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State of Illinois debates child custody issue

Illinois couples often have to grapple with the unfortunate reality that after a divorce, both partners may no longer have equal time with their children. In fact, Illinois law is still trying to determine how ex-partners best can maintain a seamless relation with their kids. It is difficult to frame child custody plans, however, since a child cannot be with both parents at the same time.

Take the case of an Illinois parent who was engaged in a bitter divorce battle 11 years ago. He has not been able to forget how he initially had limited access to his three children, who were then 16, 14, and 12 years old, respectively. After waging a bitter war over child custody issues, he ultimately was awarded custody, but feels that he was not the winner. Not only did he spend a whopping $50,000 on his divorce, but his children left his home as soon as they could. The man is now involved in drafting a bill that would require judges to allocate child custody to each parent for at least 35 percent each week; unfortunately, that bill has garnered little support and, consequently, has never come up for a vote before the Illinois legislature.

The man also has been involved in a proposal regarding shared parenting, but that proposal, too, has not gained much momentum. The man argues that it is in the best interests of the child to spend equal time with both parents. Supporters of the joint parenting plan are opposed to granting child custody to one parent unless, of course, the parent is unfit. However, this group has its opponents, including the Illiniois State Bar Association, which argues that each child custody plan should differ in order to best suit the needs of the children.

The debate on child custody continues to rage across the nation and Illinois is just one of the states that is still trying to develop a child custody law that meets the needs of both parents. Traditionally, a woman who was considered the caregiver received child custody, while the father had to reconcile himself to seeing his children once during the week and every other weekend. However, the situation is rapidly changing with many more women joining the workforce and being the primary breadwinners of the family. Currently, about two million women are non-custodial parents and here, too, gender issues are at work. Child custody issues are sensitive and sometimes require the assistance of an experienced Illinois legal professional.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Illinois joins debate over child custody disputes," Bonnie Miller Rubin, June 1, 2014

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