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Author Topic: Family Law: A time for Change?  (Read 5244 times)

mitcheli

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Family Law: A time for Change?
« on: Mar 05, 2009, 02:42:07 PM »
Did you know that Illinois is poised to drastically change its family law structure? No? Well, apparently there aren't a lot of other people who did either. Last year, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a resolution (H.R.1101) sponsored by Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan that created the Illinois Family Law Committee. This committee is charged with analyzing the nearly 30 year old family law structure within our State and to determine if it is time to revise it. During the two public hearings held in the Chicago metro area last month, fewer than 50 people showed up for the public hearings. These meetings were primarily comprised of judges, State law makers, family law attorneys, domestic abuse advocates, and child support advocates.

Advocates for non-custodial parents were few at best.  The American Coalition of Fathers and Children’s Executive Director, Michael McCormick is residing on the board as a member, and there was an excellent speech given by the Children’s Rights Council of Illinois’ own Michael Doherty supporting increased parental time for the traditional non-custodial parent. Overall, the speakers at each meeting gave great evidence in support of need for increased parenting time and responsibility.

But this is where the discussion of increased parenting time ends. On page 32 of The Task Force on the Family in Our Society Report issued by the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the highly influential association in Illinois Law, states, “The concept of Joint Custody as a panacea for spousal contest in the raising of children has not been successful, particularly where spouses have not been adept at agreeing in other areas of their lives.”

Of course, Illinois State Law doesn’t permit Joint Custody situations when both parents don’t agree, so it’s easily argued that the opinions of the ISBA are based on a clear lack of information. Certainly, not everyone agrees with this opinion. Our neighbors in Iowa, as a standard, have authorized Joint Physical Parenting, or a near equal division of time the children get to spend with each parent. They have implemented Joint Legal Custody or the ability to be involved in the decisions about your child as well. Minnesota also defaults to a Joint Legal Custody position in divorces.

In the public hearing in Chicago, Judge Edward Jordan of the Cook County Circuit Court stated, "Joint Custody, yes, I think there's a Latin Phrase for it, 'It Sucks'". Consider the callousness of such a statement. This mindset creates a situation where one parent can effectively lose their rights to be a significant part of their children’s lives on the whim of the other parent. As long as one of the two doesn’t agree, that is grounds for sole custody under current law.

It is time to change our laws. Let us bring back both parents into our children’s lives. Revamp our "Children's First" course to show how to parent in situations were parents disagree ("Joint Custody with a Jerk" by Julie A. Ross and Judy Corcoran). We need to teach that the time a child spends with a parent (both parents) is their most precious and most influential time they will spend in their lives. Parenting is not easy, it takes work, but it can be done, even in divorce situations. Let us as a State not stand in the way of that monumental and most important influence on our children.

About the Author: Ian Mitchell is an equal parenting advocate following his divorce in Illinois in 2005. He is a co-founder of Illinois Fathers, a not for profit corporation within Illinois determined to provide assistance to non-custodial parents through local meetings, online advocacy and to alter the political landscape in Illinois in support of equal parenting rights. Most importantly, he is a father of three young children who he takes great pride in spending as much quality time with as he can.


shooter

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Re: Family Law: A time for Change?
« Reply #1 on: Mar 10, 2009, 11:35:47 PM »
when will this change take place?

mitcheli

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Re: Family Law: A time for Change?
« Reply #2 on: Mar 24, 2009, 09:44:20 AM »
Well, as I understand it, the committee's recommendations would be taken under advisement by legislators, so it is entirely possible that nothing will change. But since the legislators took the effort to assemble the committee in the first place, I believe their recommendations will bring about some change.

There are a few things to be concerned about. Right now, the political influence groups in Illinois are very strong with Domestic Violence supporters and Child Support enforcement supporters. There are not very many "Increase parenting time and responsibility" supporters out there.

CRC-IL proposed a good initiative to increase parenting time and there seems to be pretty much universal acceptance of removing terms of Custody and Visitation (at least by what I witnessed so far). I've also seen discussion of changing child support and adopting a cost sharing model, but what the committee ultimately comes out with on their own, we'll see later on.

Hopefully, the committee will adopt some changes to the rather archaic family law structure we have in place now. The committee is formed now and is working on their proposals, so we should see them in the next year or two.

ILLINOIS-CRC

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Re: Family Law: A time for Change?
« Reply #3 on: Mar 24, 2009, 10:36:38 AM »
Essentially, without activism, I believe it is unlikely we will see much change on the part of the Illinois judiciary regarding parenting time awards in adjudicated (contested) cases for years to come.   Our organization has presented the social science research that supports increased parenting time for non-custodial parents to judges, GALs, the Illinois Family Law Study Committee, and at university classes over the past two years.   We've also promoted awareness of the issue on radio shows and in Commentaries and Letters to the Editor that appeared on the Op-Ed sections of many of the leading newspapers in Illinois in June 2007 and 2008.  However, this is only a start.  We have a long ways to go in developing awareness of the child-unfriendly nature of the de facto "standard visitation schedule" in Illinois, its impact in increasind contention between parents in divorce cases,  and its elevation of the anxieties of children facing uncertain parental access.
 
It is our aim to see Illinois courts adopt parenting time awards in line with the expert opinion of nationally recognized child development specialists, like Dr. Joan B. Kelly, Dr. Kruk, and others.   CRC of Illinois developed a set of recommended changes in 2007, discussed the issues with the Chicago Bar Association in 2008, and delivered these to the Family Law Study Committee this January.
 
Illinois family law appears poised for reform, with or without the influence of advocacy groups supportive of the role of NCPs.  CRC of Illinois will continue to promote awareness of our research-supported recommendations for change.   Mothers that I have spoken to across the state react supportively to our recommendations.   GALs and attorneys see merit in our concept and are supportive, on the basis that it will reduce faux 'custody battles' that are actually thinly veiled 'visitation litigation'.  The Indiana Supreme Court issued 'rules of court' several years ago that resulted, given their courts' interpretation, in very similar minimum guidelines to those we are advocating.   According to CRC of Indiana, the impact of the new minimum guidelines has been very positive for separated families, with very little re-litigation of visitation cases. 
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Mike Doherty, CRC of Illinois
 
The author is a divorced father who cherishes his time with his child, is active in his church, and advocates for co-parenting after divorce.   He continues to serve on behalf of the Children's Rights Council of Illinois as chairman, to help Illinois meet the needs of the children of separated parents.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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