Chicago Child Custody Lawyers
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: Visitation & Parenting Time in Illinois
Oftentimes, the most emotional and challenging aspects of a divorce or family law case are the issues involving the children. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., our Chicago child custody lawyers know this and provide caring support along with relentless legal advocacy.
The Importance of Your Child Custody Attorney
Custody arrangements affect your child's long-term well-being. With your child's best interests at stake, you need an experienced child custody lawyer to fight for the best possible outcome. Our Chicago custody attorneys have a solid success record and are ready to fight tirelessly to ensure that you are able to remain a part of your child's life.
Our team can help you understand your options when it comes to child custody, visitation, and parenting time in Illinois. Find out exactly what your rights are and how a child custody attorney near you can help you protect them.
How Is Custody Determined in Illinois?
Gone are the days when one or both parents were awarded “custody.” In 2016, the Illinois legislature replaced the terms “custody” and “visitation” with “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time”.
As such, the two main areas addressed by the allocation of parental responsibilities are (1) decision-making, and (2) parenting time. In any case involving children – whether the parents were married or not – these issues must be addressed.
In Chicago and all of Illinois, there are four main areas of decision-making that must be resolved before a final Allocation Judgment (a formal parenting agreement) can be signed by the judge, namely:
- Education – Including the choice of school (early development, preschool, elementary school, high school, foreign language), public or private schools, tutors, and the use of specialized services.
- Health Care – Including decisions pertaining to medical, dental, vision, and psychological needs of the child, including choice of doctors, medication and vaccine decisions, and treatment options.
- Religion – Including what religious beliefs the child will be taught, what religious meetings they will attend, and what religious organizations and events in which they will be involved.
- Extracurricular Activities – Including sports, arts, educational, social, and any other activities or events outside of their education.
Child Custody in Chicago – "Best Interests of the Child"
In Illinois, both the allocation of decision-making responsibilities and parenting time are determined based on the “best interests of the child.” This assessment requires the court to consider numerous factors, including but not limited to:
- The respective wishes of the parents and the child;
- The history of care-taking functions;
- The child’s adjustment to his/her current home, school, and community; and
- The willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent.
In certain limited circumstances, third parties such as grandparents and step-parents can petition the court for certain rights, including decision-making and visitation. If you believe this situation may apply to you, please contact our child custody lawyers in Chicago.
Types of Custody in Illinois
There are many frequently used phrases that describe various child custody arrangements. Although they may explain underlying purposes, many are not legal terms that are recognized under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Some popular child custody terms include:
- Sole custody
- Joint custody
- Residential custody
- Legal custody
- Full custody
- Split custody
- Shared custody
Needless to say, it’s easy to see why so much confusion arises when discussing child custody. The State of Illinois legally recognizes two types of child custody arrangements: sole custody and joint custody.
In essence, “full custody” is sole custody and both “split” and “shared custody” are joint custody. But it is very important to note that these terms are not legal terms that are recognized in Illinois. That may not be the case in other states, so it’s necessary to know the language in your jurisdiction when involved in a custody dispute and the process of determining child custody arrangements.
Joint Custody in Illinois
In Illinois, joint custody is predicated on two parents working together to co-parent a child. Joint custodial relationships require good communication between the parents and the ability to work together to make important decisions regarding the child. These joint decisions can include those regarding the child's education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. All such decisions must be made jointly by the parents, taking the child’s best interests into consideration.
In Illinois, you can file for joint custody together with the other parent by entering into a joint parenting agreement. This can be done out-of-court if both parents are able to reach an agreement amicably, but will have to be decided by a judge in contested custody cases.
If there is a disagreement between parents who have entered into a joint parenting agreement regarding a decision that affects their child, joint parenting agreements require the parties to attempt to resolve the issue with a certified mediator prior to returning to court. If a mediator is unable to resolve the issue, then the last resort is to bring the issue before a judge for adjudication.
In any of these cases, it is important to have an experienced Chicago child custody lawyer on your side to fight for your rights and for your child's best interests.
Sole Custody in Illinois
In Illinois, sole custody is generally defined as one parent being the primary decision maker for the minor child or children on the areas of: medical, education and religion. Sole custody is often awarded in cases where parents are unable to work together to co-parent their child and cannot agree on these three major area. In these instances, the custodial parent will have final decision-making authority when it comes to these issues.
Non-custodial parents are often allowed to provide input to the custodial parents regarding these important decisions, but in the event of a disagreement, the custodial parents' decisions trump those of non-custodial parents. It is important to note that, despite one parent being awarded sole custody in Illinois, both parents can and should continue to be involved in their child’s life.
How to Get Sole Custody in Chicago, Illinois
A common question parents have is "how do I get sole custody?" In Illinois, the court must decide that sole custody is in your child's best interests. In a case where you want to get sole custody in Illinois, you and your Chicago child custody attorney will need to provide clear evidence to prove that the other parent should not have decision-making rights over the child for the child's own well-being.
