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DuPage County family law attorney child custody

In Illinois, the term “child custody” was replaced by the “allocation of parental responsibilities” in 2016. Instead of one or both parents having “custody” of their children, the parents are expected to create an agreement that allocates the parental responsibilities and parenting time—formerly known as visitation. This agreement is called a parenting plan, and it involves careful consideration to create one that makes the children’s well-being a priority. 

What Is a Parenting Plan?

When getting a divorce, the parents of children must decide how the children will be taken care of after the separation. A parenting plan will be drafted that explains which parent has what responsibilities, and who the children will see, and when. A schedule will be created that both parents and the children will follow after the divorce. That schedule may include what days children spend with either parent, who picks up the children from school, and what activities each parent is involved in. 

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DuPage County family law attorney divorce mediation

If you are getting a divorce, you might want to consider employing divorce mediation to help both you and your spouse reach a fairer and less stressful dissolution of your marriage.

In addition, many other issues in family law could be resolved through mediation as well, including child custody. Here is some more information about mediation in case you are considering it for you and your family.

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DuPage County family law attorney parenting time

divorce does not just affect you and your spouse. It also has a significant impact on your children. What used to be one home now becomes two. They may have to change schools, make new friends, and will rarely spend time with both parents. Holidays, birthdays, and even soccer games are going to be different. Of course, children can and do adjust. How well they do so is often reliant upon how well their parents get along once the divorce process is complete. This is why all parents should work exceedingly hard at successfully co-parenting during and after their divorce.

#1. Stay Focused on What Is Really Important

It is easy to get caught up in the swirling emotions of divorce. Your anger, bitterness, or sadness may cause you to fight for things that might not otherwise matter. Alternatively, you may give up things that are important, just to get the process over with. Neither will serve you or your child well in divorce. You deserve time with your child, as does your spouse. The little things you are arguing over may not matter in a few years. So, rather than argue over the details, try to keep your focus centered on your child. Know when the fight is worth the effort, and when it is better to just let go.

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DuPage County family law attorney guardian ad litem

Many of the most important issues that must be resolved during the divorce process are related to the couple’s children, including parenting time, parental responsibilities, and child support. Often, divorcing parents place their children’s best interests as a high priority, and they may even be willing to work together to agree on a parenting plan without the court’s intervention. However, sometimes child-related issues in a divorce can be much more contentious, and the court may enlist the services of a guardian ad litem (GAL) to ensure that all decisions made are in the best interests of the children. If the court has assigned a guardian ad litem in your divorce, it is important for you to know what to expect.

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do in Illinois?

One of a guardian ad litem’s most important responsibilities is to thoroughly investigate the case to which they are assigned and the issues at hand to gain an understanding of what would be in the child’s best interests. As part of this investigation, the GAL will interview the child and both parents, and they may also interview relatives, teachers, and other parties who have a relevant perspective, as well as request additional information regarding the child’s education and medical care and the parents’ criminal history.

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DuPage County divorce attorney child custody

In most cases in which a child has two known, living parents, Illinois courts will determine that it is in the child’s best interest for both parents to share custody. In fact, in 2016, the state of Illinois changed the laws and language surrounding child custody so that the term “custody” is no longer officially used. Instead, these decisions are now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, out of recognition of the benefits of a cooperative arrangement. However, there are still situations in which a parent or another party acting on the child’s behalf can legally challenge the other parent’s rights to parenting time and parental responsibilities.

When Can a Parent Be Denied Parenting Time or Responsibilities?

First and foremost, an Illinois court will seek to establish a parenting agreement that serves the child’s best interests. It may be considered in the child’s best interests to restrict or deny one or both parents’ rights to parenting time and decision-making responsibilities if the parent:

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Wheaton family law attorney parental rights

Whether they are divorced from their children’s mother or were never married, biological fathers usually have rights to some involvement in their children’s lives and responsibilities to contribute to their well-being. However, there are many situations in which a non-biological dad may also want to seek fathers’ rights after the relationship with the child’s other parent has ended. For example, you could have been part of a same-sex or opposite-sex couple in which a child was conceived through artificial insemination. You could be an adopted father or stepfather, or you could have raised a child believing you were the biological father and later found out otherwise. From a legal standpoint, these situations are not as clear-cut, but a recent Illinois court ruling has established that non-biological parents can have parental rights under certain circumstances.

