to reduce their child support payments.” In past bills, to prove we were ONLY concerned about increasing parenting time, we have repeatedly offered to put language in our bills to specifically delink any impact parenting time changes MIGHT have on child support. They immediately rejected the offer. Audaciously, the same opposition groups who endlessly question our motives, including a financial motive, are the same groups endlessly addicted to our cash.

Furthermore, the opposition to 50/50 parenting DEMANDS peer-reviewed longitudinal studies proving that equal parenting time is what is best for children.  This is an absurd demand given the fact that family courts have perpetuated extreme, gender-based inequality from the beginning of our nation.  That’s like the racist White Citizens’ Council of the 1950s and 60s demanding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. provide studies supporting equality BEFORE supporting equality legislation for Americans of African slave descent. In America, the burden of proof should be on the government to provide REAL EVIDENCE to justify reducing your time with YOUR kids.

But take heart! Today, you can be a part of positive change, thanks to Representative Ford’s Illinois House Bill 0185, a gender-neutral equal parenting time bill! This 2019 bill would create a rebuttable presumption that equal parenting time is in the best interests of ALL children at the beginning of every divorce or separation. If enacted, HB 0185 would provide 50/50 parenting time as a STARTING POINT, not necessarily an end point in every case. From the onset of each case, the judge would start with a 50/50 parenting time presumption and then would proceed to determine what the best parenting time allotment utilizing the long established 17 factors. These well-established 17 factors include determining if any abuse or neglect is present. To be crystal clear, HB 0185 has no impact on current domestic violence protections and would greatly decrease tension over the number one issue that court’s currently FORCE parents to fight over: parenting time. Most critically, ANY deviation from 50/50 parenting time would have to be justified in writing in the judge’s decision. HB 0185 has gained bipartisan support, but will ONLY pass into law if OUR calls of support pour in NOW!

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg once stated, “Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” But a parent can never equally share parenting responsibilities when endlessly blocked and/or frustrated in the attempt. A good parent should never have to go through Mrs. Doubtfire-like contortions and bow to every whim of a controlling parent, just to maintain a meaningful relationship with the children they BOTH brought into this world. Family courts should heal not hurt. A court should never sit on the sidelines for years and wait until a family dynamic is psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and financially exhausted before managing a divorce case towards a successful conclusion that includes ongoing even-bonding opportunities. Isn’t it long overdue that all parents enter the courtroom believing, in good faith, that they are viewed as equals in the eyes of the law???

The vested interests who endlessly oppose a child’s constitutional right to bond equally with both parents often defend the indefensible by cavalierly stating, “Divorce is complicated.” Equality has ALWAYS been complicated, but in this country, we eventually embrace those complications, realizing that the worst source of complication is perpetual inequality. Within the next few decades, today’s family court outcomes will be viewed as repugnant as the segregated water fountains of the Jim Crow era.

Justice Ginsberg has had an iconic legacy fighting for equality. What will YOUR legacy towards equality be? Will you act today or allow your silence to feed the status quo that hurts children and causes social ills? It is so easy to act. Below is a link to the Illinois Family Law Subcommittee  which will vote whether HB 0185 should advance. It is absolutely vital that you use your phone as a tool for good TODAY and call all 8 representatives to ““VOTE YES on HB 0185”. Furthermore, no matter where you live in Illinois, please call your state representative to urge their support of HB 0185. Representatives don’t expect you to be a bill expert. They just need polite, but persistent, phone calls urging them to support REAL shared parenting and to SPONSOR HB 0185! Many organizations support HB 0185; Leading Women for Shared Parenting, Women of Illinois for Fathers’ Equality and Illinois Fathers for Equality.

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And finally, what is most soul crushing, I cannot believe that I jumped out of airplanes in the middle of the night in an Army airborne unit only to return to my home, the Land of Lincoln, to be REPEATEDLY told by family law reform opponents that “Equality is so impossible that we better not even attempt any progress.” That is the rhetoric of failure and when it comes to our children, failure is not an option. In the immortal words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until you make it happen.” ALL children spell love T-I-M-E, so let’s make equal parenting time a REAL possibility in Illinois – please make those calls TODAY! The vote is February 14 and your call could tip the scales in favor of Illinois children!!!

Reasons to Support Illinois House Bill 0185
Reasons to Support Illinois House Bill 0185

DONATE HERE to the Shared Parenting effort!!!

