Illinois Child Custody and Parental Right Allocation Attorneys
Serving Chicagoland including Cook, Will, DuPage & Lake Counties
Who will get custody of our child / children?
For more than 50 years the State of Illinois has used the phrase “child custody” when defining parental rights and responsibilities for their children. Unfortunately, the Courts have seen both lawyers and litigants threaten “child custody fights” as a sword in their divorce cases, in attempts to gain advantage over the other parent, whether financial or emotional. Beginning January 1, 2016 the laws in the State of Illinois have removed all references to the terms “child custody” and “child visitation”. Effective January 1, 2016, Illinois has replaced the term “child custody” with “Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities”, which includes an allocation of parenting time. Now, instead of packaging a parent’s rights and responsibilities as an “all or none” concept, a parent is now able to request specific rights and responsibilities for a variety of child related decision making. For example, parents can now have equal decision making for all categories of child related decisions (such as health care, education, religion and/or extracurricular activity participation), or they can request decision making for just a few of those categories with the other parent having control over others. Additionally, the law now moves these “allocation of parental rights” cases faster through the system. The never-ending contested child custody cases are now extinct.
The court determines a parent’s allocation of rights and responsibilities (formally known as “child custody”) according to what are in the best interest of the child / children. Attorneys never turn down cases, or so the stereotype has it. But at The Walters Law Group, Ltd., we frequently decline to take contested parental allocation cases that appear to be malicious or which do not have the best interests of children at heart.
In making this decision, the court will consider some of the following factors:
- The wishes of the parents
- If a child is of a certain age (usually over the age of 13), a court may take that child’s wishes into consideration
- The mental fitness of each parent
- The physical fitness of each parent
- The emotional bond between the parent and the child
- The structure that each parent would provide
- The living arrangements that each parent would provide for the child
- The child’s relationship with each of the parents
- The child’s home, school and local community adjustment
- Any past and ongoing acts of violence by a parent against the other parent and child / children
If the parents cannot agree on custody and have to go to court, the process may become extremely expensive. The court may appoint a Child’s Representative or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the best interests of the child.
What is sole custody? What is joint custody? What is an Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities?
Effective January 1, 2016 the concepts of “Sole” and “Joint” custody are things of the past. They are now referred to as an “Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities”. For the 50 years prior to that, “Joint Custody” were rights that the Court could award parents in situations where the parents are able to cooperate and communicate effectively in all matters directly related to matters related to the well-being of the child or children. Joint custody meant that the parents shared equal responsibility in making major decisions regarding the children, such as education, health care, and religion. These joint parenting or joint custody agreements specified where the child / children would live, and what each parent’s rights and responsibilities were as to the child or children. The agreement would also include a means for resolving disputes over parenting issues.
Sole custody was a legal right awarded by the court when one parent was not suitable to be responsible for the decisions affecting the child or children, or when the parents were unable to cooperate effectively in order to engage in a joint custody arrangement or relationship. This designation gave one of the parents the exclusive authority to decide every major issues of a child’s life, without any input from the other parent. It was an “all or nothing” provision in our laws when making child rearing decisions.
The “all or nothing” concepts are now things of the past. The Court now has the authority to divide child decision making between the parents, allowing them to each have input into all or defined categories of decision making. For example, if one parent is a physician and the other is a teacher, the Court when allocating parental responsibilities can make the physician parent responsible for all medical decisions of the child, and the teacher parent responsible for all educational decisions which affect the child. Of course, the Court can also give each parent equal decision making for all of these categories of major decisions (which resembles “joint custody”).
Regardless of which parent is allocated the right to make a specific category of decisions for a child, that decision making has nothing to do with an allocation of parenting time between a child and a parent (formally known as “child visitation”). Effective January 1, 2016 Illinois law now presumes that liberal parenting time between a parent and child is in the child’s best interests. Although a 50/50 division of parenting time may not be in a child’s best interests nor may it be possible for a parent due to their work schedules and other factors, it is becoming more and more common as compared to the “alternating weekend and a mid-week for dinner” protocol that too many lawyers and Judges have grown accustomed to recommending. Literally, “anything goes” when allocating parenting time between parents and children AS LONG AS the allocation is in the best interests of the children. For example, if a parent begins work early in the morning and does not return until late at night, a 50/50 allocation of parenting time will most likely not be awarded as that parent may not have an ability to feed a child breakfast, see the child off to school, to help the child with homework, to feed the child dinner or to put the child to bed. Conversely, if a parent DOES have the ability to ensure these types of parenting plans, the Court now presumes that it is good for the child unless proven otherwise.
