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Emotive child custody bill reintroduced in IL General Assembly

Expect fireworks. Illinois House Bill 185 is currently radiating in a legislative subcommittee in Springfield, and sparks are expected to fly.

Figuratively, of course, and much in the same manner that they did last year following legislators' consideration of a similar bill that ultimately failed to clear the House.

This year's updated version of 2018's would-be law addresses a family law topic that guarantees intense interest, namely, Illinois child custody law and suggested changes to it.

The state's current and long-established custody scheme is spelled out statutorily and firmly supported by case law. Its contours are shaped by a standard that is solidly entrenched in states across the country.

We spotlight that guiding principle on our family law website at The Law Office of Jamie Mitchell. We note therein that Illinois courts "determine custody and visitation matters according to the best interests of the child." In doing so, judges have considerable discretion in their rulings, subject to the dictate that they do not favor one parent's gender over that of the other.

HB 185 dramatically seeks to retire the "children's best interest" standard, substituting it with a new law that would create a "rebuttable presumption" of equal parenting time in every case. Fathers' rights advocates argue that best-interest outcomes are too often imprecise and flawed, and that a default equal-time yardstick will better promote optimal outcomes for children. The new bill would still leave judges with discretionary powers, but would require them to explain in writing their decisions that deviate from an equal-time outcome.

Will the new bill fly? As noted, last year's version stalled in the House, following what was reportedly considerable acrimony surrounding its debate. We will keep readers duly informed of any material developments that occur concerning the legislation.

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