Illinois Appellate Court Ruling on Non-Biological Parental Rights

In 2018, an Illinois appellate court heard a case involving a same-sex couple who conceived a child through artificial insemination and later separated. During the divorce, the child’s biological parent sought full custody, while the non-biological parent sought to assert parental rights including shared custody and visitation. The trial court initially ruled in favor of the non-biological parent, and the appellate court upheld the decision on the basis that there was a parent-child relationship and that the couple had made the joint decision to conceive through artificial insemination.

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DuPage County divorce attorney child support

A divorce involves many issues that need resolving, especially when children are involved. When determining child support, the financial status of both parents is seriously considered. If the non-custodial parent is providing support, the child’s medical expenses may cause an additional financial burden. These additional expenses could cause the judge to lessen the amount of support given to the custodial parent. Whether you are the non-custodial or the custodial parent, it is important to consult with a skilled family law attorney if you have any questions or concerns regarding your child support payments.

Determining Support

Child support calculations can be incredibly complex. Within the state of Illinois, child support payments are usually paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to provide additional financial support for the child’s basic needs such as food and clothing. Payments can also be used to fund tuition, transportation, housing expenses, extracurricular activities, and medical care costs. These factors, as well as the net income of both parents, will be used to determine the amount of support the custodial parent will receive from the non-custodial parent. 

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Wheaton divorce attorney child custody

According to the Addiction Center, more than 90 percent of people who have an addiction started to use drugs or drink alcohol before they were 18 years old. Problems with drugs or alcohol may impact a person’s professional and personal life. Substance abuse is one of the most common reasons for divorce. Since substance abuse can affect many different aspects of a divorce proceeding, it is important to consult with a skilled family law attorney to ensure that parental rights and responsibilities are protected. In some cases, a spouse’s addiction may influence the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody). 

A Child’s Best Interest

Within the state of Illinois, the allocation of parental responsibilities is heavily based on a child’s best interest. Typically, both parents will split time with the child. However, if substance abuse plays a role in the child custody battle, the judge may determine that an arrangement of that nature would not be suitable for the child’s well-being. 

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DuPage County family law attorney parental rights

Although Illinois family law prefers a child to have two parents actively involved in his or her life, there are times when it is in the best interests of the child to terminate one of the parent’s parental rights. Once an individual’s parental rights have been terminated, he or she is no longer responsible for the child, meaning he or she does not have to pay monthly child support payments and cannot make decisions on the child’s behalf. Illinois has strict and specific rules regarding the termination of parental rights, so it is important to understand them if you are ever involved in a legal dispute regarding your or your former partner's rights regarding your child. 

The Illinois Adoption Act and Parental Rights

Typically, a parent is not allowed to give up his or her rights in order to avoid parental responsibilities or paying child support. In addition, one parent is not allowed to petition to revoke the other parent’s rights as part of a child custody dispute. Typically, parental rights will typically only be terminated if the child is being adopted by a step-parent or another party. Under the Illinois Adoption Act, parental rights can be only involuntarily terminated if:

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DuPage County child custody attorney

The coronavirus pandemic is not just impacting grocery stores and group gatherings. It may also be affecting parental responsibilities (child custody) among divorced parents. On March 16, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker declared a state-of-emergency decree in response to COVID-19. As a result of the declaration, all schools in Illinois are closed until further notice, leaving parents unsure of what they need to do to provide care for their children. Most divorce orders outline when children will stay with each parent if schools are not in session. However, those orders are based on pre-arranged off-days and holiday schedules, not unplanned notices based on a national health crisis. To ensure that your parental rights are protected while addressing your children's health and safety, you should consult with a family law attorney to determine how to proceed.