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Richard Thomas, MS, BA, BSN, from Rockton, Illinois, is a father, a nurse, an airborne Army veteran and has been involved in family law reform for over 10 years and is a member of Illinois Fathers for Equality.  Richard welcomes all feedback at NurseRichardThomas@gmail.com

Click here to see Call List – Must call by 2/13/2019.

READ entire HB 0185 Bill Here;
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=185&GAID=15&DocTypeID=HB&LegId=114046&SessionID=108&GA=101

2018 Chicago Tribune article proving Illinois 5th from the bottom in parenting time;
http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/parenting/ct-life-divorced-dad-custody-study-20180606-story.html

2017 Washington Post article regarding shared parenting legislation;
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/more-than-20-states-in-2017-considered-laws-to-promote-shared-custody-of-children-after-divorce/2017/12/11/d924b938-c4b7-11e7-84bc-5e285c7f4512_story.html?utm_term=.0bba20f09f38

List of all Illinois State House Representatives;
http://www.ilga.gov/reports/rptMemberList.asp?gaid=15&ChamberId=H

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12 thoughts on “Children of Divorce Best Served By Equal Parenting – Support Illinois HB 0185 Now

  • February 13, 2019 at 10:06 am
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    One of the main thing that concerns me with this article is that the author refers to the current laws as “cookie-cutter approach towards parenting time”, when the current system is designed to help a judge give parenting time in what they believe to be in the best interest of the child. There is no set standard and it is a case by case basis. However, if HB 185 is successful, it will literary set a “cookie cutter” standard dividing the child in half. Every case is unique, so how could this standard division be in the best interest of children? Even when parents are together, the parents do spend exactly equal time with the child. One parent will have changed more diapers, spent more time reading with the child, been to more games, been to more doctor appointments, etc. And that is not always the mom. Yes, being able to access to both parents, in the event of a separation is important. I don’t think anyone is disputing the fact that both parents have value. When I think of HB 185, what comes to mind is the story of King Solomon and the baby. However, HB 185 appeats to overlook the well being of the child while hiding behind the name of “equality”.

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    • February 17, 2019 at 12:58 pm
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      50/50 equal parenting time is NOT in the best interest of the child! I oppose this bill. My child is currently in a 50/50 equal parenting agreement and it has caused her nothing but pain and suffering from the start. She is moving back and forth between households and has no consistency in her life and suffers a great deal of anxiety and depressed feelings. She has come to me to express her sorrows. She desperately wants to spend more time with her mother but her father forces her to see him and she is now working with a psychologist. We can only wait until the right time that she is old enough to voice her opinion to the judge on what SHE wants . This will not come without a price however. The cost to hire attorney and GAL will need to take place and so we are back where we started 10 years ago. This bill Cannot be cookie cutter. The bill will only create chaos for the child. A child of school age should have a stable one home to reside during the week . It becomes increasingly complicated for the child upon entering middle school. This is the time they are going through body changes and are most vulnerable as well. I strongly oppose this bill moving forward and will take the necessary steps to fight against it.

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      • February 19, 2019 at 5:22 pm
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        Well stated. This bill does not put the child’s best interest first. Children need stability and consistency daily. Unless the parents can agree very closely on expectations/rules, etc., this bill just sets the child up for failure. Also, according to research I have read, if parents agree on 50/50, the best way to approach this is where the child stays in the home and the parents rotate in and out. Now that would be putting the child first!

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        • March 28, 2019 at 2:59 pm
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          The problem is that your presumption is that the current law actually puts the kids best interests first and foremost. You are also assuming that given two equal parents, the current system awards primary custody to each gender approximately 50% of the time. Both of those assumptions are wrong. The system is antiquated and broken. The courts still feel like it’s 1960, when women are uneducated housewives. GALs care more about how much they can bill than making fair decisions. While I would agree that there may be some unforeseen consequences of ordering 50/50 time, they good it will provide FAR out weighs any bad. At that point children can no longer be used as leverage for more child support.

          Let’s face it, the only people who truly lose with presumed 50/50 custody are the lawyers, who are using children to get rich. Disgusting.

