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Lombard fathers rights attorneysMany studies have shown that children do best with both parents in their life. Of course, this is not true for situations involving abuse or domestic violence, but generally, removing one parent from a child’s life is damaging to the well-being of that child. Fortunately, many parents who get divorced or who never marry are able to work out a shared parenting arrangement which includes both parents as full participants in their children’s’ lives. Unfortunately, a new study shows that Illinois fathers are at the bottom of the list when it comes to how much time they spend with their children.

Study Analyzes Shared Parenting Schedules Across the Country

The study, which was piloted by a software company that makes apps for divorced and separated parents, involved a compilation of data regarding the most common parenting time arrangements in each of the fifty states. Through a survey of legal professionals and judicial standards across the country, the researchers were able to calculate the average amount of time parents spend with their children. The study only included cases in which both parents wanted custody of their children, and there were no extenuating circumstances, such as long-distance separation or criminal convictions.

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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 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 attorneyDomestic violence is one of the most common family issues in the United States today, unfortunately, and it has an especially pernicious effect on children. If a parent who has committed domestic violence is permitted to continue seeing his or her children, studies have shown that that child has a greater propensity to perpetuate violence in the future. The state of Illinois considers it a high priority to ensure that children are not exposed to such behavior, and as such, if your spouse has charges or convictions, you may be able to mount a serious challenge to their parental fitness.

Domestic Violence Defined

Illinois’ Domestic Violence Act (DVA) of 1986 defines domestic violence as abuse, both physical and otherwise, as well as “interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation.” It also makes a point of identifying a victim as any family or household member, rather than just a spouse. Thus, the law encompasses spouses, but also family members related by blood, people who are (or were) dating or living together, and co-parents of a child who are unmarried. So, for example, if the mother or father of your child abuses you, the DVA still applies in your case, whether you are married or not.

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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 attorneysWhile, for some, divorce can completely sever all marital ties, those that share children always share a connection – namely, their child. This is as it should be since, under most circumstances, children benefit greatly from having two loving parents in their lives. Unfortunately, the continued connection between divorced parents is not always a healthy one. Some may still experience contention and other problematic issues, such as parental alienation and visitation interference. The following can help parents cope with such situations, and it provides some valuable insight on your legal rights.

When Contentiousness Abounds

Generally, parents with excessive conflict are encouraged to develop a parenting plan that limits their contact. Of course, as life changes and children grow, the original parenting plan may be difficult to adhere to, even for the most well-intentioned parents. If contentiousness is still an issue when the parenting plan starts to collapse, frustration and stress may reach an all-time high. If left unchecked, this could lead to serious arguments, bitter exchanges, and a child that feels as though they are trapped in the middle. To avoid this all-too-common issue, parents may want to use mediation to renegotiate their parenting plan so they can develop one that works amidst all the changes.

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DuPage County family law attorneyIf you are a divorced or unmarried parent whose child spends time with your former partner, you undoubtedly have concerns that they are being well-cared for and protected. This is hard enough when there is no rational reason to suspect a problem. When your child’s other parent is battling issues with alcohol use, however, the stakes get very high, very quickly. While you may not be able to control the other parent’s behavior, parenting style, or lifestyle choices, there are ways that you can ensure that your child is protected.

Determine the Scope of the Problem

The first thing you will need to do is determine how serious the other parent’s problem is or could be. One good way of estimating this is by considering how you learned about the possible issue. Was alcohol a problem for him or her during your relationship? If so, was it simply a need to drink or was it a binge-drinking problem? If you have heard rumors from friends or have seen on social media that the other parent is out partying from time to time, you will need to look deeper. If, on the other hand, your child tells you that the other parent had too much to drink and passed out on the sofa while your child was still awake—and it happens regularly—you need to take action. Reports of drinking and driving with your child in the car must also be taken very seriously.

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Posted on in Visitation

Lombard family law attorneyAs a parent, there is nothing more important to you than the safety and well-being of your child. If you share parenting responsibilities or even just parenting time with your former partner, you can only hope that he or she shares your focus on your child’s best interests. But, what if he or she does not? What if he or she is not able to separate his or her own wants and needs from those of your child? Can you do anything about it? The answer—as with most aspects of divorce and family law—is that it depends on the specifics of your situation and whether your child is in serious danger.

