Child custody is arguably one of the most important aspects of any divorce between two parents. Depending on how the divorce proceeds, the child custody agreement can dramatically affect how your children are raised and lived until they are independent adults. Of course, your own day-to-day life will feel much different based on how often you are allowed to see your children.
When so much is dependent on the outcome of a child custody contest, you should not leave it up to chance. Come to the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. in Highland Park for all the legal assistance that you need for a child custody case. We know how to approach each case professionally and sensitively, so you can be confident that the case is progressing correctly.
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To be completely transparent, “child custody’ is not technically the correct term to use in Illinois law anymore. In 2016, the state legislature changed the concept of “custody” to “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” In action, though, the concept has remained effectively unchanged. The goal is still to decide which parents get to live with their children and make important decisions for them.
Examples of important decisions regarding a child’s care and upbringing include:
- Education: A parent with parental responsibilities can decide what schooling and education their child will receive as they grow up.
- Healthcare: Decisions regarding a child’s healthcare are highly important, such as dental care, psychological treatments, vaccinations, and so on.
- Religion: What religious practices will your child follow, if any? This decision can be yours to make if you have the sole right to this parental responsibility.
- Extracurricular activities: You can even decide what extracurricular activities your child will participate in, like sports, arts, Scouts, and so on.
Best Interests of the Child
Any decision in a divorce or family law proceeding that directly involves a child must be made “in the best interests of the child.” In other words, the court must think of what the child needs first and foremost, putting the needs or wants of the parents second. If you and your spouse come up with a child custody agreement that would not be the best for your child, then the court can reject it.
To figure out the best interests of a child, a court can consider:
- What the child says they want if the child is old enough.
- History of the child’s needs.
- Child’s interests and typical extracurricular activities.
- How each parent interacts with the child.
We would be happy to sit down with you to discuss your child’s best interests and how that should be reflected in a child custody agreement. The court prefers to split child custody or parental rights and visitation equally, so we tend to start from this perspective as well.
Different Forms of Custody
Child custody can be formed through a few different means and methods. We can help you with child custody, no matter what form of custody is established in your divorce.
Different types of child custody in Illinois include:
- Sole custody: When only one parent is deemed fit to raise and live with the child, the family law court will assign sole custody. This situation can also occur if the parents cannot decide on how to care for their child, such as what religious, educational, and medical decisions should be made. The parent who does not get sole custody can still share their opinions, but the final decision is made only by the sole custodial parent. Again, the court does not prefer sole custody because it is commonly agreed that children develop better when they have two parental figures in their lives.
- Joint custody: If both parents in a divorce can work together and stay civil in daily situations, then joint custody will be preferred. This system of child custody allows the parents to decide important decisions together, like what religion their child should practice. Of course, disagreements can always happen, so parents with joint custodial rights will sometimes need to work with a neutral third-party mediator to solve a dispute.
Parenting Time & Child Custody
The amount of parental time that you are permitted after a divorce – which is also called visitation – will depend on the child custody agreement. For example, if you do not have any parental custody rights, then you might be given more parenting time to make up for it.
The final decisions for parenting time must be made specifically for each child custody case. Illinois family law courts do not use a preset guide for setting parenting time for this reason. By default, the court will expect there to be a “shared custody” agreement that lets both parents see and spend time with the child. A shared custody agreement does not mean that the time split will be 50-50, though.
When working on parenting time agreements, you should consider:
- Daily, weekly, and monthly schedules
- School year schedules
- Summer schedules
- Holiday schedules
Although there are many things that you should do during a child custody case, there are many other things that you should not.
Five things that you should avoid in a child custody case are:
- Not hiring a lawyer: If you can hire a child custody attorney, you should. Every legal case gets simpler when you have a professional leading the way and acting on your behalf.
- Being intentionally uncooperative: You might want to fight your spouse about who gets child custody rights, but it is not in your best interests. Cooperating with your spouse makes everything easier for all parties, and it shows the court that you are a reasonable person who deserves parental rights.
- Interfering with your spouse’s relationship with your children: Never try to interfere with your spouse’s relationship with your ex-spouse, especially in a way that goes against a court order. Violating a court order can land you in serious trouble, possibly facing fines and jail time.
- Talking poorly about your spouse: Speaking poorly about your spouse or ex does not reflect your own personality and behaviors well. Remember: The court wants to give parental rights to people who can show that they are good parents to their children.
- Getting angry: Although it is easier said than done, it is important to stay calm and collected as the child custody case progresses. Again, getting angry and losing your temper can be seen as a red flag to the court.
Do not let the thought of deciding on child custody stress you out even one more day. Discover how stress-free it can be by teaming up with the Highland Park child custody lawyers of the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. With our decades of collective legal experience with a focus on family law disputes, you can trust that we will know the best path forward for you, your spouse, and your children.
Find out more about parental rights and visitation by dialing (847) 558-1530 now.
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