How Will the New “Equal Parenting Time” Bill Affect Your Family?

On January 29, 2019, Illinois House Bill 0185, or the “Equal Parenting Time” Bill was assigned to the Illinois Judiciary-Civil Committee as part of a process which may incorporate the new bill into the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

Currently, assignment of parenting time between each parent and minor child is governed under Section 602.7 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/602.7). Section 602.7 provides that a court, “shall allocate parenting time according to the child’s best interests.” Under the current law, the only presumption that a Judge is required to consider is the presumption that each parent is a fit parent.

Under the current statute, unless both parents present an agreed parenting plan in writing for the Court’s approval, the Court shall allocate parenting time based on the child’s best interests, and shall consider the following 17 factors, without limitation:

  1. The wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
  2. The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time;
  3. The amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24 months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2 years of age, since the child’s birth;
  4. Any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect to the child;
  5. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and with any other person who my significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  6. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  7. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  8. The child’s needs;
  9. The distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
  10. Whether the restriction of parenting time is appropriate;
  11. The physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child or other member of the child’s household;
  12. The willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
  13. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
  14. The occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household;
  15. Whether one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so, the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment the offender has successfully participated in; the parties are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this paragraph (15);
  16. The terms of parent’s military family-care plan that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed; and
  17. Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

The new House Bill 0185 proposes a change to Section 602.7 to state that, “There is a rebuttable presumption that it is in the child’s best interests to award equal time to each parent.” This language adds a rebuttable presumption that parenting time should start with a 50-50 schedule, and places an additional burden on either party to demonstrate why it is in the best interests of the children that a court award less than 50-50 parenting time with each parent.

In addition, not only does this rebuttable presumption take away some of a Judge’s discretion in evaluating the 17 factors outlined in Section 602.7 in deciding what parenting time would be in a child’s best interests, this presumption will also directly impact the amount of child support that one parent may pay another.

In 2016, Illinois introduced an “income shares statute” for calculating a child support obligation. As part of this income shares calculation, the  number of overnights a parent owing child support exercised with a minor child directly impacted the amount of the child support obligation. Under the income shares calculation, a child support obligation would be significantly reduced once the parent that owed a duty of child support exercised 146 or more overnights with the minor

By establishing a “rebuttable presumption” that it is in a child’s best interest to award equal parenting time to each parent, House Bill 0185 will not only affect each parent’s parenting time, but will also directly impact the amount of child support that is being paid and received.