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Child Custody

  • Allocating Parental Responsibilities in Illinois

    Are You Asking the Right Questions?

    ????No longer a “custody battle,” but an “allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time battle” ……. a what?! Whoever said “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was the longest, most difficult word has probably not recently found themselves in the midst of a heated divorce in which minor children are involved.

    The question under Illinois law is no longer “who gets custody of the children” but rather “how are all of the parental responsibilities going to be allocated? In fact, Illinois lawmakers added two provisions to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act titled “Allocation of parental responsibilities: decision-making” and “Allocation of parental responsibilities: parenting time” in 2016 in attempt to remove the term “custody” and the negative connotation associated with it.

    Let’s break this down. The real questions are:

    ● Who will be the primary residential parent?

    ● How is the weekly parenting time going to being allocated?

    ● Every other weekend?

    ● Week on week off?

    ● Two days, three days, two days?

    ● Which parent will make the significant decisions for the children? Will it be the mother, the father, or both? Will mom make some of the decisions or will dad make all of them?

    ● Who decides what faith the children will follow?

    ● Who decides whether Sarah needs braces?

    ● Who decides which school the children will attend?

    ● Who decides whether John plays basketball or Claire plays the violin?

    ● Then lets get into the really ugly (and completely separate) debate. Who is going to pay child support? How will that child support be calculated? Who gets to claim the tax deduction? Who has to carry health insurance? Who is paying for those braces and violin lessons? How will the children’s college education be funded?

    Two people who once shared everything, including the responsibility of raising their children are now trying to create separate lives, independent of each other.

    But you can’t just split your kids in two and go your separate ways. And at a time, when emotions are flaring from all sides, the really intricate questions and minute details (like who will pick John up from basketball practice) seem the easiest things to bicker about. But this isn’t good for anyone involved in the process.

    Don’t let yourself get caught up in the bickering; find an attorney that knows the law, stays abreast of the changes, will explain the process and help you reach a better solution, a completed Allocation Judgment which will encompass all of the necessary information so that both you and your co-parent can continue raising your children.

    by Brandy Wisher

  • Biological father’s rights in Illinois

    Father reading to his sonsAccording to the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, the state recognizes “the right of every child to the physical, mental, emotional and monetary support of his or her parents.” The law provides that “the parent and child relationship, including support obligations, extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents.”

    If a child is born out of wedlock, it can be a challenge for men to prove their parentage without the help of Illinois family law attorneys. While state law gives unwed parents the same rights as divorced parents, the court must first establish the paternity of a child before awarding those rights.

    The right to claim paternity

    In Illinois, there are several ways for fathers to establish their paternity, including the following:

    • A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form signed by both parents
    • An Administrative Paternity Order from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services
    • An Order of Paternity issued by a judge
    • Marriage after the birth of the child

    The VAP form tends to be the simplest way to establish paternity. It is provided to unwed parents in the hospital immediately following the birth of a child, but Illinois family law attorneys can also provide forms for parents later on.

    The right to maintain a relationship with children

    For many, the most important biological fathers’ rights include spending time with children. Once paternity is established, state law allows fathers to be awarded visitation and regular contact, whether in person or over the phone, as outlined by an agreement and schedule created by both parents or by the court.

    The right to stop third-party adoption

    If an unwed mother wants to give her baby up for adoption, the biological father can prevent her from doing so. A punitive father registry is offered by the state to notify biological fathers of any pending adoption proceedings.

    The right to share custody and make collaborative decisions

    Most states, including Illinois, recognize that it is important for the well-being of children to have both parents involved in their lives. By establishing paternity, fathers can claim the right to joint legal custody, allowing them to work with the mother of their children to make decisions regarding education, medical care, religion and more.

    The importance of legal aid

    Establishing paternity can require extensive paperwork, and without assistance from Illinois family law attorneys, fathers may find that the process can be frustrating and tricky. Paternity laws can be complex, but an attorney may help many fathers fully establish their rights and responsibilities.