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  • February 20, 2019 at 11:09 am
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    This bill HB 0185 is essential to a child’s right to have their father in their lives. The system is so one sided and corrupt under the current statue that fathers like myself should the chance to have equal parenting time on a level playing field. Those that did not read all of the bill would think it is cookie cutter bill but it is completely opposite. Each parent starts out as equal 50/50 in the eye of the court and judges can make the final decision on awarding parenting time that is best for the children which can be less than 50/50 but under the new law, will now require the judge to submit a written statement why and not just a feeling. I am a perfect example of why this bill is important, as I have been in my children’s lives since birth, have attended all activities, family events, Church, helped with homework, picked them up every day after school etc. and been nothing less than 100% supportive their entire lives. You would think this would be an easy case where both parents have supported the kids equally and custody would be split 50/50. Think again, lawyers use unethical tactics to gain control of parenting time. This happens over and over again costing both parties tens of thousands of dollars trying to defend their position until both parents completely have no relationship. So yes this bill is way overdue and people that comment differently are most likely financially motivated and looking out own interests and the child. Again, if there are issues with either parent there are processes in place to protect the children it just makes everyone do their jobs.

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    • February 20, 2019 at 12:57 pm
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      This should not be about “fathers” vs. “mothers”. It should be about the children and what is best for children. What children need are both parents in their lives–this does not automatically equate to 50/50. Equal parenting time only works when both parents work very closely together for the sake of the children. Even when 2 parents agree to 50/50, there is an art to it and frankly, those parents that agree to 50/50 should be mandated to take a class on how that really looks in order for it to be successful for the children. One perfect example is that the parents rotate in and out of the home.

      Reply
      • February 21, 2019 at 1:09 pm
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        I just came across an article written by the Chicago Tribune on June 22, 2018, titled “Dads Aren’t Disadvantaged in Custody Battles”, where they reference the “Illinois Divorced Dads have among least amount of time spent with kids” study that this post/article refers to and it’s enlightening to say the least. I encourage anyone that has read this article to also read The June 22, 2018, article as well.
        Thank you to those that work at Chicago Tribune for looking further into this.

        Reply
    • March 5, 2019 at 7:34 am
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      I simply don’t understand how proponents believe this will cause less time in court. If anything, it will cause more! If 50/50 is the presumption, then to change that, a judge needs to have a written order on why they deviated from 50/50. That sets up families to automatically have to go to court, which will financially hurt all parties.

      Also, proponents claim that there are factors in places to keep children safe and deviate from 50/50. In your comment, you said you deserved 50/50 and it at least appears that you were not awarded it. Which meant a judge had an opportunity to grant you 50/50, but choose not too. Then could it not be said that even with evidence, a judge could have reasons to deviate from 50/50 but will choose not to? I see comments from both sides constantly stating that they had proof of abusive, not following court orders, etc, but the judge did not see or ignored their evidence. Even though there are supposed to be “safeguards” in place, HB 185 is playing with fire and would put children at risk.

      Proponents also like to argue that 50/50 is a right they deserve. I don’t think anyone is arguing about the importance of two fit parents being available to the child(ren), but some things can simply not be spilt down the middle. Even in a home where parents are together, one parent will spend more time changing diapers, helping with homework, going to games, etc. And that may not be the mom. I don’t know of any adults that would constantly want to go between 2 homes every few days. (I even know of someone who went between homes every other day, which is insanity.) And yet, children should have to essentially live out of a suitcase and constantly rotate their lives. Is this for the good of the children or for the “equality” of the parents? I agree with the posts saying that if anyone should be moving around, it should be the parents rotating during their parenting time, but that the child should have one home.

      Reply
  • March 4, 2019 at 9:14 am
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    I disagree with this bill . God created the mother to carry the child in our womb for 9 mos and go thru the giving birth . Our body and lives change in so many ways including jobs, roles, our body’s,, in so many ways . People split for a reason and to try to do this does not benefit the child unless both parents get along . A lot of fathers I see don’t father the child anyway, his wife , girlfriend or mother does so therefore child should be with mom after all . Can’t cut child in half . If both parents respect each other I’m sure the mom will share even more but in most cases I see no mutual respect and using this bill is just another control issue.

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    • March 28, 2019 at 3:01 pm
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      Wow…what year are you living in? Way to minimize fathers to sperm donation. This is the type of forward thinking that requires the passage of a 50/50 parenting law.

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  • April 10, 2019 at 11:27 pm
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    It’s about time! I fully support this bill. I have seen a lot of fathers suffer from parent alienation by mother’s that are in need of control.

    It’s in the best interest of children to have access to both parents!

    Reply

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