Father custody

Children of divorce in Illinois spend less time with their father than kids in nearly every other state.

A new study released by parental custody software service Custody X Change found dads in Illinois without a criminal past that live nearby only see their children 23.1 percent of the year. The only states where fathers spend less time with their kids are Mississippi (23 percent), Oklahoma (22.4 percent) and Tennessee (21.8 percent). Twenty states, including Florida and Wisconsin, tied for first place with 50 percent of time for fathers. Illinois ranked 47th. The report calculated that Florida's 50 percent parenting time is equal to about 183 days a year for dad, while California's 32.8 percent of time is about 120 days year and Tennessee's 21.8 percent of time is about 80 days a year.

Ben Coltrin, president of Custody X Change, said there’s a big difference between Illinois and a state like Missouri that has 50/50 custody laws, where children spend an equal number of overnights with each parent.

“If you compare that to a 50/50 state, it’s almost 100 days less per year,” he said.

The study is based on researched judicial standards and the responses of legal professionals about the schedules they most often see.

Illinois’ typical model is alternating weekends from 5 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Sunday, with a Wednesday evening time. Other rules dictate holidays and birthdays.

The rules changed after a law was passed in 2016 that gives judges greater latitude using a questionnaire to further parse parenting time.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, has been trying to change Illinois’ laws to put dads on equal footing with mothers, who typically get more time with kids regardless of the situation at home based on current lack of precedent or laws stating otherwise.

Illinois’ laws allow lawyers to dictate a child’s schedule, he said, not the judge with input from two parents.

“It keeps the process convoluted and forces the judge to work with lawyers instead of families,” he said. “It does not allow for a child to have a fair shot at life when they cannot have both parents involved in their upbringing.”

Ford’s bill has not been granted a committee hearing.

Progressive custody laws are not exclusively found in Democrat or Republican-controlled states, rather in swing states, or states whose legislatures have closer to equal party control in their state houses, that have a higher likelihood of having passed or considered laws with a co-parenting model.

“The majority of swing states are already awarding 50/50 custody to dads,” Coltrin said.

Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for INN. Lauterbach has managed and produced shows for news/talk radio stations in both Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

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