Open Letter to Representative Lindsay Parkhurst

Representative Parkhurst,

I am writing in regards to your introduction of HB751 and your “jumping the ship” so to say on HB4113.

As a retired Pubic Health Nurse serving my community for over 30 years, assisting in all AND assuming leadership in the formation and writing of 3 of the 4 IPLAN’s during my tenure (1984-2015), I’d like to respond to your actions in regards to these two bills. On a side note, during that time I was direct supervisor over a domestic violence program providing education and soliciting health care provider assistance in identifying and addressing domestic violence in their clinical setting. I am not ‘unfamiliar’ with domestic violence or public health assessment of community health problems. You do however need ALL the data and information when doing something as serious as legally ‘making’ domestic violence a legal priority without also supporting the underlying issue parental inequality in family courts. I truly hate that as a representative of the people, you are pitting domestic violence groups against shared parenting advocates when in reality, we should be on the same side – wanting the best outcomes for our children and a decrease in all social ills INCLUDING family violence in the future.

Personally, I don’t see the point of legislation to identify violence a public health priority when through Illinois Department of Public Health’s IPLAN assessment, each community identifies their local priorities and creates a plan to address said problems. Priorities change (or not) each seven year cycle based on local needs, statistics, and data. While introducing legislation identifying ‘domestic violence a public priority’, sounds honorable and tugs on all our heartstrings, the identifying and addressing of public health priorities already in place in Illinois through IDPH and I fear is, in reality, a ploy to assure funding to a special interest group.

We are all in full agreement that FAMILY violence is a social problem. NO ONE should be the victim of violence; let’s take a look at some of the statistics the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence prefers to ignore.

The article in the Daily Journal states “HR751 shines a light on the fact one in three women in the United States experience domestic violence at least once in their lives.” Well you need to expand your beam of light a little wider because statistics also reveal that:

• Domestic violence against women and domestic violence against men happen in almost equal proportions. (Domestic Violence Statistics Organization, 2012)

• Men generally do not report domestic violence in fear of ridicule by both law-enforcement and the public. (Domestic Violence Statistics Organization, 2012)

• 63% of males (as opposed to 15% of females) have had a deadly weapon used against them in a fight with an intimate partner. (Domestic Violence Statistics Organization, 2012)

• There is relatively little research on domestic violence against men because no organization, including the US government, is willing to fund the research. (Domestic Violence Statistics Organization, 2012)

• In domestic violence cases where there was reciprocation, over 71% of the initiators were women, and in those cases, men were more likely to be injured than women. (Rhymes, 2014)

• The 2006 International Dating Violence Study, which investigated IPV amongst 13,601 students across thirty-two-nations found that “about one-quarter of both male and female students had physically attacked a partner during that year”. It reported that 24.4% of males had experienced minor IPV and 7.6% had experienced “severe assault”.

• The majority of research done on males as victims of domestic violence is encompassed in research as to the reason for domestic violence on women, not by “anti-women men’s groups”. (Rhymes, 2014)

IF the Illinois Coalition Against Family Violence addressed and intervened equally in cases of domestic violence, they would be offering services regardless of gender. But this is not the case. By its own account, ILCAFV focuses primarily on “Eliminating domestic abuse in the State of Illinois, with primary focuses on women and their dependents and Exposing the roots of domestic violence, with primary emphasis on the institutionalized subservience of women, and on the societal sanction of violence in the family”. If they were truly looking to exposing the roots of family violence and the PREVENTION of family violence, they would be first to jump on the equal shared parenting bandwagon. But their focus (and yours) appears narrow and bias. The introduction and support of HB751 while opposing HB4113 is blatantly ignoring the prevention aspect of family violence and child wellbeing.

In fact the bias against men is so great and their view so narrow that not one of their public informational pamphlets available for order addressed the issue of male victim violence. Nor did any of their visual memes adorning their website depict male victims. No victim services or shelter is provided for males. That is not equality in addressing domestic violence issues nor is it sound public health practice of 1.) Defining the problem; 2.) Identifying risk and protective factors; 3.) Developing and testing prevention strategies; and 4.)Assure widespread adoption. If these steps were taken as identified by the CDC as The Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention you would see that Family Violence is just that – FAMILY VIOLENCE and needs to be addressed as services to ALL victims regardless of gender and that the underlying causes and prevention are key components in reducing domestic violence as a whole.

In fact ICADV’s Public Policy Platform #4 states “ICADV Furthers Policy for custody and visitation that protects victims & their families. ICADV opposes any legislation that provides for a presumption of joint custody”.

How does this in any way reflect or support services to all victims of domestic violence and especially reflect what is shown by statistics as best for children? Step 1 in the Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention is to define the problem.

Along with the above statistics on domestic/family violence, we’ll look a little further. In looking a statistics on family violence with an emphasis on child abuse, we find that it is clear across the board: perpetrators of child abuse and neglect are most often the child’s own parents. According to NCANDS, a 2005 study showed that 79.4% of child abusers were the parents, and the next largest pool of abusers consisted of unmarried partners of the parents of child victims. A whopping 40% of child victims were abused by their mothers acting alone, and a disturbing 17.3% were abused by both parents. Let’s break that down a little further:

• Women and men commit physical child abuse in almost equal proportions. (Administration for Children and Families, 2014)

• Fathers/Fathers and Partners only perpetrate 21.6% of child abuse; whereas Mothers/Mothers and Partners commit 47.6% of all child abuse. (Administration for Children and Families, 2014)

• Over 76% of medical neglect is committed by women. (Administration for Children and Families, 2013)

• Under 25% of child maltreatment cases are handled by the courts. (Administration for Children and Families, 2013)

• Women commit over 62% of all child neglect. (Administration for Children and Families, 2013)

• Of all fatalities in the United States caused by child abuse, only 16.4% are caused by the Father/Fathers & Partner, whereas 38.9% are caused by the Mother/Mother & Partner. (Administration for Children and Families, 2014)

In looking at statistics on sexual violence, we find that:

• According to the Findings from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in the US experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner. An estimated 6.8 million MEN were made to penetrate another person in their lifetime.

