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Lombard family law attorneyToday, families in the United States come in all varieties. More single parents and unmarried parents are raising children than in the past. Same-sex couples are also raising more children than they did twenty years ago. Families are often blended, with children from several relationships living together under one roof. Grandparents are also increasingly taking the place of biological parents in children’s lives. 

Voluntary Relinquishment

There are several ways that grandparents can get custody of their grandchildren. The first way is through petitioning the court for custody of the grandchildren. Both parents of the child must voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to the child unless there is another issue like abuse. Parents may give up the rights to their children for many deeply personal reasons. Sometimes addiction issues or mental health concerns make a parent unable to raise their child. Other times, very young parents relinquish their parental rights so that a grandparent or grandparents can adopt the child.


Lombard family law attorneyThe term “parental alienation” refers to the process through which a person psychologically manipulates a child into having ill feelings toward their parent. This most often occurs when parents divorce or separate. Parental alienation is a form of psychological abuse and it can be devastating to both the child and his or her parents. There is even evidence to suggest that a child who has been manipulated in this way will have a higher chance of mental and physical illness. Parental alienation is inexcusable.

Why and How Does Parental Alienation Occur?

Parental alienation most often happens to children whose parents are separating or divorcing. Of course, it can also be an issue for children of parents who were never married to one another. When the parents are in conflict, they can start to bring their child or children into the conflict. A parent who is jealous or angry toward the other parent begins to encourage their child to take “their side.”


Lombard family law attorneyIn Illinois, parenting time is established by your divorce decree or a stand-alone custody order and is not to be interfered with out of any misplaced belief that you are entitled to do so. What people do not understand, however, is that in many situations, attempting to interfere or interfering with your former spouse’s designated parenting time may actually render you liable for civil damages, and it may adversely affect your existing parenting situation. You must understand what constitutes interference and what does not.

Civil vs. Criminal Action

While interference with visitation is not uncommon, it rarely becomes a persistent problem because there are multiple remedies of both civil and criminal varieties that can be employed against the offending spouse. The Illinois Criminal Code classifies interference with parenting time as a petty offense, but if it occurs more than twice in the same circumstances, it is a class A misdemeanor. This may not sound like much of a punishment, but even a misdemeanor incurs fines, court appearances, other inconveniences that may cause a person to think twice about acting in such a fashion again. It may be difficult to convince prosecutors to file charges for such an offense, but the option exists in the law.


Lombard family law attorneyIn the overwhelming majority of cases, when your or your spouse’s parental rights are terminated, there is no getting them back. Normally, if parental rights are involuntarily taken away, it means that evidence of abuse or neglect has been discovered, after which it is considered too dangerous to allow the child to remain in your home. However, if there are other reasons for termination, such as a parent’s abrupt deportation, it may be possible to have the determination reversed, dependent on several different factors.

Illinois Law

Illinois is one of only a handful of states to even countenance the possibility of reinstatement of parental rights after their termination. The law holds that if filed by the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) or by the minor child themselves, parental rights may be reinstated if certain conditions are met, namely that the motion is supported by “clear and convincing evidence.” This is not subjective; it is a specific burden of proof that a court will insist upon before granting the motion.


DuPage County family law attorneysFamily courts in Illinois prefer to see both parents cooperating to raise their child following a divorce, separation or breakup. Regardless of the issues between the adults, the child’s needs should always come first. In most cases, however, shared parenting responsibilities do not usually translate into equal parenting time. One parent is typically designated to have primary residential responsibilities, providing a primary physical address for the child to be used for school enrollment and other considerations. If your child lives with your ex more than half of the time, you may be wondering about your rights if your ex decides he or she wants to move out of Illinois.

New Laws Regarding Child Removal

For many years, if a parent subject to a child custody agreement wanted to move out of Illinois, he or she was required to get the permission of the court. Moving a child out of state was referred to as the removal of the child. Last year’s sweeping changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, however, eliminated the term “removal”—and “child custody,” incidentally—and created the new legal concept of relocation.