Top Priorities Amidst the Crisis

Although it is easy to panic at a time like this, parents will want to do their best to protect their children's best interests. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

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Lombard parenting time attorney Even when a separating couple has the best intentions to part ways and co-parent peacefully, the end of a relationship can create tense and stressful situations. Unlike spouses who are divorcing, a couple who is not married can separate without the need to legally dissolve their relationship. However, if a couple has a child together, the end of a relationship requires more planning and decision-making. This process can become contentious, especially if the parties disagree on parenting matters such as the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. If you are facing a child custody dispute, a family law attorney can help you explore your options and advise you of the steps you can take to achieve a favorable outcome.

Establishing Paternity

For a married couple, there is usually no need to establish parental rights. According to Illinois law, when a child is born to a married couple, the spouses are assumed to be the child's legal parents. However, if a child is born to an unmarried couple, the father may not automatically be considered the child's legal parent. In these cases, paternity may need to be established either through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form, through an Administrative Paternity Order, or through an Order of Paternity issued through the courts. After the father's parental rights have been established, the parents may determine how to address custody of the child.

How Child Custody Is Determined

The allocation of parenting responsibilities, formerly called child custody, is decided on an individual, case-by-case basis, which means there is no universal arrangement that is followed for divorcing or unmarried parents. When a non-married couple breaks up, they will typically use one of two methods to create a parenting plan:

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DuPage County child custody attorney psychological expert

Even when spouses have the best intentions to end their marriage peacefully, divorces have the potential to be filled with contention. Throughout the divorce process, a couple must make many life-altering decisions, including how assets are divided, the details of a parenting plan, and decisions regarding spousal support. In many cases, the decisions regarding children can be the most difficult. When determining the allocation of parenting responsibilities, it may be beneficial to seek the professional opinion of a psychological expert. If you are facing a custody case, your family law attorney can help you explore your options and provide you with advice on when to use a psychological expert. Below are three important factors to consider during your custody case:

Can Psychological Experts Impact the Outcome of a Custody Case?

When parenting plans are determined, the most important factor is the well-being of the child. For this reason, it is not uncommon for a parent (or both parents) to undergo a mental health evaluation per Illinois Supreme Court Rule 215. For example, a judge may order a mental health evaluation if there is any doubt regarding mental illness, addiction problems, or other psychological conditions that could impact the life of the child. During the exam, a psychological expert, who may be either a psychologist or a licensed clinical social worker, will determine:

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Lombard family law attorneyIf you are a parent who is in the midst of a divorce, you probably have many questions about the future. “Where will I live?” “Will I be able to make enough money?” “What will happen to my kids?” As you probably know, the laws regarding child custody have undergone substantial changes in the last few years. The changes were designed to reduce competitiveness and friction between divorcing or unmarried parents and to encourage cooperative parenting. But what if your former partner is uninterested in taking responsibility for your child? Or, what if it scares you to leave your children with him or her? Fortunately, it is still possible for you to seek an amended version of what used to be called “sole custody” of your child.

New Names for Legal Custody and Physical Custody

At the beginning of 2016, sweeping reforms to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) took effect. The updates largely eliminated the term “child custody” and replaced it with the more nebulous phrase “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Under the amended law, parental responsibilities are divided into two primary areas. “Significant decision-making authority” replaced the previous concept of legal custody, and “parenting time” replaced the old idea of physical custody. Sole and joint custody were two different types of legal custody arrangements as they were established to clarify which parent or parents had the responsibility to make important decisions about the child’s life.

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Lombard family law attorneysMost of us are familiar with at least the basic concept of child custody. In most instances, we realize that the phrase refers to making arrangements for raising a child or children following a divorce or breakup between the parents. While it is possible for non-parents to gain custody of a child, the vast majority of child custody disputes are between a child’s biological parents.

In 2016, sweeping reforms to the family law statutes in Illinois eliminated the official use of the phrase “child custody.” The amendments introduced new terminology that was intended to be less divisive and more cooperative. For many years, parents sought to “win” custody of their children, rather than working together to find the best possible parenting arrangement. Today, the legal concept of child custody in Illinois is known as the allocation of parental responsibilities.

Two Primary Components

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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