• Sexual violence is especially hazardous to our youth. Again the NISVS/CDC reveals that Of all female victims of completed rape 41% reported that it first occurred prior to age 18 and 30% reported that their first such victimization occurred between the ages of 11-17.

• Of all male victims of made to penetrate victimizations, 24% reported it occurred prior to age 18 and 20% reported that victimization occurred between ages 11-17.

THEREFORE, THE PROBLEM, FOLLOWING CDC’S PUBLIC HEALTH APPROACH TO VIOLENCE PREVENTION, IS THAT WOMEN, MEN, AND CHILDREN ARE ALL VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC OR FAMILY VIOLENCE.

The next step in the Public Heath Approach to Violence Prevention is identification of risk and protective factors. Since the Public Policy #4 of ILCADV is to intervene in custody and visitation that PROTECTS victims and families and OPPOSE legislation that provides for a presumption of joint custody, I want to share the following risk factors to highlight the error in their policy as it relates to children of separation or divorce.

Risk Factors

• Lower levels of involvement by a father have been linked to higher aggression levels. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015)

• Conflict generally remains higher in sole than in shared custody families – especially if the residential parenting time is not shared. (Neilson, 2013)

• Children in single-parent homes account for 63% of all teen suicides.(Holstein, 2015)

• The incarceration risk of a child living with just his or her mother is greatly increased compared to that of a child living with just his or her father is equal to that of a child living with both parents. It is an even more significant chance of incarceration if there is a step-father or step-father figure living in the home. (Harper & McLanahan, Center for Research on Child Well-being)

• Children in sole custody situations have far more sleep problems, difficulties concentrating, loss of appetite, more frequent headaches, stomachaches, and dizzy spells, and report feelings of depression and general sadness more often than children placed in custody situations where shared-parenting is involved (Bergstrom, 2015)

• 85% of incarcerated individuals were raised in single parent-homes. (Holstein, 2015)

• Up to 75% of all teenagers enrolled in chemical and substance abuse programs come from single-parent homes. (Holstein, 2015)

• Data from three waves of the Fragile Families Study (N= 2,111) was used to examine the prevalence and effects of mothers’ relationship changes between birth and age 3 on their children’s well being. Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. Living in a single-mother household is equivalent to experiencing 5.25 partnership transitions. (Source: Osborne, C., & McLanahan, S. (2007). Partnership instability and child well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1065-1083.)

• A study using a sample of 1409 rural southern adolescents (851 females and 558 males) aged 11 – 18 years, investigated the correlation between father absence and self-reported sexual activity. The results revealed that adolescents in father-absence homes were more likely to report being sexually active compared to adolescents living with their fathers. (Source: Hendricks, C.S., Cesario, S.K., Murdaugh, C., Gibbons, M.E., Servonsky, E.J., Bobadilla, R.V., Hendricks, D.L., Spencer-Morgan, B., & Tavakoli, A. (2005).)

• The CDC identifies low parental involvement and low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers as Risk Factors for Youth Violence.

Protective Factors:

• Children in shared residential custody and those who see their fathers frequently are better off on measures of well-being even when their parents have ongoing conflict. (Neilson, 2013)

• Children age 10 to 17 living with two biological or adoptive parents were significantly less likely to experience sexual assault, child maltreatment, other types of major violence, and non-victimization type of adversity, and were less likely to witness violence in their families compared to peers living in single-parent families and stepfamilies. (Source: Heather A. Turner, “The Effect of Lifetime Victimization on the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents,” Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 62, No. 1, (January 2006), pp. 13-27.)

• Children whose fathers had been actively involved from birth managed stress better during their school years. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015)

• Adolescents between the ages of 14-19 have higher self-esteem and less depression when they have greater intimacy with their fathers. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015)

• African American boys with married parents were found to have higher self-esteem, self-control, and feelings of personal power compared with boys who had only their mothers in the home, even when income, parental education, and the number of people living in the home were controlled. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015)

• Research shows that shared parenting would result in fewer cases of truancy, delinquency, gang-related activity, few juvenile crime, and teen pregnancies. (Holstein, 2015)

THEREFORE, RISK AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS IDENTIFY SHARED PARENTING AND EQUAL INVOLVMENT OF BOTH PARENTS AS A HIGHTLY DESIRABLE DETERRENT TO FUTURE FAMILY VIOLENCE. This is a far cry from what the DV community would like you to believe. I can only hope that this is due to their limited view of family separation situations and their inability in recognizing the harm labeling fathers as inconsequential or detrimental to child well-being is having on children, families and society. I suspect their stance is partly based on their need or want for increased funding just as the opposition from ISBA to shared parenting is based on their financial gain from litigation.

The statistical and research supporting the benefits of equal shared parenting in cases of separation or divorce overwhelmingly negates ILCADV’s bias against fathers. They should be one of the largest supporters of shared parenting as effective against future violence in future generations.

