In 2018, a bill establishing a rebuttable presumption of equal parenting time stalled in the Illinois legislature. It’s made a comeback for 2019, but so far the opposition is mounting. Just 2300 people signed a petition in favor of House Bill 185, while 3300 were against it. Public support is probably needed to change the law for the better.
The Case for Equal Parenting Time
To be clear, nothing in the Illinois code discourages judges from establishing equal parenting time. Judges have the freedom to make their own decisions based on their opinions of what is best for the children involved in a custody situation. Ultimately, this is why critics oppose HB 185. They say there’s no need to direct judges to create a specific parenting arrangement when the current law allows for customized solutions.
The problem? Most judges are biased.
A study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chicago found judges exhibit gender bias at the same level as their layperson counterparts in regards to roles involved in parenting and the workplace. Even worse? Those involved in family law were more likely to show gender bias!
The study presented cases to judges and people working in other fields, and then asked them how they would resolve each case. Race and sex were the only factors changed between participants. Across the board, judges gave more parenting time to mothers by default by an average of a half a day more time each week. It might seem like a small difference, but those half days result in a month more of mom-time each year.
There is clear scientific evidence that a need for legal guidance exists if children are to have equal time with their mothers and fathers.
How You Can Make a Difference
Signing an online petition isn’t always a good representation of how much support a bill would receive from the state as a whole. Petitions shared in the fathers’ rights groups, for instance, might skew the results as opposed to if they were shared in groups for single moms. Legislators know this, and so may be inclined to discount their numbers.
What will catch their attention? Reaching out.
Go to the Illinois Policy page and find your legislators’ contact information. Calmly, concisely share why you support a law establishing equal parenting time guidelines. Studies like the one mentioned above will help. So will sharing your experiences as a parent of a child who isn’t being served by current laws.
When contacting your representatives, make sure you keep things professional. As tough as the subject matter might be, you will lose their attention if you threaten, curse or insult your ex or in-laws. Focus on the most important issue at hand. Your child deserves more time with you, and your representative’s vote is essential to making that happen.
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