Illinois parenting bill passes House Judicial Committee

Recently, an Illinois bill that seeks to increase the minimum amount of parenting time awarded to non-custodial parents passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 9-3. While this vote is certainly a victory for supporters of the bill, it remains to be seen what will actually come of the legislation.

The bill, otherwise known as HB 5425, will, if passed, create the presumption under Illinois law that an award of equal parenting time for each parent will be in the best interests of the child - meaning a non-custodial parent will be presumptively entitled to the same amount of parenting time as a custodial parent.

Moreover, the legislation seeks to create another statute aimed exclusively at administering this new legal presumption. Specifically, this proposed statute dictates that if parents are unable to mutually agree upon a parenting plan within 90 days, the court is then charged with the duty of allocating parenting time with the presumption of equal time in mind.

Additionally, when making its determinations regarding parenting time, an Illinois court would be required under the language of the bill to also presume that both parents are fit. This means that no restrictions on parenting time can be placed on either parent unless there is clear and convincing evidence that a parent's time with the child would endanger the child's mental, physical, emotional or moral health.

However, even in cases in which the court determines equal parenting time is not in the best interests of the child - or simply not possible - the proposed legislation would still call for a minimum of 35 percent of a child's residential time be spent with the non-custodial parent.

Importantly, though, the non-custodial parent may waive his or her right to this 35-percent minimum, not to mention that the parents would still be able to agree upon their own alternate parenting schedule under the proposed bill, although this plan would be subject to court approval.

Legal assistance may be necessary

The future of HB 5425 is still unclear at this point given that, according to the State Journal-Register, many committee members voted for the bill on the contingency that it be held in the House until it can be compared to another family law omnibus bill sponsored by a different lawmaker. Ultimately, this means that there may be several other possible changes to child custody and parenting time laws in Illinois.

If you are currently considering divorce and believe child custody may be a contested issue, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced child custody attorney. A skilled attorney will not only be knowledgeable as to the most current laws but will also be able to help ensure your rights, and the rights of your child, are protected.