Contested Allocation of Parental Rights (f/k/a Child Custody) Litigation
If allocation agreements cannot be reached between you and the other parent, you may need to become more aggressive to ensure that the best interests of your children are addressed.
To do this, the court will refer parents to mediation, whether private or through county sponsored services. They may further appoint an attorney, called a Child Representative, or a Guardian ad litem, to represent what they believe to be in the child’s best interests. If taken further, the Court can appoint specialists in the field of child psychology as expert witnesses in a contested allocation case.
Given our experience, we can best help you understand and prepare for these very important, and potentially life altering evaluations. We know what they mean. We know how they are used. We know how to best represent your interests, and how to meet those of your children.
Some Common Child Custody Questions We Can Help With:
If both parents share custody does anyone pay child support?
Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?
When can my child decide which parent to live with?
Do grandparents have custody and visitation rights?
What is a parenting plan, and do I need one?
When will child custody be decided?
When can I modify custody? Can Custody be modified?
What will happen if we cannot agree on a custody arrangement?
What should I know before attending a child custody trial?
Will my child / children need to appear in court?
What if my spouse wants to move the kids out state?
Do I still have to pay child custody if I lose my job?
Additionally, there is a good article by Child Welfare Information Gateway on Determining the Best Interests of the Child.
Child Custody Lawyers Perform Many Services
Custody issues often flow into other issues, and we work with clients to address these as well.
We can help you with:
- Child Custody Modifications
- Enforcement of divorce decrees
- Grandparents’ rights
- Modifications to divorce decrees
- Orders for protection, in cases where the child may be in danger
- Relocation and removal
Child-Centered Visitation Rights Lawyers
What is a Parenting Schedule (formally known as visitation)?
Visitation, or parenting time, is the amount of time that each parent is entitled to spend with their child or children.
A common misconception is that decision making right and parenting schedules are related – they are not. Which parent makes educational, medical and religious decisions has nothing at all to do with the amount of parenting time the other parent gets to enjoy with the children.
In Illinois prior to January 1, 2016, a standard visitation schedule for a parent who had possession of the children for less than a majority of the children’s available time (ie: time outside of school) was every other weekend, a night or two during the week, alternating holidays and extended time in the summer. Each case is different based on a parent’s work schedule and the schedule of the child. Ideally, parents are able to create schedules together which best meet the needs of the children as well as the needs of the family. There are situations for example where the parties agree that the children will spend the majority of their available time with one parent (ie: they live predominantly with that parent), but the other is available to take the kids to their daily activities. The Courts are both able and willing to allow these customized types of parenting schedules if the parties, or the Court, believe it is in the children’s best interests. As of January 1, 2016, the Court presumes that these types of parenting plans ARE in the children’s best interests unless it can be proven otherwise.
Unfortunately, not all parents act in ways which are in a child’s best interests. Some parents lack, or are accused of lacking, common sense parenting skills such as not taking a “potty training” child to the bathroom frequently enough, forgetting that children need to eat and sleep on routine schedules, they fail to use child safety seats in cars, they consume alcohol in excess, they take illegal or prescribed drugs in excess, they have a history of sexual or physical abuse or they have anger management issues which sometimes result in either corporal punishment towards the child, or speaking poorly about the other parent or their family members in front of or to the children. If one parent can show that the other parent’s behavior poses “serious endangerment” to the child / children, a court may restrict that parent’s time with the children, either the amount of time, the freedom to be alone with the children and/or the location that parenting time must take place (ie: supervised in a public setting for a few hours per week by a third party, restricted to taking place in a supervisor’s office or not taking place at all). Issues involving the allocation of parenting time and responsibilities can be very emotional and stressful in divorce and parentage proceedings. The more the parents can agree and work together on what is in the best interest of the child or children, the better off the child or children will be.
In addressing the allocation of parental rights, responsibilities and parenting time, the rule is that no two situations are the same. Some problems can be resolved via mediation, or a collaborative negotiation. Then there are situations that can only be resolved through litigation. At The Walters Law Group, Ltd., we are adept at all of these approaches. Just like the court, we are alert to the child’s best interests. We will not accept any case that we ourselves do not believe is in the child’s best interests. We have no need, nor desire, to fight just for the sake of fighting.
We have over twenty years of combined experience in handling divorce, custody and family law cases. YOU give us your confidence, WE give you the peace of mind and the results you deserve.
We help people and families in Chicago and throughout the Chicagoland suburbs.
To meet with us, call The Walters Law Group, Ltd.’s attorneys at 312-806-6700 / 708-361-9700, or e-mail us using this online form.