Lombard family law attorneysAt the beginning of 2016, sweeping amendments to Illinois state law changed the terminology and application of child-related matters during divorce. Child custody became known as the allocation of parental responsibilities and visitation was renamed as parenting time. These changes are meant to reduce contention, preserve family bonds, and keep children at the center of divorce proceedings. Understand how this may affect your case, and how you can effectively navigate the process.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities in Illinois

Under the new provisions, decision-making regarding where a child will go to school, what church they will attend, where the child will reside, if and when they should have certain medical or surgical procedures, and other important decisions are known as the allocation of parental responsibilities. It may be split equally among parents, or the most authority may go to the parent that has the greatest amount of parenting time. Alternatively, there are situations in which the parent with the least amount of parenting time will have the most decision-making power. Essentially, the circumstances are as varied as each individual family.


Lombard family law attorneysCreating a parenting plan following a divorce can be a challenge, especially when you and your spouse cannot see eye-to-eye on the arrangements. The role of a professional, certified mediator can be extremely helpful as you piece together the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation), but what happens when the parenting plan you work so hard to negotiate falls apart down the road or causes continual conflict?

When assessing your current parenting plan and whether or not it would benefit from certain modifications, consider the following:

  • Are your children content with existing visitation patterns? If your child is demonstrating any resistance or is showing any signs of emotional distress while sharing time with either parent, it is wise to reassess and consider whether or not the current parenting time schedule is conducive to your family’s needs and general well-being; and
  • Has tension between you and your spouse escalated recently? If you are experiencing more conflict than usual between you and your spouse or within the family circle, it might be time to re-evaluate your dynamic and current parenting plan arrangements. While some conflict can be brought on due to external family changes, such as school or job performance, or a new significant other stepping onto the scene, some conflict cannot be resolved by time or circumstantial change. It might be time to seek professional assistance to ensure your parenting plan is as efficient--and healthy--as it can be for your entire family.

How the State Can Help


DuPage County family law attorneyDuring a proceeding for child custody—now known in Illinois as the allocation of parental responsibilities—your child may have strong opinions as to where they would like to live or how much time they want to spend with each parent. The amount that a child’s opinion affects custody decisions can vary from case to case and often depends on the judge’s discretion. There are several factors that a judge will take into consideration with regard to determining parenting arrangements, and the child’s wishes are often among of these factors.

The Child’s Reasoning and Decision-Making Abilities

Judges generally have some basic criteria they look for when deciding how much weight to give a child’s wishes during a custody proceeding.  These criteria can include but are not limited to:


parenting plan, cooperation, Lombard family law attorneyFor the last several months, posts on this blog have discussed at length a number of changes being effected in the state of Illinois, particularly as they relate to divorce and family law concerns. Most of the updates are intended to facilitate and encourage a more amicable divorce process, which is beneficial not only to the spouses themselves, but to any others who may be affected, most especially children. A divorce or separation in which contentiousness and acrimony can be minimized often allows for a much more stable future, free from most divorce-related grudges and hurt feelings. While encouraging reasonable negotiation between divorcing couples of all types, the new law expects active cooperation from parents, in particular, requiring them to be more a part of the decision-making process than ever before.

New Year, New Outlook

Prior to the new laws taking effect at the beginning of 2016, parents going through a divorce were often left to fight over who would provide what for their children. Too often, the battle over sole or joint custody could turn ugly, leaving the child caught directly in the middle. Going forward, however, the law explicitly requires the parties to a proceeding for the allocation of parental responsibilities—the new name for child custody in Illinois—to submit to the court a proposed parenting plan within 120 days. Such a plan, which may be developed separately by each parent or negotiated jointly, must include a number of elements necessary to ensure the child’s best interests are being met.


Posted on in Child Custody

parenting time, Illinois law, Arlington Heights family law attorneyFor a number of months, posts on this blog have talked about some of various aspects of Illinois family law that were set to change going into 2016. Some of the bigger changes revolve around the state’s approach to divorce and child custody, with the law being updated to address the evolving needs of today’s families. One seemingly smaller amendment, however, addresses parental visitation and presents parents with a new way of thinking about the idea.

