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New push in Illinois toward joint child custody in divorces

Like several other states, Illinois is re-examining its policy on child custody and may be changing the way custody is routinely awarded. Some argue that despite the changing landscape of work and childcare over the past few decades, judges still tend to give primary custody to the mother, and fathers increasingly feel left out. Some parents, lawmakers and others argue that a child does better if both parents share custody equally.

The Family Law Study Committee in Illinois has been listening to testimony from noncustodial parents since 2008, and several efforts have been made to change legislation. However, there have tended to be disagreements about the specifics. A measure approved by the state House of Representatives in April 2014 is now before the state Senate. This measure suggests that judges consider joint custody but stops short at requiring them to do so. It also puts a stop to custody battles that drag on years by requiring a resolution in 90 days.

Critics of the bill object that the measure will be ineffective because it only urges judges to consider the possibility of shared custody. Some critics also argue against the entire movement toward increased shared custody; these critics feel the judge should have as much leeway as possible in the courtroom to ensure that the best interests of the children guide the decision.

Some attorneys feel that divorce is so contentious that conflict over child custody will inevitably arise. However, they also point out that ultimately the children lose amid these contentious battles. The best outcome for parents and children may arise by working with attorneys to take a cooperative rather than adversarial stance that examines the situation that will be most beneficial for the children and working to put that in place.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Illinois joins debate over child custody disputes", Bonnie Miller Rubin, June 01, 2014

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