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1776 S. Naperville Road, Building B, Suite 202,
Wheaton, IL 60189
The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C.

DuPage County child custody dispute attorneyMany divorcing parents have strong opinions about how parental responsibilities and parenting time should be divided. Parents may disagree about the child’s primary residence, parenting time schedules, how major decisions about the child should be made, and much more. If you are a divorcing parent in the middle of a child-related dispute, or you suspect that you soon will be, you may have questions about how child custody decisions are made in Illinois. You may wonder about the impact that your child’s opinion could have on the outcome of your case. In Illinois, child interviews may be used to gather information about the child’s thoughts and opinions during a custody dispute. However, these interviews are only one element of the court’s decision-making process.

Disagreements about Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities

Although many family law cases address child custody in a general sense, Illinois law no longer uses the terms “child custody” and “visitation.” In the actual law, child custody is described by the “allocation of parental responsibilities,” meaning the parents’ decision-making authority, and “parenting time,” which is the actual time a parent spends with their child. Decisions about parental responsibilities, parenting time, and other custody-related issues must be stated in the parents’ “parenting plan.” If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to allocate parental responsibilities or parenting time, you may be able to negotiate an agreement with help from your attorneys or through an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation. However, if you still cannot reach an agreement, your case may go to court.

How Illinois Courts Make Decisions in Child Custody Disputes

If your child custody dispute cannot be resolved out of court, a judge will hear arguments from both parties and then issue a judgment about the unresolved issues. Illinois courts consider the wishes of the parents as well as those of the children in many child custody cases. Often, a special representative called a guardian ad litem (GAL) is assigned to represent a child’s best interests during a child custody dispute. The GAL may gather the child’s testimony during an interview and incorporate that information into his or her formal recommendation to the court. 

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DuPage County child custody dispute lawyerIf you are a married parent who is thinking of getting divorced, you probably have concerns about how this will impact your child. You may also have concerns about how you and your child’s other parent will share custody of your child. In Illinois, child custody is divided into two primary components: allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parental responsibilities involve the decision-making authority a parent has regarding important issues in a child’s life, while parenting time is the actual time a parent spends caring for their child. If you are like many parents facing a potential child custody dispute, you may wonder if your child will have any say in how parental responsibilities and parenting time will be divided.

Negotiating a Parenting Plan

According to Illinois law, you and your child’s other parent have 120 days after filing for divorce to submit a parenting plan. Your plan must contain decisions about many different issues including:

  • How you will make major child-related decisions

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DuPage County divorce lawyer for parental alienationDivorcing or divorced spouses are not typically on great terms with each other. While some divorces are relatively amicable, other divorce cases are filled with hostility and revenge-seeking behavior. Sadly, children are often the ones who get hurt in extremely contentious divorces. Sometimes, a parent even intentionally attempts to turn a child against the other parent. This is known as parental alienation, and it can happen when an adult uses brainwashing and other manipulative strategies to damage the child’s relationship with their parent. If you have been a victim of parental alienation, you should know that you have certain rights under Illinois law. The alienation may even be cause for restriction of the other parent’s parental responsibilities or parenting time.

Types of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is a controversial subject. However, the phenomenon is very real. The term was conceived in 1985 to describe undue influence on a child that causes the child to fear or despise his or her parent. Some experts have suggested that parental alienation can cause an actual psychological disorder called Parental Alienation Syndrome, but this disorder is not listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual or recognized by the American Psychological Association. Nevertheless, there have been many documented cases in which a parent or other party willfully attempts to destroy the parent-child relationship, and these types of actions can have a direct impact on child custody issues.

Parental alienation may include actions such as:

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DuPage County order of protection attorneyWhen parents divorce, they will typically share parental responsibilities and parenting time. A shared custody arrangement can be a great way to ensure that a child gets to spend time with both of his or her parents. Illinois courts typically favor parenting schedules that keep both parents in the child’s life.  However, there are some situations in which spending time with a parent may not be in the child’s best interests. If you are an unmarried or divorced parent, and you have concerns about your child’s safety during the other parent’s parenting time, you should know that you have the right to ask for his or her parenting time to be restricted.  

Take Steps to Protect Your Children’s Immediate Safety

If there is an immediate threat to your child’s well-being, do not hesitate to take action. Your child’s safety comes first. If you believe your child is in a situation in which they could be injured or killed, call 911. You may also take steps to obtain an order of protection that will prevent the other parent from committing any actions that could harm you or your child. 

If you need to violate your parenting plan to prevent your child from being harmed, you are allowed to do so. However, you will need to justify your actions to the court. Violating your parenting plan without a good reason can result in negative consequences, including restriction of your own parenting time. You will need to tell the court when and why you violated the parenting plan, so make sure that this is a last resort.

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DuPage County family law attorney for holiday child custodyThis holiday season is shaping up to be like none other. If you are in the middle of a separation or divorce, your holiday season may be especially complicated. Sharing custody of children with a soon-to-be ex-spouse is hard enough, but sharing custody during the holidays can be even harder. Keep the following tips and suggestions in mind to help your holiday season go as smoothly as possible for you and your children:

Plan the Details in Advance

When a couple with children files for divorce in Illinois, they have 120 days to create and submit a “parenting plan.” This plan will describe how they will make major decisions about the child, who the child will live with on what days, how the child will be transported between homes, and much more. If you have not yet filed for divorce, or if you have not made any decisions about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, you may only have a casual agreement about which parent the children will see on which days. This can lead to miscommunication and frustration. It is better to plan your holidays in advance. Decide where the children will stay on what days, when they will be picked up and dropped off, and other details, and then put these decisions in writing.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

There are many computer programs and smartphone applications that can help you and your ex collaborate when making decisions about parenting issues. Using email or text messages to communicate about children can help avoid in-person arguments, and this can also serve as an important record of the plans you and your spouse have made. Apps like Cozi, Coparently, and OurFamilyWizard allow you to keep track of schedules, expenses, and other child-related information.

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