Child Custody Lawyers Chicago, Illinois
What are the Child Custody laws in the state of Illinois?
First, as of January 1, 2016, Illinois no longer uses the term “custody”. What was traditionally referred to as custody is now divided into two areas: (1) Allocation of Major Decision Making Responsibilities and (2) Parenting Time. The Allocation of Major Decision Making Responsibilities covers major decisions regarding education, religion, health care and extracurricular activities and can be shared equally between the parents or can be allocated to only one parent. Each of these categories relates to the major decisions such as which school the child(ren) will attend, if they are going to do ballet or soccer, which pediatrician the child(ren) are going to see and what religion they are going to practice (if any). According to the public policy of Illinois, joint decision-making is preferred unless the parents are incapable of making a decision together. Parenting time is what used to be referred to as “visitation” and is the amount of time the child spends with each parent.
Usually, Judges and Chicago child custody lawyers are in most in favor of parents coming to their own agreement as to Decision Making and parenting time. It is almost always better for the parents to make decisions on behalf of their child as opposed to a Judge. If the parties can come to an agreement, an Allocation Judgment is drafted and entered by the Court. This is the document that will govern all parenting decisions, including decision-making, parenting time, dispute resolution, holiday allocation, and the like. One thing it will not address is child support or the allocation of child-related expenses.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement and the Court does need to get involved, the Court will often appoint an advocate for this child(ren). There are three kinds of child advocates a Judge can appoint, all with different responsibilities and rules, so make sure to go over each of the options with your Chicago child custody attorney. In addition to appointing a child advocate, a Court can order custody evaluations to be usually performed by a psychiatrist and/or psychologist. Again, there are varying types of custody evaluations, so make sure to discuss this with your Chicago child custody lawyer.
The most important thing to remember about “custody” is that it is all about what is best for the child(ren). The Court will use a best interest standard to determine what is best for the child(ren) before making any decisions or approving any agreement.
How did the new law changes in 2017 affect Child Custody?
In July of 2017, Illinois adopted a new child support statute (which is discussed herein). This new model not only changed how each parent’s income was considered, but also took into consideration the amount of parenting time each parent has – specifically the number of overnights each parent has. As a result, if each parent has at least 146 overnights in a calendar year, child support can be significantly reduced. However, Judges have become increasingly wary of parents attempting to modify their parenting time to 146 overnights or more in order to modify their child support obligation.
What are the different types of child custody (majority timesharing, equal timesharing…)?
There are two different kinds of decision-making authority: sole and joint. As you could guess, sole decision-making authority means that one parent is making the decisions, and joint means that the parents are making the decisions together. Decision-making authority for each of the four major categories: education; religion, health care and extracurricular have to be allocated either to both parents together or to one parent individually. This is not to say that all four categories are a “package deal”. You may have a situation where both parents agree on all things except for education. The parties could agree or a Judge could order joint decision-making for religion, healthcare and extracurricular activities, and one parent can make decisions regarding education.
What determines which parent the child has majority time with?
Parenting time is based upon the best interests of the child. In order to determine what is in the best interests of the child. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act considers a multitude of factors, including:
- The wishes of the parents;
- The wishes of the child taking into consideration the child’s maturity and ability to express their independent preferences;
- The amount of time each parent has been performing caretaking duties for the 2 years preceding the filing of a Petition;
- Any prior agreement or conduct between the parties as it relates to caretaking functions;
- The relationship the child has with his/her parents, siblings and other people that play a major role in the child’s life;
- Adjustments to home, school and community;
- The mental and physical health of all involved;
- The distance between the parents’ residences;
- The child’s needs
- Occurrences of or threats of abuse or violence;
- The willingness of the parent to facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent;
- Any restrictions of parenting time due to abuse, violence or one of the parents is a convicted sec offender; and
- Any other factor that the Court finds to be relevant.
Because the Court can consider any other factor it deems relevant, there is no way to have an exhaustive list of all of the things a Judge may consider. Each child and family is different and subject to its own circumstances.
Why would a Chicago child custody attorney be necessary to set up Child Custody?
“Custody” is a very complex issue. Nothing is more personal than someone’s children and it is vital to know all of the options available to you. Many people try to focus on what is “right” or what they believe to be fair. It is hard for most people to reconcile what they believe to be the right thing for their children, what the relevant factors are and how they are going to try to co-parent going forward, with what is provided for under the law. A Chicago child custody attorney is tasked with interlinking what a parent thinks is best for their child with what the law requires to provide for the best outcome for the parents and the child(ren).
How can your Chicago child custody law firm help someone get more time with their child?
Parenting time is always modifiable. If something has changed with either parent or with the child(ren), an existing parenting time arrangement can always be amended to suit the best needs of the child. Most people opt to being the process in mediation, which is now a requirement for all child-related matters before litigation. Katz & Stefani Chicago child custody attorneys all have extensive experience with the mediation process and have been successful in advocating for their clients while respecting the purpose of mediation ~ settlement. In the event a matter cannot be settled between the parties or in mediation, Katz & Stefani Chicago family law lawyer will assist you in navigating the litigation process, including the appointment of representatives for the child, the appointment of experts to perform evaluations, investigations and discovery, to determine what is in the child’s best interest.
Can you give an example how your Chicago Child Custody Attorneys have helped one of your clients?
Our client was the primary parent for her two little girls, ages 6 and 8 at the time. As soon as she filed for divorce, her husband suddenly became “super dad” to the kids, while creating an extremely hostile environment in their home. This was an extremely litigious case that required a hearing about the exclusive possession of the home (which was awarded to my client), three separate custody evaluations, a representative for the child, and the commencement of a trial that had lasted seven days before the parties ultimately settled with our client having sole decision-making responsibilities and the majority of parenting time. Although our client prevailed on all issues, this was a highly complicated and litigious case that required the work of multiple Chicago child custody attorneys. Through the use of expert reports, discovery, depositions and a lot of negotiation, our client came out of an exhausting and arduous process with everything she wanted.