SPRINGFIELD (Heartland Newsfeed) — Family courts across Illinois may have to adapt to a new evidence-based form of shared parenting as part of divorce proceedings, should a proposed piece of legislation become law.
House Bill 4113, which was filed Oct. 12, 2017 by Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago), would amend the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to include recognition that the involvement of both parents for equal time is in the best interests of the child.
The bill’s intent, according to Ford and co-sponsors, is to reform family court laws to where divorce proceedings in court start on a level playing field, requiring factual, supported evidence as to why a parent – mother or father – should have less time with their child compared to the current system of claims without evidential proof.
The bill was discussed during a Restorative Justice Committee hearing Wednesday, Apr. 11 in Springfield with oral testimony provided by proponents and opponents of the bill.
Bill proponents included mothers and fathers who have fallen victim to the corruption of family court lawyers and judges, as well as doctors, nurses, social workers, psychiatric experts, alienated family relatives and family court lawyers which agree that equal time with both parents are in the interest of the child with evidence supporting that it works well for both parents. 3,135 people filed witness slips on the Illinois General Assembly (ILGA) website supporting the bill.
Kash Jackson, a retired 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, knows firsthand about the injustices that take place in the court system.
“The current system just doesn’t work,” Jackson stated. “While there is an agreement in court for me to see my children every other week, I haven’t been allowed to see them for over a month. When you appeal that fact to the courts and even law enforcement over a breach of a written agreement, they do absolutely nothing about – and that’s the real travesty of the justice system.”
Jackson expressed that he has a platform plank established on reforming the state’s judicial system, which includes family courts.
Advocacy groups such as Women of Illinois for Fathers Equality, Illinois Fathers for Equality, Parental Alienation Awareness USA and Illinois Families for Equality voiced their support for the bill.
Bill opponents included representatives of domestic violence organizations, as well as current and former family court judges and the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), citing that provided evidence doesn’t support why the current law should be changed. 2,317 people filed witness slips on the ILGA opposing the bill.
In addition to the ISBA, the Chicago Organization of Lawyers and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – Illinois Chapter and the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence were among those opposed to the bill.
Seven people expressed what while the current law needs reformed, they had some additional concerns to warrant a “No Position” witness slip.
The first half of the hearing, which began at 8:30 a.m., lasted roughly two hours before entering recess. The committee reconvened at 3 p.m.
An initial vote to approve as amended with the first committee amendment filed by Ford April 5 failed 5-7 over concerns on revised language.
Following discussion of the second committee amendment filed by Ford April 9, the committee voted to approve the bill as amended 7-5, set to enter the next phase on the House floor. The clarification of the language compared to the first bill amendment helped secure the approval for debate on the House floor, which a floor vote set to take place during the current House session.
HB 4113 has support from both Democrats and Republicans, including central and southern Illinois representatives Terri Bryant (R-Mt. Vernon), David Reis (R-Olney), Dave Severin (R-Marion), Norine Hammond (R-Macomb), John Cavaletto (R-Salem) and Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville).
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.