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Illinois state legislators consider co-parenting bill

Child custody is one of the most difficult and hotly contested areas of family law. Parents often feel very strongly about the long-term custody of their children, and about the visitation schedules that accompany a child custody determination.

In a child custody case, noncustodial parents often object to a perceived lack of parenting time. This can lead to difficulties and arguments in the child support determination.

Illinois lawmakers recently took a step to defuse these arguments by introducing a bill that would give noncustodial parents a greater amount of parenting time after a divorce. Under a bill known as HB5425, Illinois parents would have 90 days to come to an agreement about a child support plan that will work in their child's best interests. If they are unable or unwilling to come to such an agreement after 90 days, the judge would be obligated to create a parenting plan that gives the noncustodial parent at least 35 percent parenting time.

The 35 percent number is an increase over current statutes, though if the judge found evidence that the noncustodial parent is unfit or a danger to the child, he or she could award less parenting time.

The goal of this bill is to reduce the acrimony in the child custody system. One of the bill's opponents criticized the measure, however, noting that it forced judges to take a "one-size-fits-all" approach to parenting plans.

The bill has been cleared to appear before the House of Representatives, but the bill's sponsor agreed to delay bringing it to the floor until lawmakers first considered a similar bill that is also working its way through the system.

While reducing the conflict in the child custody system is a noble goal, it remains to be seen whether this bill can accomplish it. In all cases, the outcome of a child custody case must support the best interests of the child; lawmakers must be sure to draft the legislation in such a way that this standard is upheld.

Source: The State Journal-Register, "Shared-parenting bill moves to Illinois House, its future uncertain" Tobias Wall, Mar. 24, 2014

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