I truly do not understand their aversion to equal shared parenting. Shared Parenting advocates do not ‘assume’ that all women/mothers are child abusers based on the statistical data showing women constitute the largest percentage of child abusers. Therefore, it is wrong to assume that all fathers are violent based on the small percentage of men that are perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Additionally, perpetuating the alienation of fathers from their children through archaic family court practices is a causative agent of future domestic violence, not a deterrent Kids need the influence of both both Moms and Dads to grow into healthy emotionally stable adults.

In Step three of The Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention, one is expected to develop and test prevention strategies. This work has already been completed as evidenced by the overwhelming data and research supporting the benefits of equal shared parenting.

The International Conference on Shared Parenting on 9-11 July 2014 in Bonn, Germany under the theme “Bridging the Gap between Empirical Evidence and Socio-Legal Practice” was the first international and interdisciplinary gathering of scholars, practitioners and NGO representatives interested in the emerging paradigm of shared parenting in families in which parents are living apart. This was the first such gathering of scholars, practitioners and NGO representatives interested in the emerging paradigm of shared parenting in families in which parents are living apart. A wide range of topics as well as perspectives on shared parenting were discussed and debated, and at the end of the conference published 6 major areas of consensus:

1. There is a consensus that neither the discretionary best interests of the child standard, nor sole custody or primary residence orders, are serving the needs of children and families of divorce. There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents. The amount of shared parenting time necessary to achieve child well-being and positive outcomes is a minimum of one-third time with each parent, with additional benefits accruing up to and including equal (50-50) parenting time, including both weekday (routine) and weekend (leisure) time.

2. There is consensus that “shared parenting” be defined as encompassing both shared parental authority (decision-making) and shared parental responsibility for the day-to-day upbringing and welfare of children, between fathers and mothers, in keeping with children´s age and stage of development. Thus “shared parenting” is defined as “the assumption of shared responsibilities and presumption of shared rights in regard to the parenting of children by fathers and mothers who are living together or apart.”

3. There is a consensus that national family law should at least include the possibility to give shared parenting orders, even if one parent opposes it. There is a consensus that shared parenting is in line with constitutional rights in many countries and with international human rights, namely the right of children to be raised by both of their parents.

4. There is a consensus that the following principles should guide the legal determination of parenting after divorce: (1) shared parenting as an optimal arrangement for the majority of children of divorce, and in their best interests. (2) parental autonomy and self-determination. (3) limitation of judicial discretion in regard to the best interests of children.

5. There is a consensus that the above apply to the majority of children and families, including high conflict families, but not to situations of substantiated family violence and child abuse. There is a consensus that the priority for further research on shared parenting should focus on the intersection of child custody and family violence, including child maltreatment in all its forms, including parental alienation.

6. There is a consensus that an accessible network of family relationship centres that offer family mediation and other relevant support services are critical in the establishment of a legal presumption of shared parenting, and vital to the success of shared parenting arrangements.

Please note that, even in situations of high conflict between the birth parents, equal shared parenting is preferable for children.

To quote an article in Psychology Today, “More recent research has examined actual parenting time as opposed to frequency of contact (less frequent transitions, but shared or equal parenting time), and has found not only that shared parenting is not harmful in high conflict situations, but shared parenting can ameliorate the harmful effects of high conflict: a warm relationship with both parents is a protective factor for children”.

“In the majority of high conflict divorces, however, violence and abuse are not a factor. The culture of animosity created by litigation and the adversarial sole custody system, however, seems tailor-made to produce the worst possible outcomes when there are two capable parents who wish to continue as primary caregivers, cannot agree on a parenting plan, and are forced to disparage each other in an effort to simply maintain their role as parents. Children’s safety in the majority of divorces is best assured when both parents are actively and responsibly involved in their lives, and when social institutions support them in the fulfillment of their parental responsibilities.” (Dr. Edward Kruk, PhD; WhCo-Parenting and High Conflict; Separating Former Marital Disputes from Ongoing Parenting Responsibilities; Posted May 15, 2012)

I am willing to forward further information, research, data and professional opinions on the benefits of shared parenting upon request. I would encourage you to seek out the research of Dr. Linda Nielson, Richard A Warshak, and Dr. Edward Kruk.

THEREFORE, EQUAL SHARED PARENTING HAS THE STATISTICAL DATA AND RESEARCH IN PLACE TO SATISFY THE PUBLIC HEALTH REQUIREMENT OF BEST PRACTICE IN ADDRESSING THE PREVENTION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE even in cases of high conflict. Again, Kids NEED both parents.

The last step in the Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention is to Assure Widespread Adoption.

I assure you that Shared Parenting Advocates are not negating or belittling the problem of domestic violence. As parents, grandparents, educators and teachers, social service and health care providers, we are in the fight to end family violence as well. There is nothing a good parent hates more than someone that victimized our children. We are working toward legislation that creates and equal playing field regardless of gender when separating or divorcing parents walk into family court. HB4113 is a good step towards providing the essential time with both parents as deemed necessary by multiple studies as being in the best interest of children. We have yet to hear an exact reason as to why equal shared parenting is not supported as a long-term deterrent to family violence in society. In our estimation, only 5% of all divorces have actual substantiated domestic abuse as a factor and therefore should not have an impact on needed shared parenting legislation HV4113. The 17 protective elements determining fitness to parent remain untouched and all safeguards in place. HB4113 established a fair and equal starting point recognizing it is in the child’s best interest to have both parents equally in their lives, requires clear and convincing evidence for equal parenting rights to be limited, and requests written findings explaining deviation from equality. What’s not to love! It takes the win/lose out of negotiations and the real winners are the children of Illinois.