Parental Responsibilities

The changes to the law regarding visitation are part of the larger shift in the philosophy regarding child custody. Divorcing, separating, or unmarried parents will no longer be competing for arrangements like sole or joint custody, or for titles such as custodial parent. Instead, parents are expected to cooperate in developing a plan for sharing parental responsibilities. These include both significant decision-making responsibilities, such as education, medical care, and religious training, as well as everyday life responsibilities, known as caretaking functions.


parental responsibilities, child custody, Illinois family law attorneysWhile it does not occur in every case, it is certainly common enough. Following a divorce, separation, or breakup, many parents engage in a bitter battle over who will get custody of their children, and who will be relegated to visitation, often with reluctance on the part of the primary custodian. For many years, the laws in Illinois have provided the possibility of sole or joint custody, which parents too commonly saw as a content to be "won" or "lost." Starting next year, that will no longer be the case as the concept of child custody in the state of Illinois is getting a complete makeover.

Family Law Reform

The changes to child custody come as part of a sweeping measure that is drastically updating the state’s approach to divorce and family law in general. The law was passed earlier this year and was signed by the governor in July, paving the way for the updates to take effect on January 1, 2016.


social media, divorce, Illinois Family Law AttorneysNever before in human history have people been as connected as they are in the Digital Age. While sociologists will argue for decades over the perceived depth or superficiality of relationships facilitated by social media, there is little question that society has changed as a result. In most situations, liking or sharing photos and posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter may be relatively harmless, but it is absolutely critical to understand the power of social media in the midst of legal disputes and divorce, in particular.

Before You Click Send…

…remember that you cannot take back what you are about to post. Anything you share to a social media site, or really, even most internet-based applications, have the potential to remain permanent. Yes, you may be able to delete a post or a picture, and certain apps like Snapchat purport to only keep your information for a few seconds at time. However, all it takes is for a single person to capture a screenshot of your post and your control over its permanence is totally lost.


guardian ad litem, Illinois law, Arlington Heights family law attorneyIf the court presiding over your child custody or visitation dispute has appointed a guardian ad litem to your case, it is important to recognize the significance of such an appointment. It is also helpful to understand the guardian ad litem’s role so that you can be prepared to work closely with him or her in the fulfillment of the assigned duties. When utilized properly, a guardian ad litem can be a valuable resource in finding a workable, healthy resolution to any child-related legal matter.

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

Under Illinois law, only a qualified attorney can be appointed as a guardian ad litem (GAL) in family law cases. The attorney must also be properly trained and certified to serve in such a capacity, as required by the county or jurisdiction. Once appointed, the GAL works as an extension of the court and not as legal counsel for any party to the case. He or she is expected to determine a recommended outcome that will serve the best interests of the child and then to present that information to the court as, essentially, an expert witness.


Posted on in Child Custody

relocation, child removal, Kane County Family Law AttorneyA parent with primary physical custody of his or her child in Illinois will soon be subject to more stringent limitations regarding a move to a new residence. The changes are part of a larger family law overhaul passed by the state legislature earlier this year, and signed in July by Governor Bruce Rauner. Scheduled to take effect in 2016, the new amendment looks to address a loophole of sorts that has existed for years in Illinois law that, as of now, gives a custodial parent the freedom to move anywhere in the state without prior approval.

Two-Parent Involvement

Most of the provisions regarding family law in Illinois emphasize the best interests of a child and the positive impact of a healthy relationship with both parents. In almost every situation regarding custody and visitation, a court is required to consider how its decision will affect the parent-child interaction for both the custodial and non-custodial parent.  The current law does address a parent who wishes to move with the child, but only if the move is to a location outside of the state. On in-state moves, the law is silent. This potentially means that a parent could move from northern Chicago nearly 300 miles to East St. Louis, and according the provisions in the law, be entirely within his or her right to do so. The only exception would be if the custody order in force specifically prohibited the move.


homework, coparenting, Lombard family law attorneysAs the new academic year gets underway, recently divorced or separated parents may be dealing with certain issues for the first time. You may feel embarrassed going to meet with your child’s teachers, letting them know that this year might be a little rocky as you all adjust to a new post-divorce dynamic. Depending on your relationship and the circumstances of your split, your ex-spouse may be fully invested in helping your child minimize distractions and to make the most of the new school year. A cooperative approach is always preferable to contentiousness and, together, there are some steps the two of you can take to make your coparenting situation work.


