SPRINGFIELD (Heartland Newsfeed) — Illinois’ divorce laws will likely be up for debate this week where lawmakers are slated to hear about a bill supporters believe will scrap the prejudicial, unfair existing system of parenting time that has proven to be biased against one parent and rarely ever see their children.

Several states are either considering or enacting changes to divorce laws that would move away from one-parent guardianship to a fairer, equal parenting model with more flexibility. Kentucky is an example, whose legislature enacted a law to give both parents equal footing during divorce proceedings.

Supporters of equal parenting laws say the flexibility creates a better opportunity for both parents to be parent in a child’s life.

House Bill 4113, a bipartisan bill creating a co-parenting model in Illinois’ divorce proceedings, was originally filed by Rep. Lashawn Ford (D-Chicago), with the intent to change divorce law to recognize that “the involvement of each parent for equal time is presumptively in the children’s best interests.”

Ford states that the existing laws favor one parent over another and doesn’t have the child’s best interest at heart.

“What we have now is almost a default system that puts children with one parent on Wednesdays and every other weekend,” he said. “It’s a cookie-cutter law that’s not in the best interest of the family.”

Among supporters of Ford’s bill are Illinois Fathers for Equality (IFE) and Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Grayson “Kash” Jackson.

IFE’s website says “children who are raised in a 50/50 co-parenting environment are leaps and bounds better off in all aspects of life than those children raised in single-parent homes who only see their other parent minimally or not at all.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Kash Jackson runs along the parade route during the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Peoria Saturday, Mar. 17. (Ron Johnson/Peoria Journal-Star/File photo)

Jackson, a political activist and a retired 20-year member of the United States Navy, is personally impacted by this issue, as he is more often than not limited in his time with his children and is very often public with the complaints he has about the divorce laws which encourage unfair treatment towards him, as well as the governmental corruption of the courts and law enforcement which refuse to allow for co-parenting to take place, leaving him weeks at a time without seeing his children.

HB4113 has just as many opponents as supporters.

Vickie Smith, a representative of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says that the legislation would set the state back in terms of fair parenting laws and court flexibility.

“If parents cannot decide on their own what was in the best interest of the child then the courts would help them, but we think this bill throws that all back out,” she said, adding that the anti-violence community largely opposes this type of law because it takes away protections against a controlling or potentially abusive spouse.

The Illinois State Bar Association, representing lawyers who would work the cases, opposes the changes.

Ford said he thinks it’s inappropriate for trial lawyers to be interjecting in a matter where they would have a financial interest. The association could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Illinois had 29,000 divorces or annulments in 2013, according to the state Department of Public Health. Nationally, divorce rates have declined more than 25 percent since 1980. Fewer than a third of marriages result in divorce, according to a Bowling Green State University study.

Jake Leonard is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. He is general manager of Heartland Internet Media Networks and an active contributor to four newspapers for Pana News Group. He also serves as chairman of Tri-Counties Libertarian Party and Capital Area Libertarian Party, deputy candidate recruitment director for the Libertarian Party of Illinois and as chairman/co-founder of the Libertarian Party Millennial Caucus.

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