The Illinois Fathers for Equality, a statewide advocacy group, and State Rep. La Shawn Ford are hoping to pass an equal shared parenting bill known as HB 4113. This bill will help resolve the issue of co-parenting, giving both parents the opportunity to spend equal time in the upbringing of their children following a divorce or separation.
This would be a big change from the current allowances that family courts give.
The Current Parenting Time Arrangements
HB 4113 would address the current issue regarding inequality present in family courts, enabling both parents to be perceived as equals prior to stepping into the courtroom. In 85 percent of cases in Illinois today, family courts currently give parenting time arrangements that consist of allowing the parent to see the child once a week or every other weekend. The new bill would help end this trend.
The current arrangement has been in place for over 30 years and research has found that it has been particularly damaging to children involved in divorces or separations. Children who are raised primarily by one parent without regular interaction with the other have been found to be at a significantly higher risk of mental and behavioral health issues, substance and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide, academic failure, dropping out of school, and overall academic failure.
Why Parents Need to Have Equal Parenting Time
HB 4113 is part of an effort to recognize and address what is best for children by focusing on their best interests. Social science research has shown that equal access to both parents can help the child develop a healthy relationship with both parents.
While national divorce rates have dropped over 25 percent since 1980 and continue to drop, divorces still occur, putting children at risk of being in an unfavorable parenting time arrangement. With HB 4113 passed, parents would be more capable of spending time with their children after the dissolution of marriage, which can help maintain healthy family dynamics for all involved.
Illinois isn’t the only state working to change the existing parenting time arrangements, with 30 other states including Illinois neighbors Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Michigan also proposing similar legislation.