Tense courtroom showdowns are a staple in many movies and TV shows. But the real world is different. Most divorce cases settle out of court. Divorce trials are expensive, both emotionally and financially. Additionally, the parties have almost no control over a trial’s outcome. 

So, most marriage dissolution matters settle out of court. Therefore, a Chicago family law attorney must be a good negotiator, as well as an effective advocate. These negotiation skills require an appreciation of the evolution of Illinois family law as well as an open mind about some innovative timeshare agreements.

The Changing Face of Illinois Family Law

Until the early to mid-1900s, women in the United States had almost no legal or financial rights. As a result, when couples divorced, fathers usually got full custody of the children. Typically, mothers only had whatever visitation the fathers allowed them to have. Courts rarely intervened for women back in those days.

Things changed dramatically shortly after World War II. The tender years doctrine, which first appeared in Europe in the late 1800s, took root in Illinois. As the name implies, this line of thinking held that children of “tender years” should be with their mothers. During this time, courts almost always awarded custody to divorced mothers, frequently with no questions asked. 

Visitation patterns completely changed as well. Divorced fathers typically had whatever visitation mothers allowed them to have, unless the father could prove the mother was unfit. 

Joint custody laws appeared in the 1970s. Typically, mothers still obtained custody because the tender years doctrine was not completely dead. However, fathers had more rights, such as weekend visitation and the ability to provide input in terms of where the children went to school and what doctor they saw.

Today, Illinois, like most other states, has a co-parenting law. Terms like “parenting time” and “timesharing” have replaced joint custody terms like “custody” and “visitation.” The change is not just cosmetic. Illinois law now presumes that children benefit from meaningful, consistent, and frequent contact with both parents.

Possible Timesharing Arrangements

The traditional every-other-weekend division results in about a 70/30 parenting time split. Arguably, that division is not true to the spirit of the co-parenting law. In many cases, the weekend parent is little more than a part-time event planner.

Truly effective co-parenting might require a more equal physical custody division (where the children spend their time), in addition to a more equal division of legal custody (the right to make important decisions about the children). Some possible examples include:

  • Extended Weekend: Frequently in life, the cumulative effect of small changes makes a big difference. Beginning weekends on Thursday night and ending them on Monday morning is not exactly a radical change. But over the course of a year, this adjustment brings the parenting time split much closer to 50/50.
  • Block Scheduling: Every-other-weekend divisions are rather hard to follow. In block scheduling arrangements, the children usually spend two weeks with Parent A, two weeks with Parent B, and then the cycle repeats. Block scheduling is not just more predictable. It also equalizes the parenting time division.
  • Empty Nest: Generally, the children move back and forth between their parents’ homes. This arrangement moves the parents back and forth from the children’s home. The empty nest arrangement works very well in some cases, and in many other situations, it is a truly awful idea.

Whatever parenting time arrangement the divorce settlement contains, it must uphold the principles of the co-parenting law. Otherwise, a Cook County family law judge probably will not approve it.

Reach Out to an Assertive Attorney

Innovative new laws often require innovative new solutions. For a consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Chicago, contact the Law Offices of Martin A. Delaney III, Ltd. After-hours visits are available.