OPINION: Children of Divorce Best Served by Equal Parenting

Richard Thomas — 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 an entire family.

No matter how good and participatory a parent has been, the standard “visitation” time forced upon almost all “non-custodial” parents in the state of Illinois is approximately four hours a week and every other weekend. This prevents even-bonding, and viewed over a lifespan, family courts currently create the greatest preventable theft of joy. Furthermore, it is overwhelmingly evident that obstructing good parents from influencing their children is causing a myriad of social ills from Chicago to Cairo.

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.

Speaker of the House Mike Madigan’s bipartisan Illinois Family Law Study Committee, after exhaustive research, concluded that it was in the best interests of every child to have at least 35 percent minimum 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.

The ISBA insists on keeping the current “winner-takes-all” custody model which maximizes conflict and reduces children to pawns. The ISBA audaciously contends that greed has zero impact on family law 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 recently reported that more than 20 states in 2017 considered laws to require shared parenting. Currently, Illinois House Bill 4113, a parenting equality bill, is a quantum leap forward toward a remedy for court created inequality. HB 4113 would create a rebuttable presumption that equal parenting time is in the best interests of children. Any deviation from 50/50 would have to be justified in writing in the judge’s decision.

HB 4113 has quickly gained strong bipartisan support with 17 sponsors.

Last month in Chicago, Rep. La Shawn Ford, chief sponsor of HB 4113 and civil rights hero, held a massive HB 4113 roundtable discussion. The opposition, an army of veteran family law attorneys and at least one judge, claimed to be experts for decades, but came to the table with zero evidence that family courts are serving the best interests of children.

The vested interests who oppose a child’s constitutional right to equal parenting often defend the indefensible by cavalierly citing, “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 odious as the segregated water fountains of the Jim Crow era.

And finally, 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 told that “equality is impossible.” Well, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until you make it happen.”

The fate of our children is now in your hands. Silence in a democracy is consent, so please call your state representative NOW! Representatives don’t expect you to be a bill expert. They just need the phone calls urging them to support shared parenting and to SPONSOR HB 4113! Many organizations support HB 4113; Leading Women for Shared Parenting, Women of Illinois for Fathers’ Equality and Illinois Fathers for Equality.

Richard Thomas is a nurse from Rockton. Any response welcome at NurseRichardThomas@gmail.com.

Read Illinois HB 4113 at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=4113&GAID=14&DocTypeID=HB&LegId=108029&SessionID=91&GA=100



14 thoughts on “OPINION: Children of Divorce Best Served by Equal Parenting

  • January 8, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Great job, Richard! This bill is a major improvement. The philosophy on relegating one parent to visitor status has failed. Our current laws put children at measurable disadvantages in every measurable category. It’s about time the custody laws of Illinois reflect best practices and our values to be truly best for children and families instead of padding the pocket books of attorneys.

  • January 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Very well written and informative article. I can’t believe it’s 2018 and we’re having to discuss or have issue with equality. It’s about time we Equality in family courts and start listening to what research tells us. Which is its best for our children to have equal access to both parents after a divorce or separation. Thank you for posting this article !! It’s much needed in Illinois!!

  • January 8, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    Excellent article. Not only is this common sense, but the mental health professionals have been saying this for many many years. The Social Science is there to support it. My question is, why do the lawyers keep fighting against it? Don’t answer (because I don’t think it can be answered without a string of four-letter words.). I think we all know why.

  • January 9, 2018 at 12:45 am

    Doesn’t it though? Yet there are hundreds if not thousands of fathers that the courts can’t seem to get it right with

  • January 9, 2018 at 1:02 am

    The court system had initially arranged visitation for my children with their fathers. Naturally in the beginning I followed the terms to a T because lets face it I was a single scared mother who didn’t want her children out of her sight. But now as they have gotten older and I have seen the relationship form with their dad, I couldn’t imagine keeping it at 4 hours a week and every other weekend. They’re allowed to see them and take them whenever they want if we’re not busy. I’ve not always stood by the co parenting but as I got older and wiser it became clearer that my children need their dad’s as much as they need me. We’re equal in their eyes despise how we as adults feel about each other. Good fathers deserve rights and equal time just as well as mothers.

  • January 9, 2018 at 10:13 am

    People get divorced for reasons that tend to linger, women need distance from men who are stuck in the past and use week-about to continue to abuse and control. Sometimes, the roles are changed, and primary custody goes to the man…but every other weekend and extra time over school holidays seems to work just fine. If dead beat dads were more forthcoming in supporting the mother of his children – there’s an idea….

    • March 25, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      Sometimes custody goes to the man?

      1 out of 6 times…that’s how often that happens. Do some research.
      If you think that minimal time with o e parent is ok, take a look at these mass shootings. Do you know what almost every single one has in common? They came from a fatherless home.

  • January 10, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Children need BOTH their parents as long as one is not abusing them. End of story. No matter the dynamics between mom and dad, the kids need both parents and not one simply fitting the role of an “involved visiting Uncle” (or Aunt). There are steps a mom can take to limit or even avoid contact with the father during exchanges if he is being an immature duesch (or visa versa) until the parents relationship can mellow out and they can learn to work better together for the good of the child. But as long as the child is not being abused or neglected, he will thrive better with equal involvement from both parents.

  • January 10, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    And Andy Eberle sure there are dads who need to better support the mom but if by support you mean $$$$ well that’s a whole other conversation! That system has created a mess…men who can’t even afford to support themselves and have a home for their child and have to live in parents basement (which then they get portrayed as a loser to their kids by mom – saw this exact thing happen) or have roommates…loose their home etc… Plus it creates a whole pool of women who fight for greater time with their kids for the sake of more child support (have seen this firsthand too). I know women who are not supportive of the time their kids have with their dad…they fight it at every turn, they manipulate, they try to alienate their child’s father from their child’s life. There are some petty, mean, manipulative AND emotionally/mentally abusive women out there. You just don’t hear as much about it in research and such because men typically haven’t come forward as it makes them feel weak to admit they are being abused by a woman. Bottom line…there are broken adults everywhere and this creates messy divorces and very sad family dynamics for kids…but the bad behavior is from both genders and THAT is why it’s important for Bill HB4113 to pass because it PRESUMES from the start both parents are fit for 50/50 and it goes from there. It STARTS with equality and fairness…something mostly father’s have been robbed of in the family courts for decades.

  • January 10, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    Oh and Andy Eberle lets not forget the state makes money off the child support system which only encourages and perpetuates a rigged system to ensure the results of custody cases end with child support being awarded rather than the priority being the child being able to spend equal time with both parents. Do some research on it. The system is a mess.

  • May 21, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    Excellent article, incredibly to the point but most of all your understanding and passion are the tone of this article.
    Well done. Proud to be in this fight with you.

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