  • Do Illinois children have a say in child custody decisions?

    Divorce and  Separation concept

    Determining child custody during Illinois divorce proceedings can be difficult, especially if the parents are unable to make an amicable decision together. The courts a required to make judgments regarding living arrangements for children, unless their parents can propose a custody agreement that is favored by both parties, which can sometimes lead to conflict within the family.

    Children who are older, or those who have strong opinions on where they would like to live, may want to have a say in custody decisions, but Illinois law does not provide a magic age where a child can decide which parent they would like to live with. Instead, children can express their wishes to a judge, who may then take the wishes into consideration.

    How child custody is determined

    In Illinois, family courts make child custody decisions by looking at several different factors. Taking into account the best interest of a child, judges must determine which parent and which living arrangement will most benefit the child. In order to make a determination, the courts consider the following:

    • The wishes of the parents
    • The wishes of the child, dependent on maturity
    • Relationships with parents and siblings
    • Mental and physical health of all involved
    • The child’s involvement in school and the community

    Along with several other factors, judges must weigh each factor in every individual custody case to decide which living arrangement fits with the best interest of the child.

    Considering a child’s wishes

    While there is no guarantee that a child’s wishes regarding living with one parent over the other will be granted by the courts, a judge may interview a child who shows maturity and understanding of the situation. A child’s wishes may also be articulated to a judge through an attorney; an outside expert, such as a child psychologist; or a guardian ad litem. When deciding a case in which a child has a strong preference, judges typically look at a few criteria, including the following:

    • The reasons the child provides for wanting to live with a particular parent
    • The stability of the preferred parent
    • The social, emotional, and intellectual development of the child
    • If the living arrangement is against the wishes of either parent
    • If there is a long-term benefit for the child
    • If the arrangement will separate a child from others in the family

    In many cases a child’s wishes may sway the courts to rule in his or her favor, however a judge cannot make a custody award that overrules the child’s best interest.

  • Tips on preparing for a child custody evaluation

    Ilustração - Casal divorciado com filha de mão dada à mãe

    When the custody of a child is contested during a divorce, the court may appoint an evaluator to analyze the parents and their living situations in order to determine which parent should be granted primary custody. The evaluator is an expert, typically a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker, and the assessment is conducted and analyzed objectively. A parent who is facing the evaluation process should take certain steps to be prepared and make a good impression on the evaluator so that the correct recommendation can be made to the court.

    Making a good first impression

    Part of making a good impression is the parent’s attitude toward the process. Expressing negativity or anger about the evaluation or the custody dispute can create an adverse impression, while full cooperation and a positive attitude reflect well on the parent.

    Another aspect of the first impression is arriving on time to all appointments with the evaluator and dressing conservatively. Before a home visit, the home should be cleaned thoroughly and the children provided with appropriate entertainment to keep them occupied during the appointment. Children should be prepared for the visit so that the evaluator is not perceived as a threat.

    Approaching the evaluation with honesty

    Many parents find the evaluation process unnerving and even emotional. The custody evaluator does not expect parents to avoid emotion or to attempt to conceal anxiety about the interviews and home visit. The evaluator does expect honesty, and this is a key factor in the evaluation process. During the interview, a parent should consider and answer all questions as honestly as possible and ask for clarification whenever necessary to provide complete answers.

    In addition to the things a parent should say and do, there are others that should be avoided at all costs, including the following:

    • Lying or exaggerating
    • Giving details about the divorce
    • Complaining about the other parent

    Evaluators are adept at identifying dishonesty and will include any instances in the information provided to the court.

    Preparing supporting documentation and information

    During a child custody evaluation, the evaluator often asks for additional information during the interview, such as school and health records. Having these organized and on hand is helpful. Personal references are also typically requested. A parent should speak to potential references ahead of time and gather contact information in order to have the documents available when they are requested.

    An attorney experienced in the legal issues involving divorce and custody can give guidance and help a parent to be prepared during an evaluation.