The domestic violence organizations need to quit beating up on good dads. Equal Shared Parenting Advocates support helping victims, not creating future perpetrators and victims through sexism and promotion of parental alienation. Equal Shared Parenting Advocacy is all about giving our children the best parenting security possible in an imperfect situation, loving and protecting our children, and raising kids to become happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults. Future benefits to society are promising and quite exciting as we see the effects of parental alienation subside. Family Violence needs to come to an end…but please do not throw good men and their children to the wolves of inequality in parenting. It’s just not in the best interest of our children to assume all fathers are evil based on the actions of a few monsters.

Some DV organizations may be seeing the light. In correspondence with A Safe Place/Lake County Crisis Center, I did receive the following response.” Thank you Patti, we definitely agree with you. Shared parenting should be the goal in any separation or divorce arrangement as long as the children are safe. ICADV is only opposing the bill in regards to shared parenting by parents who have been abusive to their children or around their children. Shared parenting by two loving parents who have the children’s best interests should not be affected.” Well, that would be 95% of cases and the remaining 5% abusive situations are easily identified as HB4113 is currently written. We too, want the best for our children and grandchildren. We stand for the 95%.

THEREFORE, HB4113 AND SUPPORT FOR THE PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL SHARED PARENTING IN SITUATIONS OF SEPARATION OR DIVORCE IS PROVEN TO BE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF CHILDREN AND WILL IMPACT AND DECREASE THE INCIDENCE OF FAMILY VIOLENCE FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Patti Skees, RN

Public Health Nurse, Retired

Mom, Grandma, Illinois voter.

HB4113

By: Chad Loudermilk
1/18/18

An Illinois statewide organization originated out of Southern Illinois has teamed up with Representative La Shawn Ford in an effort to pass legislation that will start both parents on equal ground after a divorce or separation. Illinois Fathers For Equality, a grassroots nonprofit 501(c)(4) social welfare organization started for the sole purpose to address inequality in Illinois family laws. Although it was co-founded by two fathers wanting to make a difference, the organizations now 3,600 members have a large percentage of women who actively support their efforts. Illinois Fathers For Equality drafted and introduced a bill proposal to Representative Ford in May of 2017. Representative Ford a very passionate representative about the issue agreed to Chief Sponsor the bill that was introduced in October 2017. House bill 4113 or HB4113 for short is an equal parenting time bill that currently has 18 sponsors and is gaining a lot of momentum across the state.

HB4113 can be broken down into three main sections which address the needed changes to the current law to make it more equal. The three main sections HB4113 addresses is a presumption of equal time with both parents, changing the current burden of proof from preponderance to clear and convincing, and lastly it asks for judges to put in writing why they ruled the way they ruled if they deviated from the presumption of equal.

Current law uses the term maximum involvement of both parents, but does not clearly define what that means. Based off of how judges rule, it has been determined that maximum involvement has a very different meaning depending on which judge is hearing the case. The vast majority of cases are still being handed out with what has been known for a long time as the “standard” visitation schedule, which is once a week and every other weekend for the non-custodial parent. When you break this down into percentages that comes to 28% non-custodial, 72% custodial. This is a far cry from equal. This is why HB4113 addresses this problem with a presumption of equal time with both parents. This does not mean it is a mandate of equal custody for all cases, but does mean that instead of parents going in on unequal ground, the starting point for all divorce cases will be 50/50. A presumption can always be deviated from if a judge determines there are reasons why a child and parents should not have equal time.

Research from the last several years all point towards shared parenting being the best outcome for children of divorce. The devastating truths of what we are currently doing are very troubling. According to research children raised in single-parent homes with minimal to no contact with the other parent are at much higher risk of, dropping out of school, using alcohol and/or drugs, becoming pregnant at a young age, developing mental health issues, committing suicide, and developing unhealthy relationships to just name a few. The research states that children raised with equal access or as close to equal access to both parents are much better off in all aspects than those children raised in single-parent homes.

The reason for the second section, raising the burden of proof, can be easily explained by the following two statements. The definition of preponderance is known as “more likely than not” or “51/49”. A judge is making a life changing decision for children by a “more likely than not” standard. Our current laws take more burden of proof to prove a person guilty of stealing a candy bar than they do to take a child away from a parent. Not to mention that the current law added 17 factors that must be considered when determining parenting time which already address the major issues as to why we would need to keep a child away from a dangerous parent. Those factors will continue to be in place if HB4113 becomes law. The second point is this. The current law which became law January 1, 2016 changed the burden of proof for non-biological parents to clear and convincing , but did not change the burden of proof for biological parents. What the current law does is it makes it much easier to take a child(ren) away from a biological parent, than it does to take them away from a non-biological parent.
The last section HB4113 addresses is what is called written findings. Written findings requires a judge to put in writing their finding of facts and reasons as to why they deviated from the presumption of parents being fit and that children have equal time with both parents. Currently other statutes throughout Illinois laws require judges to put in writing why they rule the way they do. If a child is removed from an intact family by say the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) then they are given reasons as to why they lost their children, they are then able to make those changes in their lives or work towards becoming a better parent to later be able to get their children back or what DCFS calls “reunification”. It only seems like common sense to carry over the same concept for children of divorce. If we know by research that it is very important that both parents are involved in a child’s life, then it should be very important that “reunification” is our overall goal in most situations. If a parent does not know exactly why a judge ruled the way they did, then a parent is unable to rehabilitate themselves to try to be more involved in their child(ren)’s life later on. It only makes sense that a parent fully understands why they did not get equal responsibilities, or equal time with their children.