Above all else, the relevant people involved with your child’s education must be able to communicate with one another. Of course, you should be able to maintain an open dialogue with the other parent, but it is also important to communicate with teachers and administrators. More than just telling teachers that your child might have a rough time, take the time to talk with your child’s teacher. Be willing to accept feedback and professional opinions. Chances are, the teacher has dealt with shared custody situations before and may be equipped to quickly identify areas of concern. Additionally, if you, the other parent, and educators are all on the same page, your child will be less likely to "forget" about an assignment or to succeed at hiding poor performance.


communication, custody, visitation, Illinois family law attorneyIf you are subject to child custody or visitation order, you have undoubtedly faced challenges related to dealing with the other parent. They may have been minor issues, if you are lucky, or they may be larger problems, including a complete lack of consistency on the part of the non-custodial parent. You may feel obligated to continue to push the other parent to comply with the arrangements you have in place, but it is important for you to realize where your responsibility to do so ends.

Moral Obligations

Like any responsible parent, you want what is best for your child. Studies continue to show that active participation of both parents in a child’s life can lead to a more positive outcome for the child, regardless of the parents’ marital status. It is totally understandable that you would want your child to have every possible opportunity to grow up healthy and well-adjusted, even if it means continuing to encourage the other parent to uphold their responsibilities. If he or she continues to act with inconsistency, you may wish to consult a pediatric health professional to help you understand where you should draw the line with the other parent.


parental alienation, child custody, Illinois family law attorneyWhen you have separated from or divorced your child’s other parent, you know how difficult cooperation with him or her can be. As most parents in similar situations have discovered, the challenge often lies in keeping the negative feelings you may have toward your ex-partner, valid as they may be, from interfering with your child’s relationship with the other parent. This type of interference is known as parental alienation, and can present serious problems for divorced or unmarried parents, as it may affect a parent’s rights to custody of the child.

Understanding Parental Alienation

Children fare best when they have the love and support of both parents, regardless of the relationship between adults. Sometimes, however, the relationship between the parents is allowed by one or both adults to directly affect the child’s view of and relationship with the other parent. Parental alienation is estimated to be a factor in up to 15 percent of divorces involving children. While not always intentional or necessarily severe, the impact can be serious, not only on the parent-child relationship, but on the child’s own mental health.


informal, custody, Illinois family law attorneyDivorced or unmarried parents often face a great deal of difficulty in determining arrangements for their children. They may be unable to communicate effectively with each other, making it necessary for the court to issue orders related to child custody, visitation, and support. Others, however, are able to get along just fine and cooperatively establish an agreement that meets their needs while providing for the best interest of their child. While such cooperation is certainly preferable to a contentious situation, parents should be cautious of informal agreements related to issues involving their children.

Following a divorce or breakup, some couples may find it very easy to create an informal arrangement for custody of their child. In some cases, the agreement is entirely verbal, with no written record whatsoever. For parents in an amicable situation, involving the court may seem unnecessary, as the child’s needs are being met while maintaining a positive relationship with each parent.

Potential Problems


out of state, child removal, Illinois child custody attorneyYou can not be expected to live in Illinois forever. Maybe you will, but it is also possible that an opportunity in another state will arise that you just cannot refuse. Under most circumstances, packing up and moving for such an opportunity is easy. When you have a child subject to a custody agreement, however, it can become much more difficult.

Your child needs to spend time and maintain a relationship with both of his or her parents. The court recognizes these needs and creates child custody agreements around them, allowing both parents time with their child. This is codified in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act as it pertains to child custody. If you wish to move out of state with your child, you may face opposition from the other parent. An experienced family attorney can work with you to demonstrate to the court that a move in your child&s best interest.

Opposition to an Interstate Move


visitation, child custody, Illinois Family LawyerThere is no question that it is very difficult for a single parent to raise a child. If you have been granted sole custody of your child, you understand exactly how hard it can be. You also probably realize the challenge of working with your child’s other parent over his or her rights to visitation. Despite the difficulties, however, it is in the best interest of most children to have an active, healthy relationship with both parents, regardless of the custody situation.

Visitation Rights in Illinois

Illinois law states that any non-custodial parent is entitled to the right of reasonable visitation with his or her child, without regard to the relationship between the parents. There is no set standard for what the law considers reasonable visitation, so each situation must be addressed on an individual basis, in light of the child’s best interest. A parent’s visitation rights may be limited and, in rare cases, terminated, but only if evidence exists that the child’s physical, mental, emotional, or moral well-being is seriously endangered.

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