Many Illinois couples who are ending their marriage and who have young children are moving forward with a model of parenting that has been shown to be supportive of children’s health and social development. Shared parenting, which emphasizes the importance of a deep and equal connection with both parents, is an important goal when parents are going through a divorce or separation.

Traditionally, family courts have favored the mother in child custody issues in divorce proceedings. However, more and more, when a father expresses an interest in or files for custody, shared parenting is increasingly the first choice for courts, and this is lauded by child development experts.

A number of states have passed or are currently considering legislation that would mandate a default preference for shared custody, so long as there is no domestic violence. In many countries around the world, shared parenting is the standard preferred default arrangement after a divorce.

In these types of arrangements, children spend approximately equal time with both parents, who share input and decision-making about the child. This framework has been shown in a number of studies to support improved mental and physical health outcomes for children.

Parents who are headed for a divorce might want to meet with their respective family law attorneys to discuss this type of an arrangement. If the parents are able to work together, they and their attorneys could negotiate a shared parenting plan that contains provisions on how to deal with future conflicts if and when they arise. These could include vacations, transportation to extracurricular events, and similar matters.