     

  • Building a successful co-parenting relationship

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    Following divorce, ex-spouses can provide their children with a greater level of stability while also allowing them to build beneficial relationship with both of their parents by sharing custody. To form an advantageous co-parenting relationship, parents must strive to put aside their personal relationship issues and do what’s best for their children.  

    Guidelines to follow 

    Soon after their divorce is finalized, parents should sit down and make a plan that meets the needs of their individual children. This should include how visitation time, holidays and other special occasions will be handled. For example, a couple who has a child who is 11-years-old, has strong ties with her school and is heavily involved in extracurricular activities may alter their co-parenting plan to allow her to stay in the same school and continue to participate in the same activities she enjoys.

    Additionally, while developing their child custody plan, parents should agree upon behavioral guidelines and boundaries they will use for raising their children to promote consistency. For instance, parents should determine at what time their children need to be in bed every night, when meals will be eaten, how homework will be taken care of in the evenings and how discipline should be handled.

    Parents should also continue to communicate actively about each of their children’s development, recognize that their children may try to test the boundaries of their new situation after the divorce and commit to conducting themselves with emotional maturity when conflicts arise. 

    What to avoid 

    To ensure their co-parenting plan is successful after divorce and that they are able to maintain a healthy relationship for their children, parents should avoid the following practices:

    • Prohibiting their children from seeing their other parent during their assigned time or speaking negatively about their ex-spouse in their children’s presence
    • Forcing their children to side with one parent when a conflict or challenge arises regarding scheduling
    • Trying to become their children’s favorite by satisfying material desires during assigned visitation times
    • Using their children to find out information about their ex-spouse or manipulating them to act a certain way in the presence of their other parent
    • Depending on their children for emotional support to an extreme level due to feelings of hurt or loneliness 

    Although it may be ultimately beneficial for their children, parents may find that maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship can be extremely challenging following their divorce. Parents who are concerned about the effects of sharing custody with their ex-spouse may benefit from speaking with an attorney who can provide guidance and support during the creation of their parenting plan.

  • Traditional child custody vs. co-parenting

    1207978_s According to a recent article from Psychology Today, on co-parenting after divorce, young children are said to be the most highly affected when they are exposed to conflict between parents or experience a dramatic lessening in time spent with either parent. Traditional child custody arrangements consist of one parent who is the primary caregiver and decision-maker for the child or children. The non-custodial parent has arranged visitation times which vary from case to case. In some traditional arrangements where the parents live relatively close to each other, visitation may be as often as every weekend. In other arrangements, where parents live far apart, visitation may only include certain holidays and a few weeks during the summer. This type of custody arrangement, of necessity, separates children from parents for prolonged periods of time, which often results in anxiety, aggressive behavior and problems with sleep and school.  Co-parenting One way that is believed to be more effective in raising children after a divorce is through co-parenting. In this type of custody, parents agree to work together with respect to where their children will be, and for what length of time. Some of the benefits of co-parenting include the following:

    • Decision making – Both parents share responsibility in making important decisions relating to their children.
    • Records – Both parents retain access to medical and school records, along with any other records that may be related to the welfare of the child.
    • Convenience – Parents who have a working co-parenting arrangement often find making changes in scheduling far more convenient than in traditional custody arrangements.
    • Focus – This type of custody allows more of the parent’s focus to be on the child or children involved. According to Dr. Joan Kelley, a professor of psychology, parents are the most qualified experts on their own children, and as such are more capable of making co-parenting decisions to benefit them.

    Many children benefit when divorced parents are willing to work together by using co-parenting to schedule child custody. Such cooperation on the part of parents often helps raise children who are more confident and less anxious as they grow toward adulthood. Choosing Custody Style  Though there are many benefits to co-parenting, there may be times when a traditional custody arrangement may be in the best interests of a child. These types of situations may include relationships, in which there may have been spousal abuse, bitter, emotion-filled relationships after the divorce or in cases where one spouse lives many miles away. A family law attorney can help to determine which type of custody arrangement will be most beneficial for you and your child. 

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