Many Illinois divorce cases commence with a battle over the custody of the minor children. Because Illinois has not adopted Presumptive Shared Parenting, both parents are pitted in battle against each other for the parenting rights to their child or children. While Illinois’ refusal to adopt shared parenting, to my mind, is unhealthy and inappropriate, arguments in favor of keeping the antiquated “winner-loser” formula for custody in Illinois do not stand the test of time nor reason.
There are four general arguments against shared parenting that are typically advanced.
(1) Custody should go to the historic “primary caretaker,” which most typically has been the mother.
(2) Children need a “stable environment” and therefore should not spend equalized time with both parents.
3) Children should not be exposed to post-divorce parental conflict; and
(4) Shared parenting is unworkable because it is not practicable if the parents do not reside in the same community;
All the evidence indicates that these arguments fail for not adequately considering the importance of both parents in a child’s life. A major study by Dr. Robert Bauserman published in 2002 in the Journal of Family Psychology examined all existing studies regarding joint custody from 1982 to the date of the study, encompassing 2,660 children. He concluded “Children in joint custody arrangements had less behavioral and emotional problems, had higher self-esteem, better family relations and school performance than children in sole custody arrangements. In fact, all these children were as well adjusted as intact family children on the same measure, said Dr. Bauserman, “probably because joint custody provides the child with an opportunity to have ongoing contact with both parents.”
Joint custody and shared parenting do not necessarily mean 50/50 division of time with the children. In some cases, a 50/50 allocation is not workable, nor does it serve the interest of the children. However, giving one parent an almost exclusive parenting role with the children while relegating the non-residential parent to the role of “visitor” is wrong, and more importantly, it is unhealthy for the developmental lives of the child or children.
The current studies bear out that shared parenting serves the interests of both good parents and the developmental lives of the children. This is but one reason why this Firm fights for the rights of parents to have the strongest and most actively participatory role in the post-divorce lives of their children as possible.