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updated: 7/17/2011 10:02 AM

Visitation laws still favor one parent

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The yawning gap between common parenting practices and "visitation schedules" presumed by Illinois family courts have generated concern for years. More than two decades have passed since Illinois law called for "the maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents" after divorce and yet "every other weekend" parenting schedules for one parent are common.

These outdated schedules were weighed by the Illinois Family Law Study Committee and have been viewed as "child-unfriendly" by child therapists. Children need reassurance within our laws that factors such as bitterness or irrational fears between their divorcing parents are not going to play a role in minimizing their access to their nonresident mom or dad. Additionally, "standard visitation schedules" developed in the divorce courts of the 1980s send a repressive signal to today's fit and caring nonresident parents, usually the father.

Lack of parental involvement undermines student achievement and, ultimately, our economy. Illinois' outdated family court presumptions result in nonresident parents being sidelined from their children's academic efforts, extracurricular interests and critical school events. Worse, a costly legal battle is often unavoidable for a fit, caring parent to be awarded school overnights with their child.

A proposed legislative reform by the Illinois State Bar Association this year provides factors for maximum involvement that fit caring and accessible parents. Adoption of the ISBA proposal in its current form would significantly reduce divorce-related conflicts for the 45,000 Illinois children per year who will experience the breakup of their parents.

For children's advocates like the Children's Rights Council of Illinois, the ISBA proposal means Illinois could catch up to progressive states like Texas, California, and Washington State in its treatment of children of divorced parents. For legislators, it's an opportunity to champion the best parenting practices recommended by our nation's top child development researchers.

Mike Doherty


Children's Rights Council of Illinois