Illinois Fathers for Equality has continually expressed they do not support child abuse, neglect, domestic violence, sexual abuse, or any other situation that could be detrimental to a child(ren). Their efforts are to keep children safe, but to also give them the best possible outcome for their future which is if possible have equal access to both of their parents while growing up. It is very important that we keep children safe but also do what research tells us is best for our children.

Illinois Father for Equality (ILFFE) a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization can be found on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Or you can visit their website at www.ilffe.org. Illinois Fathers for Equality asks for everyone in support of what’s best for children to get involved with their efforts to get HB4113 passed. Please call your legislators and ask them to support and sponsor HB4113. The lives of our children’s future are at stake here.

Email @: admin@ilffe.org

Co-Parenting/Shared Parenting the Way of the Future

Co-Parenting/Shared Parenting the Way of the Future.

By: Chad Loudermilk

To say that things have “changed” in the past 50 years is quite an understatement. In the past 50 years we have landed on the moon, created satellites, created a polio vaccine, invented the computer, the internet, ATM’s, Cellphones, MRI machines, GPS, and hybrid vehicles to just name a few. The modern era of technology is leaps and bounds better and advanced further than one could have believed 50 years ago.

The same holds true for almost all aspects of society. Advancements in Medicine, surgical procedures, and preventative practices have increased our life expectancy far more than we could have ever imagined.

Another aspect that has drastically changed is the field of psychology. Over the past 50 years the Association for Psychological Science (APS) has been formed (1988), new disciplines and approaches have been created, new ways of teaching and learning have been discovered, and hundreds of thousands of research articles have been written and published helping our society better understand the ever changing world we call life. Advancements in Psychology have led to major governmental organizations like the FBI and CIA to have trained professionals in the field of psychology work for them to profile terrorists, serial killers, and other dangerous individuals. Government relies on the field of psychology to conduct research and gather data to help us better assist federally funded programs, rehabilitative services, and educational information just to name a few.

Needless to say, all aspects of society have drastically changed over the past 50 years, except for one; child custody and visitation (or what we now call parenting responsibilities and parenting time). The same standards are being used on parents as they were 50 years ago. The Illinois laws on divorce and families were written in 1960, 58 years ago. These laws have been updated a time or two between now and then and most recently in 2016 but one thing that has stayed the same throughout the last 58 years is the part on parenting time (visitation). Yes they changed the nomenclature but not the meaning or application of the laws. They have added “maximum involvement of both parents” but have failed to define what “maximum involvement” even means. Does that mean 5 days with dad and 25 days with mom? We don’t know and they leave that open for speculation. So what do they do? They leave it up to judges to determine what “maximum involvement” means to them. And from what we have gathered that definition is drastically different from one judge to the next due to recent studies proving that judicial biases occur at stagger rates when dealing with child custody cases. But what we do know is that the “standard” visitation has, and still is, Wednesday for a couple hours, and every other weekend.

With that being said lets look at the family structure and family dynamics. We can all agree that over the past 58 years times have drastically changed. In the 1960’s we were looking at the last 10-15 years in determining what was best for families of divorce. So we were looking at 1945-1960. During that time period it was very common for the husband to work and the wife to stay at home and be a “homemaker”. The man would go to work all day, come home, eat dinner, read the newspaper, and go to bed. The wife would clean the house, do laundry, cook dinner, do the dishes, and take care of the children. That was the so-called “normal life” they would say.

When a marriage would fail and divorce occurred during that time, it was almost guaranteed the mother would get custody of the children and the father would be given very little “visitation” to his children. This was the “standard” practice for divorces for many years because of the family structure and dynamics. The “standard” visitation later became like I mentioned earlier the Wednesday evenings either for a few hours, or if you were lucky overnight, and then every other weekend. The standard range of “visitation” for fathers is between 16-28% vs. 72-84% for mothers.

But as all aspects of society, a lot has changed since the 1960’s. We now have just as many women as we do men in the workplace. We have women doctors, lawyers, CEO’s. We have women business owners, we have women politicians, we have women in almost every avenue of business now. The term “homemaker” is a thing of the past for the majority of women in todays’ society. So to say the least, the liberation of women in the workplace drastically changed the family dynamics at home.

We now have fathers carrying their weight of what use to be considered the “motherly” duties. We have men cooking dinner, helping with homework, bathing the kids at night, reading bedtime stories, and even changing dirty diapers. We have men doing laundry, cleaning the house, and washing dishes. We have families splitting duties evenly to make it easier and fair. We even go as far as to having stay at home dads now, who have reversed the roles from the 1950’s. They stay at home and take care of the children and the house duties while the mother goes to work everyday. As I have mentioned, things have drastically changed in the last 50 years.

Have the societal views on custody and visitation changed in the past 50 years? Absolutely. We can affirm this by the ever-growing push for “shared parenting” and “co-parenting” across the nation. What have we learned over the last 50 years that has given society this view you might ask? Let’s break down some of the research and what we know.

