contact each member of the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB5425 here are the facts.

March 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Dear Group:

I contacted each member of the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB5425.  This is basically what I told them:

It is well understood that the driving factor informing Illinois statutes on custody and visitation is the best interest of the child. The pertinent question for us is whether or not “Best Interest of Child” is fully realized with current practice? HB5425 addresses the issue in the area of parenting time or visitation.

The statutes call for reasonable visitation. The Illinois Supreme Court defined a reasonable visitation schedule as one that will preserve and foster the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent(Collingbourne, 2003). Does current practice realize the intent of statute as defined by the Illinois Supreme Court?

From a review of the studies performed over the last 30 years it is generally agreed by researchers that parenting time based on current standard visitation schedules are typically insufficient to achieve desired benefits of contact.  So, how much parenting time is necessary or sufficient to achieve any benefits from contact with the non-custodial parent?

A statement was made that summarized the consensus of 18 expert researchers:

To maintain high-quality relationships with their children, parents need to have sufficiently extensive and regular interactions with them. Time distribution arrangements that ensure the involvement of both parents in important aspects of their children’s everyday lives and routines – including bedtime and waking rituals, transitions to and from school, extracurricular and recreational activities — are likely to keep nonresidential parents playing psychologically important and central roles in the lives of their children (Lamb M. S., 1997).

Experts are saying that we must get away from typical contact arrangements as characterized by a sampling of Illinois legal websites and the Protocols or Rules of Court from various jurisdictions.  Parenting time must extend to times other than weekends, holidays and vacations.  It must include significant time during the regular school week.

Parental involvement in providing direct caretaking has significantly increased over the last decade.  A growing consensus among researchers suggests that to maintain roughly the same proportion of parenting time, an annual average of 120 overnights should be awarded to non-custodial parents with school-age children; roughly one-third parenting time (Fabricius, Braver, Diaz & Schenck, 2009; Emery, 2007). Professor Richard Warshak and 110 of his eminent colleagues worldwide have recently reported in a comprehensive review of the social science literature, when parenting time drops below that 35% threshold, the benefits of parental contact to children start to diminish (Warshak, 2014).

HB5425 requires parents to file a parenting plan with the family court within 90 days of the divorce filing. If the parents don’t do so, the judge would be required to issue a parenting order.  A carefully crafted parenting plan providing the non-custodial parent ample age-appropriate parenting time as suggested by HB5425 offers many benefits in addition to greater engagement of non-custodial parents in their children’s lives:

·         Encourage greater payment of child support (Amato, Meyers & Emery, 2009).

·         Promote the development of a secure attachment between the child and both parents for very young children as advocated by child development experts (Lamb, 2005)

·         Support the maintenance of the attachment between child and both parents for older children.

·         Minimize the potential for conflict by the reduction of transitions between parents for older children(Kelly, 2005).

A parenting plan or order can be fashioned that fosters meaningful contact between the non-custodial parent and the child.  In this iterative process of refining Illinois statutes we hope to reach the goal of truly realizing the Best Interest of Child.

I encourage you to support HB5425 at the upcoming House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for March 20, 2014 starting at 8:30AM CDT.

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