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Illinois child custody bill would tweak existing statutory law

15423685_S.jpgIn matters relating to physical and legal custody in a divorce proceeding, judges in both Illinois and Missouri make decisions guided by the best interests of the child or children involved.

That standard is a longstanding cornerstone in American family law that courts look to when asked to make important rulings regarding children. Those rulings commonly address where a child will live, how much visitation will be awarded a noncustodial parent, which parent might be better tasked to make important decisions about a child's schooling, religious upbringing and medical care, and many other key considerations.

Child custody is a topic that always seems to be front and center in the national media and with legislators who seek modifications to their state's statutory enactments regarding the subject.

Illinois is flatly a case in point, with custody-related activity being noted this week in the state’s House of Representatives, where a custody bill was considered by that body’s Judiciary Committee.

Although the committee passed the bill by a vote of 9-3, its sponsor -- Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park -- says that he will delay a subsequent vote before the entire House pending further developments on another family law bill that is currently under consideration.

Cabello’s bill is seeing both support and some criticism. If passed, it would mandate that courts award a noncustodial parent at least 35 percent of all parenting time if that parent is deemed fit. Proponents say that such a requirement would curb lengthy and acrimonious custody battles.

One critic of the legislation is Danielle Gomez, an attorney with the Cook County public guardian’s office, who says that it is problematic whenever any presumption is made in matters concerning the “best interest” interest.

Gomez says that, because every family law case is unique, a “one-size-fits-all” formula is ill-advised. Parents should be able to negotiate and implement parenting plans that they find mutually agreeable, she says, even when an existing court order provides for a different arrangement.

Child custody is often a core concern in family law proceedings. An experienced and empathetic child custody attorney can provide knowledgeable advice that helps promote the best interests of involved children and a family law client.

Source: The State Journal-Register, "Shared-parenting bill moves to Illinois House, its future uncertain," Tobias Wall, March 24, 2014

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