First, we must look at the research done on families and children of divorce over the past 50 years to see what impact it has had on society. What we have learned from research is that children raised in single-parent homes, with minimal to no contact with their fathers, are at a higher risk to drop out of school, run away from home, become pregnant, commit suicide, seek or create abusive relationships, turn to drugs and alcohol, becoming incarcerated, and being less successful (1). Years and years of research have continually shown that the current custody and visitation laws are setting our children up to fail in society.

What does research recommend as an alternative or solution to the current law? Co-Parenting/Shared Parenting. Co-parenting/Shared Parenting has become very popular across the nation to the point where thousands of books have been written about how to co-parent. The reason you might ask? Because for years now research has recommended and pointed towards co-parenting being what is best for children after a divorce or separation. So lets talk about what some of the current research actually says about co-parenting/shared parenting.

Dr. Linda Nielsen one of the leading researchers from Wake Forest University looked at 40 studies over the past 25 years regarding co-parenting/shared parenting (2). She has concluded that children in shared parenting situations had better outcomes on measures of emotional, behavioral, and psychological well-being.

Dr. Edward Kruk another leading researcher from the University of British Columbia presented sixteen arguments in support of equal parental responsibility presumption in contested child custody. Clinical and empirical evidence in support of each argument is contrasted to the conflicting evidence (3).

Dr. Ned Holstein a Physician and founder of The National Parents Organization stated the following in May of 2017: “Research from all over the world, the leading people, are saying and endorsing the assertion that the research has reached a critical mass, and it shows that shared parenting is best for most children” (4).

Dr. William Fabricius another leading researcher from the University of Arizona and one of the main contributors to helping pass Arizona’s shared parenting bill in 2014 has done a lot of research on looking at the importance of father-child relationship. He has concluded that although courts are agreeable that a father-child relationship is important, their practices and judgments do not reflect that (5). Another great point that Dr. Fabricius’ research has found is that after surveying grown children of divorce. His research found that an overwhelming majority of children in divorced homes had wished they had spent more time with their fathers. It was even found that of the small amount raised in equal parenting time 93% of them believe it is best (6).

Dr. Michael Lamb is one of the most respected researchers in contemporary family studies. Dr. Lamb found that the old research regarding stability and the one home, one bed practice for infants and toddlers has been incorrectly overemphasized. He stated that we must look at the significance of emotional, social, and cognitive contributions from both parents. It was found that what was best for children even infants and toddlers was shared parenting, where both mother and father can build significant relationships and bond with the child (7).

Dr. Richard Warshak , another supporter of shared parenting is a psychologist and leading researcher in the field, as well as an author of many books. He has also been a White House consultant on child custody and one of 60 top experts invited to participate in an American Bar Association family law reform initiative. Dr. Warshak actually got 110 leading researchers to sign off on agreeing that in normal circumstances, evidence supports co-parenting/shared parenting as being best for children after divorce (8)

This is just a very small list of over 110 leading researchers across the world who have conducted research that supports co-parenting/shared parenting. These researchers have devoted their entire careers to social science research. They have looked at all aspects of the spectrum and have concluded that co-parenting/shared parenting is what is best for children and families after divorce in almost all situations.

This brings us to the big question we all have been asking ourselves; Then why doesn’t our laws reflect what research and society have been telling us? We know that research is saying co-parenting/shared parenting is best for children. We know that Co-parenting has become a booming trend as far as books and research go for the past several years. We know that what we have been doing for the past 50 years does not work and actually puts our children in harms way. We know that society has changed drastically and those gender roles we had 50 years ago do not apply anymore. We know all of this to be true, but yet we still have outdated laws that produce bad outcomes for our children and for society as a whole. What we have is a pandemic of at risk youth across the nation struggling because of these outdated laws and practices.

What is it that is actually keeping us from changing current laws to reflect what research and society is telling us? It’s quite simple if we take a look at all of the stakeholders involved. What are stakeholders? Stakeholders are people with an interest or concern in something. Then who are the stakeholders in a divorce? The stakeholders are the mother, father, children, attorneys (including guardian ad litems & Mediators), and Judges. Lets now look at what each person has to gain and/or lose if laws are changed to reflect research. For a condensed version of this (because this could get very detailed) lets lump Mother, Father, and Children all together as well as Attorneys and Judges together.

Looking at what Mother, Father, and Child(ren) will gain or lose from a co-parenting/shared parenting bill (HB4113)becoming law the first difference will now be splitting time equally. This also evenly distributes the responsibilities of a child onto both parents now instead of just one parent for the majority of the time. Compared to the “standard” (Wednesday and every other weekend visitation) the mother will have fewer overnights with her children, but the father will have more overnights. But for mothers and fathers new to divorce it will just be the new “standard” before long. Good fit parents who want to do what’s best for their children will sacrifice time with their child to give them the opportunity to succeed. The problem is, is that during a divorce now, we’re being told by attorneys that children need “stability” and that means staying more time with one parent and “visiting” the other. (We know this to be false because research supports that what children see as stability is equal time with both parents) (9). We’re being told children don’t need to live out of suitcases, and that 50/50 makes them go back n forth to much, which is also untrue. There are more exchanges in the standard visitation orders than of almost all 50/50 arrangements (10). So now with shared parenting the children are at a much less risk of developing all of those terrible atrocities spoken of in past research regarding single-parent homes. The children now are able to spend equal time with both parents and will have a better opportunity to bond equally with both parents. Which as the research suggests is very important to the child’s mental and emotional well-being. Parents will now be responsible for their half of raising the children including taking them to appointments, school events, extracurriculars, etc. So overall, an overwhelming majority (according to research between 85-90%) will agree that shared parenting is a benefit to mothers, fathers, and children (11).

