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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 attorneysSince 2016, child custody has been formally known as the allocation of parental responsibilities in the state of Illinois. If you and your child’s other parent are involved in a dispute over how such responsibilities should be divided, you may have had several discussions with your child about the situation. In fact, your child may even very strong feelings about where he or she wants to live and how much time should be spent with each parent.

When you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement on your own, the court will be required to step in a make custody decisions for you. In doing so, the court will hear from both you and your former partner, but what about your child? Does he or she get the chance to be heard? The answer, in most cases, is yes, but the court is by no means obligated to give the child what he or she wants.

A Combination of Variables

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Lombard family law attorneysPeople do not stay in one place as often as they once did. With the global economy entirely interconnected and the job market in a seemingly constant state of flux, family moves are more common. However, so are divorces. In Illinois, the laws regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities—formerly called child custody—provide requirements that must be met before children can be moved a significant distance from their current home.

A Child’s “Home State”

For the purposes of parenting plans, a child must have a “home state.” This is the state in which a court would have jurisdiction to decide cases involving the child. Illinois is a child’s home state when (1) that child has lived in Illinois for six months (or since birth, if the child is not six months old yet), and (2) the child has no other home state, and/or the child (or their parent) has significant connections to the state. If a parent intends to move to another state and take their child with them, the child’s home state will change.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Lombard family law attorneyIn most divorce proceedings, parents are encouraged to develop a workable parenting plan that outlines each party’s rights and responsibilities regarding their children. A parenting plan specifies how significant decisions regarding the child’s life will be made as well as a parenting time schedule. Your parenting time—sometimes referred to as physical custody of a child—is more than a right or a privilege; it is a responsibility. If you fail to safeguard your child or you leave them alone for too long during your scheduled parenting time, you will be deemed to have abandoned them, and you could lose your parental rights as a result.

Physical Abandonment

Child abandonment is defined in Illinois as any time that someone having physical custody or control of a child under age 13 “knowingly leaves that child” without supervision, or in the supervision of someone “irresponsible” (or underaged) for 24 hours or more. It implies a negligent or reckless disregard for that child’s safety, and it is a criminal offense in Illinois, carrying a sentence that can vary between probation and three years in prison, plus a $25,000 fine. If the abandonment leads to the child being injured or otherwise harmed, the parent may lose parental rights.

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Posted on in Paternity

Lombard family law attorneyFor many fathers, it can be extremely difficult to maintain an active role in the lives of their children. This is especially true for a father who has gone through a divorce or breakup with his child’s mother. In many cases, it feels like the proverbial deck is stacked against a man when it comes to child custody decisions—now known as the allocation of parental responsibilities under Illinois law. Unfortunately, many such issues are based on the persistent public perception that men are less qualified to serve as primary—or even equal—caregivers for their children.

Anecdotal Examples

Recently, a discussion on the social media site Reddit addressed the various ways that men have experienced sexism in their lives. Many responses dealt with female-dominated work environments, physical abuse at the hands of female partners, and distrust from authorities when a man has been the victim of domestic violence. However, there was a substantial number of responses that described the experiences of men when they are seen in public with children—including their own.

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Lombard family law attorneysWhen you share parenting responsibilities for your child with your former partner, things are not always going to be easy. You will almost certainly experience disagreements with the other parent over a variety of concerns including the child’s activities, your relationship with the child, and your ability to properly exercise your parenting time. Regardless of the difficulties, however, it is very important for you to continue following any orders entered by the court so that you do not put your parental rights in jeopardy.

Components of a Parenting Plan

Following a divorce or breakup of unmarried parents, arrangements must be made for the couple’s child or children. To facilitate the process, the law requires the parents to submit a proposed plan regarding each parent’s responsibilities for the child. Each parent may submit a separate proposal or they may develop one together. A parenting plan must contain a number of other elements, but the most important considerations include the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities and a parenting time schedule. Once a parenting plan has been approved by the court and entered as an order, both parents must abide by its terms.

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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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Lombard family law attorneysIn 2016, changes were made to divorce and parenting laws to better reflect the modern family and ensure the best interest of children were more accurately considered. But, even in light of these changes, there is still much work to be done to protect the rights of fathers. Though studies show they are an integral part in the development and upbringing of children, many fathers still struggle to receive fair consideration in front of a judge. To bring awareness to this problem, single dads recently rallied outside Lake County Courthouse.

One in Three Children Do Not Live With Their Father

According to statistics, approximately one in three American children do not reside with their fathers. Of course, in divorce or in other situations where a parental allocation of responsibilities is necessary, the goal is not necessarily to have the children reside with one parent or the other, but to ensure each parent receives a fair and reasonable amount of time with their child. Fathers, although given more consideration in courts, still often feel as if the scales are not appropriately balanced.

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guardian ad litem, Lombard family law attorneyWhile many divorcing parents are able to reach a reasonable agreement regarding parental responsibilities and parenting time, many others simply are not. In some cases, the parents are unable to put aside their personal differences and focus on the needs of the child. In others, each parent may have the absolute best intentions but are having difficulty compromising with one another. When proceedings for the allocation of parental responsibilities or other child-related concerns encounter such obstacles, the court may appoint a specially-trained lawyer to serve as guardian ad litem (GAL) for the duration of the case.

The GAL’s Role

A guardian ad litem acts essentially as an extension of the court. He or she is granted investigative powers to study the circumstances of the family and the child in question. The GAL may interview the child, each parent, siblings, and other relevant parties, as well as review court transcripts, financial documents, and any other evidence that may be helpful. Upon completing the investigation, the GAL prepares a recommendation for the court, based on what he or she believes would be the ideal situation for the child.

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first refusal, DuPage County family law attorneysIf you hope to share parental responsibilities for your child following a divorce or break-up, you and the other parent will need to develop an agreement for doing so. Known in Illinois as a parenting plan, this agreement is intended to allocate responsibilities to each of you, so that you both fully understand your rights and attendant obligations. The law provides a number of elements that must be covered in a parenting plan, but one, in particular, can be a major sticking point for many couples. You and your spouse will need to determine how the right of first refusal will apply to your unique situation.

Understanding First Refusal

The right of first refusal is a concept that stems from the understanding that, during your assigned parenting time, you may occasionally be required to find an alternative source of care for your child. Put simply, sometimes you need a babysitter. Whether you want a social night out with friends or you need to travel out of town for a week on business, the occasional need for a sitter is understandable.

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access to your child, Lombard family law attorneyWe all get angry from time to time and, often, we want to some sort of action against the person or entity who made us angry. This feeling is especially true for parents who have already managed to cope with the harsh realities of a divorce, separation, or break-up. If you are a recently-divorced parent, you are probably all too familiar with how it feels. You and your child’s other parent divorced for a reason—many of them, most likely—and there is a good chance that he or she will continue to behave in ways that make you very upset. At times, you will probably be tempted to keep him or her away from your child. While you are certainly entitled to your feelings, it is important to keep in mind that inappropriately restricting the other parent’s access to your child can create problems, not only for the other parent but for you as well.

Child Support and Parenting Time

Under Illinois law, child support considerations are made, in large part, without regard to how much parenting time each parent is allocated. From a subjective standpoint, of course, a parent who is more intimately involved with the child’s life may be granted a little more leeway in meeting his or obligations compared to a completely absent parent. Regardless, you do not have the right to dictate the other parent’s parenting time even if he or she is behind on child support. You have the right to petition the court for enforcement actions or to legally restrict parenting time, but if you deny the other parent access without the court’s approval, your own parental responsibilities and parenting time could be jeopardized.

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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.

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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.

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