Be Objective

Illinois law provides a court with the authority to limit a parent’s time with his or her child if such parenting time presents a serious danger to the child’s physical, emotional, mental, or moral health. What constitutes a serious danger is left to the interpretation of the court. You, as a parent, are very close to the situation, and you may find it difficult to determine what is a serious danger and what is simply parenting in a different manner than yours.

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Lombard family law attorneyMany divorced or separated parents often struggle with their new reality of limited time with their children. This is quite often the case for a parent who has been granted a relatively lesser amount of parenting time compared to the other. While you may understand logically that creating an equal parenting time schedule is not truly possible in most cases, knowing that does not make it any easier to be away from your children. There is a way, though, to include extra possible parenting time in your agreement with your ex. It is called the right of first refusal and, when utilized properly, this right can offer both parents and the child substantial benefits.

Understanding First Refusal

When you have precious little time with your child, you may be looking for any and all possible ways to see him or her more often. Changing permanent arrangement or schedule can be rather complicated, but including the right of first refusal is fairly simple. When the right of first refusal is part of your parenting agreement, it means that your child’s other parent is required to offer you the chance to care for the child when he or she would otherwise need to make other childcare arrangements. In short, this means additional parenting time opportunities for you. As the name implies, you have the right to refuse the opportunity, but if parenting time is at a premium, may be unlikely to turn down such a chance.

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Lombard family law attorneyOnce your divorce is finalized, you and your family embark on new journeys and a brand new way of life. When you and your ex-spouse share children, arrangements for visitation (parenting time) and the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) are made, resulting in new routines and a lifestyle that you and your children were not previously accustomed to before the divorce. While these new arrangements can take some getting used to, they often result in happier, healthier homes and habits for the whole family.

Non-Parent Involvement

During the divorce process, and often through mediation, you are expected create a parenting plan for how you will continue to raise your children and make decisions for your children based on their best interest. Outside influences must also be taken into consideration, such as grandparents, mentors, and close family friends.

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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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paternity, Lombard family law attorneysWhen you are not married to the mother of your child, it may be very difficult for you to exercise your rights as a father. In fact, if you have not established legal paternity, you may not even have any such rights under the law. Your relationship with your child is extremely important, but may be non-existent unless you take action, which begins with establishing paternity.

How Paternity May Be Established

Thanks to the newly enacted Illinois Parentage Act of 2015, you are presumed to be the father of a child if you are or were married to the child’s mother when the child was born or got married after the birth and you are listed as the father on the birth certificate. If the child was born within 300 days of your divorce, you would also be the presumed father. Assuming the presumption of your parentage is not rebutted, you would be considered your child’s legal father, with all of the accompanying rights and responsibilities.

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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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divorced illinois fathersThe bond between a mother and her child is undeniable. According to a recent article by Parenting magazine contributing editor and co-author of Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth Deepak Chopra, M.D., a close personal attachment with your child may prevent diseases, boost immunity and enhance the IQ quotient of your child’s developing mind. Dr. Chopra further believes that maternal bonding has evolved into such a complex physiological phenomenon that touches our hearts, brains, hormones, nervous systems or about every component of our physical being. The study included in Chopra’s book, made possible by a grant from Mead Johnson Nutrition, suggests that a strong maternal bond may prove even more powerful than DNA.

But where does all this research leave Illinois fathers trying to establish a paternal bond with their children post-divorce? Recently, the Illinois Fathers Network, founded in 2008 and recently established as a non-profit organization, is trying to answer this question for Illinois fathers and other non-custodial family members by proposing three revisions to current Illinois statutes.

HB5425 Synopsis

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shared custody, joint custody, sole custody, child custody, Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois family lawAccording to a new study, there is a growing trend of shared child custody, with fewer courts awarding sole custody of children to the mother.

The study was done by researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The team examined the data from Wisconsin family courts from 1988 until 2008. They looked at more than 10,000 divorce cases.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, very few custody arrangements involved shared custody. Instead, the mother was typically awarded sole physical custody with the father awarded visitation, or parenting time.

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