Now, lets look at attorneys and judges. What do attorneys and judges have to gain and/or lose with the changing of these laws? To answer this question lets first answer another major question that is also important to this breakdown. Who has been/is behind writing the laws for family court? For as long as its existence the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) has been the main contributor for writing new bills/laws regarding family law reform. Why is this important? Maybe it will help us better understand why our current laws do not reflect what research and society believes to be best. So back to answering the initial question of gain and/or loses. If a co-parenting/shared parenting bill (HB4113) passes, then the amount of litigation will drastically reduce. Why is this you might ask? The majority of divorce cases that are drug out for years, are almost all cases regarding disputes over custody and visitation. This litigation is usually one parent trying to get more or equal time and the other trying to keep that from happening. Therefore if a co-parenting/shared parenting bill (HB4113) passes, those cases will drastically reduce due to starting at equal time. What does a equal shared parenting bill really mean to attorneys? The old saying “follow the money” holds true in this situation as well. The only reason why laws do not reflect what is best for our children is because of influential organizations, “special interest groups”, and people who benefit from the current situations staying the way they are. If we look at the largest moneymaker for Attorneys, you will find that Family Law ranks number 1. According to a documentary called Divorce Corp. they state that it’s a whopping 50 Billion dollars a year industry. Yes you read that right; it’s not a typo, billion not million. Family law rakes in more money itself than all other forms of law combined. So with us knowing that the majority of disputed divorce cases are over custody and visitation, then we can assume that the amount of litigation in divorces will drastically decrease due to a co-parenting/shared parenting law being implemented. Which in turn will drastically decrease the income attorneys will make off of family law litigation.

Another point to add that addresses how judges are involved as stakeholders is this. Most judges don’t want anyone to know this but once they retire from being a judge, they don’t usually stop practicing law, or being involved in the law system one way or another. Judges usually work as mediators or work for an organization still within the family law community after retirement so they can still collect a paycheck while retired. If they were to support an equal shared parenting bill (HB4113) then they would be taking away from their own retirement plan.

When we compare the two (mothers, fathers, children) and (attorneys, judges) we now see that the group that benefits the most from equal shared parenting laws are the mothers, fathers, and children. The group that loses the most from passing an equal shared parenting law are the attorneys and judges.

By now we should have a clearer understanding as to why our laws do not reflect what research is telling us, correct? It is because the same people who have been writing the laws for years and who influence legislators into passing laws to benefit them, are the same people who have the most to lose (MONEY) if we pass a equal shared parenting bill (HB4113), plain and simple.

Which brings me to my final point, which might be the most important question to clarify. Who should legislators believe? Should legislators believe attorneys and judges, or should they believe leading researchers/psychologist? Anyone with common sense can agree that Judges and Attorneys specialize in Law. They interpret the law and apply it to situations in court cases. They are considered experts in the field of Law. Researchers/Psychologist are experts in the field of psychology and conducting research. Most universities require their professors to conduct and get research published while being an employee of the University. Psychologist narrowly focus their concentration of study on one specific topic of their interest therefore, they usually focus all of their research around this one topic as well. They are experts at conducting research, collecting the data and interpreting it. They are experts at telling us what the research findings tells us about what is the best common practice to have the best outcomes. They are also experts in telling us what doesn’t work and the negative outcomes due to certain reasons. Simply put they are experts in telling us what works and what does not work and why.

So, whom should legislators believe? Attorneys and judges who are experts in the field of law, or Researchers/Psychologist who are experts in the field of psychology and research? The obvious answer without an ounce of doubt is the Researchers/Psychologists.

What we have is a man made pandemic where children are being used as pawns and in turn taking the blunt end of the negative consequences from it. All due to the fact that we have special interest groups who will not listen to what research is telling us is best. This is because their special interest is not the best interest of children or society but is in the best interest of their cause/profession and pocketbooks. It is a very sad situation, and unfortunately it’s the children who are the ones that suffer the most from it.

So what can we do about it? We must stand up and be heard. We must stand up and stop allowing attorneys and judges to say what is best for our children, when we know research says otherwise. We must educate our legislators about what research really says is best for our children. We must tell our legislators that we are tired of these outdated laws, and that we are tired of our children being victims of a broken system that can easily be fixed. We must tell them that enough is enough; our children have suffered for far too long! We must demand changing these laws to reflect what research tells us is best. We must not take no as an answer. We must not give up. We must stand up and be heard. We must educate. But most importantly of all, we must do it with love, compassion, and integrity.

Work Cited:

(1) (U.S. Dept. of health/census) (Center for Disease Control) (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26) (National Principals Association Report) (U.S. Dept. of Justice Sept. 1988) (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction) (US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census) (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999)

(2) Re-examining the Research on Parental Conflict, Coparenting, and Custody Arrangements – Linda Nielsen

(3) Arguments for an Equal Parental Responsibility Presumption in Contested Child Custody – Edward Kruk

(4) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/international-conference-in-shared-parenting-2017
watershed_us_592dc5e2e4b047e77e4c3f02

(5) Lay Judgments About Child Custody After Divorce – Sandford L. Braver, Ira Mark Ellman, Ashley M.
Votruba, and William V. Fabricius – Arizonia State University

(6) Young Adults’ Perspectives on Divorce Living Arrangements – William V.Fabricius and Jeffrey Hall.