It should be noted that even a parent with sole custody cannot permanently take a child out of state or the country without the permission of the other parent or absent a court order.
Illinois Parenting Time Guidelines (Visitation)
In Illinois, "parenting time" generally relates to in-person parenting time, including school year (“regular parenting time”), summer, and holiday parenting time, but it may also include electronic parenting time. Additional considerations can be made for the right of first refusal (when one parent is unavailable to care of the children during their designated parenting time) and, in certain circumstances, restrictions to parenting time may be appropriate.
Illinois does not follow a predetermined guideline for parenting time. The default is "shared custody," but that does not mean parenting time must always be split 50/50. You can work out a parenting time schedule with the other parent (often with the help of a child custody attorney), or a judge will decide your parenting time schedule for you based on what they believe to be in the child's best interests.
The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. believes that it is important to structure parenting time to meet the needs of each individual family.
Biggest Custody Battle Mistakes
Here are some mistakes you should avoid during your child custody case:
- Not hiring a child custody attorney: When facing a custody battle, it is crucial to hire an attorney with extensive experience handling child custody cases similar to yours. Failing to do so is one of the biggest mistakes a parent can make when faced with such legal matters. A child custody attorney will understand the best course of action and help you avoid impulsive decisions. The outcome of your case can impact you and your children for years to come, so do not take any chances — hire a child custody lawyer.
- Refusing to cooperate with your spouse: You do not have to be your spouse’s best friend, but you should cooperate during the divorce process to show you are willing to work together to raise your children.
- Badmouthing your spouse: Sure, you may not have many nice things to say about your spouse at the moment, but you should still refrain from speaking negatively about him or her, especially in front of your children. Otherwise, it may seem like you are trying to alienate them from your spouse.
- Losing your temper: Although this is an emotional time, losing your temper will be a major red flag to the court. Try to remain calm and prove to the court that you can exhibit self-control and emotional stability.
- Not being supportive of your spouse’s relationship with the children: If a judge believes you do not support your children’s relationship with your spouse, this will harm you in court. Family courts believe the involvement of both parents is in the best interests of the children, so if it is crucial to demonstrate a willingness to nurture that bond.
Does Custody Affect Parenting Time or Child Support?
While child custody arrangements and child support impact one another, they are legally separate concepts. A parent still has visitation rights even if child support is delayed or has not been paid. This is an obligation that should still be followed by the residential parent, despite the frustration they may experience from a lack of financial support.
Per Section 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the residential parent is typically entitled to child support from the non-custodial parent. A common misconception is that child support does not apply in joint custody scenarios. Joint custody is a legal principle and does not impact whether there is a designated residential parent, who would most likely receive child support. Child support is calculated according to percentage guidelines as set forth by statute.
At What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?
In Illinois, a child can choose which parent to live with once they reach the age of majority (18 years old) or are otherwise emancipated. The Court may consider the child's preference in a custody case, but only if the Court deems the child mature enough to have a valid opinion. In most cases, custody and parenting time is agreed upon between the parents or, in contested cases, it is decided by a judge.
At What Age Can a Child Refuse Visitation in Illinois?
In Illinois, a child can refuse visitation once they reach 18 years old – the age of majority. For minors, a child's preference for visitation is taken into consideration based on the child's maturity; however, it is the judge who makes the final decision regardless of the child's age.
A judge can always overrule a child's decision regarding parenting time if they determine that the child's decision is not in their best interests. In these cases, it is wise to consult a child custody attorney and discuss the legal options available to protect your child's rights and interests.
Consult a Child Custody Lawyer in Chicago Today
Our team of attorneys and legal staff work with our clients to achieve outcomes designed for long-term success and positive parent-child relationships. In many instances, parties wish to settle child-related matters amicably. Mediation can be a crucial component for resolving child-related disputes, with certain exceptions in cases of domestic violence or when one or more parties are suffering from addiction or mental illness.
The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. is aware that not all parties can resolve their differences through settlement negotiations or mediation. Our Chicago child custody lawyers are skilled litigators with the ability to zealously advocate for their clients in the courtroom. This may include enlisting the experience of experts, such as forensic evaluators, mental health experts, or substance abuse evaluators, to achieve their clients’ goals and promote the best interests of the children.
The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. has a dynamic team of skilled and experienced lawyers for child-related issues. Our child custody attorneys in Chicago have a successful track record for both settling and litigating contentious matters pertaining to the allocation of parental responsibilities, including both pre- and post-decree matters. We are focused on achieving our clients’ desired results while ensuring that the best interests of the children are protected.
Call now at (312) 487-2795 to get started with a child custody lawyer near you.
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