Missouri now has a presumption of 50/50 parenting (but Illinois does not)

May 25, 2023

The tide is turning in family courts across the United States. Traditionally, sole custody arrangements favored mothers, often leaving fathers with limited time with their children. But a growing body of research shows that children benefit from equal time with both parents, prompting states to consider a 50/50 parenting time presumption.

Missouri Leads the Way

Just this month, Missouri passed a law establishing a 50/50 parenting time presumption, a major victory championed by advocates like my friend and colleague, Jeff Millar, who volunteers with Americans for Equal Shared Parenting (AEFSP).

Jeff’s personal experience with an outdated custody arrangement fueled his advocacy. Like many fathers, he felt relegated to the sidelines of his child’s life, a common outcome of a system that often perpetuated harmful stereotypes about gender roles and parenting.

The Old System: A Recipe for Conflict

For years, the traditional custody model not only reinforced outdated gender roles, but it also encouraged a toxic “win-lose” mentality in divorcing couples. Parents felt pressured to attack each other’s character, leading to bitter battles that harmed both children and families.

50/50 Presumption: A Step Towards Fairness

The 50/50 presumption shifts the focus from “who wins” to “what’s best for the child.” It acknowledges that fit parents are generally capable of sharing parenting time equally, fostering stronger parent-child relationships and reducing conflict.

Of course, there are exceptions. In cases of abuse, neglect, or other extreme circumstances, equal parenting time might not be appropriate. But the presumption shifts the starting point towards a more balanced approach.

What Does This Mean for Illinois?

While Illinois hasn’t yet adopted a 50/50 presumption, the movement is gaining traction nationwide. As a family lawyer in Illinois, I believe this shift reflects a growing understanding of the importance of both parents’ involvement in a child’s life.

 

Why a 50/50 Presumption Benefits Children

 

Research overwhelmingly supports the idea that children thrive with equal involvement from both parents. Here’s how the presumption benefits kids:

  1. Stronger Relationships with Both Parents: Equal time allows children to build meaningful bonds with each parent, fostering emotional and psychological well-being.
  2. Reduced Parental Conflict: Shared responsibility encourages cooperation and reduces the “win-lose” mentality often seen in custody battles.
  3. Access to Resources: Children benefit from the financial, emotional, and social support of both parents.
  4. Gender Equality in Parenting: It challenges outdated stereotypes that mothers are the default caregivers and encourages fathers to take an active role in their children’s lives.
  5. More Involved Fathers: Studies show that when fathers have equal parenting time, they tend to remain more engaged with their children long-term.

Exceptions to the Presumptions

It’s important to note that the 50/50 presumption isn’t absolute. In cases of abuse, neglect, or significant distance between parents, equal time might not be feasible or appropriate. The court will always prioritize the child’s safety and well-being.

Is Illinois Next?

While Illinois hasn’t adopted a 50/50 presumption yet, this movement is gaining momentum nationwide. Illinois courts already consider the child’s best interests as the primary factor, and many judges are open to 50/50 parenting plans when parents agree.

 

What to Expect in Illinois

 

Unlike Missouri, where courts now presume equal parenting time unless there’s a reason not to, Illinois courts focus on what’s in the best interests of the child. This means considering many factors, including each parent’s ability to provide care, the child’s relationship with each parent, and any history of abuse or neglect.

Sometimes, this results in one parent having more parenting time than the other, even if both parents are loving and capable. It’s important to understand that this decision isn’t about “winning” or “losing” but about creating an arrangement that best supports your child’s well-being.

Co-Parenting for Your Child’s Sake

No matter the outcome, the key is to work together to create a co-parenting plan that minimizes conflict and maximizes your child’s happiness and stability. Open communication, flexibility, and a willingness to compromise are essential for successful co-parenting.

Interested in Learning More About Missouri’s New Law?

My friend and colleague Jeff Millar, a family lawyer in Missouri, was instrumental in passing Missouri’s 50/50 parenting time presumption. You can learn more about his work and the new law on his website, the5050guy.com or millarlawfirm.net.

Need Help with Your Parenting Plan in Illinois?

 

I have written many 50/50 plans in Illinois, and any other variation of parenting times you can think of. If you can agree with your child’s other parent, I would be happy to apply my nearly 20 years of experience and craft your parenting plan for your Illinois divorce. Reach out to my office through my website or call me. I would love to turn your parenting ideas into your parenting plan.