(7) Critical Analysis of Research on Parenting plans and children’s well-being –Dr. Michael E. Lamb

(8) Stemming the tide of misinformation: International consensus on Shared parenting and overnighting. –
Dr. Richard A. Warshak

(9)(Fabricius et. Al, 2011) Reference #(5)

(10) Numbers Don’t Lie – Illinois Fathers for Equality http://ilffe.ilffe.org/index.php/2017/09/29/numbers-
dont-lie/

(11) Shared Physical Custody: Does it benefit Most Children? – Linda Nielsen

“Numbers Don’t Lie”

“Numbers Don’t Lie”

-The 50/50 Custody Schedule Truth-

-Face to Face and Back n’ Forth MYTH.-

It has been brought up on several occasions about detrimental problems with 50/50 custody agreements. Two of the biggest issues I continue to hear are that with a 50/50 custody arrangement, that if there is high conflict between the two parents, then a 50/50 arrangement is setting these two parents up to see each other more and therefore more apt to have arguments, fights, and domestic violence. The second major issue brought up is that children of shared parenting agreements swap back n forth to much and therefore the children never feel like they have a place to call “home”. Both are argued that these are toxic and not in “the best interest” of the children.  So l am here to prove to everyone willing to read on, that , this belief is a fabricated misconception and 100% FALSE STATEMENTS.

Unless you live under a rock you already know what the “standard” visitation schedule is for fathers. For those who don’t know what i’m talking about, It’s every wednesday and every other weekend. So let’s now look at the “standard” Vs. the shared parenting schedules people claim that parents face to face more. Although there are several shared parenting schedules out there, i’m going to just address the top 4 schedules and compare them to the old time “standard”.

For my examples I will just look at 2 week intervals or 14 days. The reason for doing this, is that most schedules make a full rotation after 2 weeks or 14 days.

So let’s break them down and get to the NUMBERS

The “Standard” Visitation Schedule (Every Wed. & Every Other Weekend) there are 6 exchanges.

Shared Parenting 2-2-3 schedule ( 2 days, 2 days, 3 days) there are 6 exchanges.  

Shared Parenting 3-4-4-3 schedule (3 days, 4 days, 4 days, 3 days)  there are 4 exchanges.

Shared Parenting 2-2-5-5 schedule (2 days, 2 days, 5 days, 5 days) there are 4 exchanges.

Shared parenting alternating weeks (self explanatory)  there are 2 exchanges. 

So we now must ask ourselves, what custody arrangement goes back n forth the most ? According to the numbers , the old “standard” and the 2-2-3 schedule have the same amount of exchanges at 6, but the other 3 shared parenting schedules only have 4 exchanges and the alternating weeks is only 2 exchanges. I would consider those numbers significantly less. So therefore these claims of a child going back n’ forth to much, or that parents will see each other more than before and might cause more violence. These claims are absolutely 100% FALSE.

AND this doesn’t even take into account that when children are school age most shared parenting plans use school as the transition of parenting time. Therefore a father might drop off the children in the morning but the mother would pick them up after school to start her time and vise versa.

So if you have heard or been told that shared parenting schedules do not work because of these false claims, or if an attorney brings it up in court trying to keep you from getting a shared parenting schedule you can now bring up this exact article and proof that what they are saying is FALSE CLAIMS.

New Child Support Law Effective July 1, 2017

NEW CHILD SUPPORT LAW CALCULATIONS EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2017

SUPPLEMENTAL TABLES AT THE BOTTOM
This information is taken directly from Illinois Compiled Statutes 750 ILCS 5/505

NEW BASIC CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATION

1. Determine each parents’ monthly NET income

2. Add the parents’ monthly net income together to determine the combined monthly net income of the parents.

3. Select the corresponding appropriate amount from the schedule of basic child support obligations based on the parties’ combined monthly net income and number of children of the parties.

4. Calculate each parent’s percentage share of the basic child supportobligation
**Although a monetary obligation is computed for each parent as child support, the receiving parent’s share is not payable to the other parent and is presumed to be spent directly on the child.

SHARED PHYSICAL CARE MODEL (146+ OVERNIGHTS)

1. If each parent exercises 146 or more overnights per year with the child, the basic child support obligation is multiplied by 1.5 to calculate the shared care child support obligation.

2. The court shall determine each parent’s share of the shared care child support obligation based on the parent’s percentage share of combined net income.

3. The child support obligation is then computed for each parent by multiplying that parent’s portion of the shared care support obligation by the percentage of time the child spends with the other parent.

4. The respective child support obligations are then offset, with the parent owing more child support paying the different between the child supportamounts.

SPLIT PHYSICAL CARE

When there is more than one child and each parent has physical care of at least one but not all of the children the support is calculated by using 2child support worksheets to determine the support each parent owes the other.

1. Compute the support the first parent would owe to other parent as if the child in his or her care was the only child of the parties

2. Computer the support the other parent would owe to the first parent as if the child in his or her care were the only child of the parties

3. Subtract the lesser support obligation from the greater.

4. The parent who owes the greater obligation shall be ordered to may the difference in support to the other parent, unless the court determines, pursuant to other provisions of this section, that it should deviate from the guidelines.

**** THIS IS ONLY FOR SUPPORT AND DOES NOT INCLUDE HEALTHCARE OBLIGATIONS THAT MAY BE ORDERED BY THE COURTS AS WELL

*SUPPLEMENTAL TABLES*

GROSS TO NET INCOME CONVERSION TABLE USING STANDARDIZED TAX AMOUNTS

INCOME SHARES SCHEDULE BASED ON NET INCOME TABLE