Proposal to Change Child Visitation Standards in Illinois

Experienced Child Visitation Attorneys Serving Wheaton, Naperville and Oak Brook

Although family courts are charged with making rulings that are in the best interest of any children that a divorcing couple has, some believe that current Illinois law does not adequately address all of a child's needs.

While courts make extensive rulings to address the financial support of children, some children's rights activists in Illinois say that the emotional needs of children are falling through the cracks - especially when it comes to child visitation agreements.

This issue becomes especially problematic when personal issues between two parents spill over into visitation and relationships with the children. In some cases, one parent may dangle visitation with a child in front of the other to get what he or she wants, or keep the child away from a former spouse as a punitive measure. This can be especially problematic for the noncustodial parent who has less time with children based on visitation schedules.

In order to address these concerns, the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) drafted a proposal that would, if adopted by the state legislature, level the playing field for parents seeking visitation with their children. The proposal calls for "equitable" parenting, which would create better standards for the division of parenting decisions and the time that both co-parents spend with their children. In addition, the ISBA suggests that courts penalize those who abuse their visitation agreements, and set up standards for the modification of parenting plans if one parent poses any risk to the child.

If these suggestions are adopted, children's advocates believe that the ISBA proposal would go a long way toward the fair division of parental duties and the amount of time that both parents are able to spend with children. In addition, the proposal has been praised for taking into account the emotional needs of children, who often suffer when they are caught in the middle of an ugly divorce.

In a recent editorial published in the Journal Star, Mike Doherty of the Children's Rights Council of Illinois describes the importance of equal parental involvement this way: "Children need reassurance within our laws that factors such as bitterness, acrimony or irrational fears between their divorcing parents are not going to play a role in minimizing their access to their nonresident mom or dad...Illinois' outdated family court presumptions result in nonresident parents being sidelined from their children's academic efforts, extracurricular interests and critical school events such as parent-teacher conferences."

Time will tell if measures such as the ISBA proposal will improve the lives of the roughly 45,000 children in Illinois each year who have to deal with their parents splitting up.

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