Last week, we began a discussion about a state-by-state ranking of child custody laws. When the National Parents Organization assigned letter grades to each state, it specifically measured each state’s child custody laws by how well they promote the outcome of shared custody.
Keeping both parents involved in their children’s lives and promoting “shared parenting” is the stated goal of the NPO. No state received an A grade, and two were bad enough to be given an F. Missouri and Illinois each received a C+ grade.
The wording of Illinois statutes seems to explicitly state that shared custody is the ideal outcome as well as the presumption. Unfortunately, the text also seems self-contradictory in parts.
In the “statement of purpose,” Illinois statutes assert that the goal is to “secure the maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents regarding the physical, mental, moral and emotional well-being of the children during and after the litigation.” The statutes also say that the courts will presume shared custody to be in the best interests of the child “unless the court finds the occurrence of ongoing abuse.”
But the text then seems to contradict itself. It includes the sentence: “There shall be no presumption in favor of or against joint custody.”
While the language in the statutes can be confusing, the intent is less ambiguous. Courts in both Illinois and Missouri work to make custody decisions in the best interests of the child. In many cases, that includes shared legal and physical custody, but not always.
If you are currently going through a divorce and will soon be involved in a custody dispute, it is important to seek the help of an experienced family law attorney who will strongly advocate for protecting your parent-child relationship.