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Wheaton child custody attorneyAccording to Illinois law, both a child’s parents have a right to parenting time unless there is some reason that a child’s safety would be at risk around the parent. A parent may lose his or her right to parenting time if he or she has physically, emotionally, or sexually abused the child. Sadly, some parents attempt to use false accusations of child abuse as leverage in a child custody dispute. Not only do unfounded allegations of abuse rob a parent of his or her right to spend time with his or her child, but they also have devastating effects on the child. If you are in the midst of a divorce or child custody dispute and your child’s other parent is falsely accusing you of neglect or abuse, speak to a skilled family law attorney as soon as possible.

Gather Evidence

It is hard to believe that a parent would ever resort to fabricating stories of child abuse to manipulate a child custody case, but unfortunately, this scenario is not unheard of. Parents who do not want to share parental responsibilities and parenting time may accuse the other parent of hurting the child or even coach the child to repeat the allegations of abuse. If you have been accused of child abuse, you need to start gathering evidence that will help prove your innocence. This may include text messages, voicemails, letters, and other correspondence between you and the other parent as well as examples of communication between you and the children. Compile a list of family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, daycare workers, and other people who can vouch that you are a loving, non-abusive parent. It is also important to keep track of the times and dates that the children have been under your care. The more information you have, the more likely it is that you can use this information to prove inconsistencies and lies in the other parent’s story.

Comply With Any Orders of Protection

It is possible that the child’s other parent will file an order of protection or restraining order against you. If you are the subject of an order of protection that prohibits you from seeing your child or staying in your home, you may understandably be frustrated and outraged. However, it is important to comply with the court order. By violating the terms of the order, you risk being arrested and weakening your case, even if you have never abused your child. Following the terms of the order will help demonstrate that you are a law-abiding citizen. Never confront the other parent or anyone else involved in the allegations against you as this can easily be used against you as evidence of violence or mental instability.

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DuPage County child custody attorneyIn Illinois family law cases, the terms “child custody” and “visitation” are not referred to as “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” When divorcing parents cannot agree on an arrangement for dividing parental responsibilities and parenting time, the court may need to intervene. Custody-related legal proceedings can be stressful for both the parents and the children. If you are in a legal dispute with your child’s other parent, you may have concerns about your child’s involvement in the case. Child testimonies are sometimes, but not always, used in Illinois child custody disputes. Fortunately, Illinois courts have several methods for conducting child interviews in a way that minimizes the stress on the child.

Will My Child Be Put on the Witness Stand?

If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree upon a parenting arrangement, a judge will be tasked with making a custody determination that serves the child’s best interests. You may wonder whether this means that your child will be forced to testify in court. Typically, children are not required to testify in court; however, the judge may use a child interview to gather information regarding a custody case. 

Because court hearings can be very overwhelming and frightening for children, Illinois courts do everything possible to gather children’s testimonies in a child-friendly way. Rarely are children placed on the witness stand. If the judge wishes to hear the child’s testimony in a custody case, he or she will most likely speak to the child privately in the judge's chambers. The judge may ask the child questions about his or her thoughts, feelings, and preferences. Unless otherwise agreed upon, the parents’ respective attorneys will typically be present for the child interview. A court reporter will transcribe the child’s testimony word-for-word so that this testimony can be used in future child custody hearings.

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Wheaton, IL parenting plan lawyerDisagreements about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time are often some of the most contentious issues in a divorce case. When parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, they have several options: they can try to find a resolution through mediation, collaborative law, or negotiations facilitated by their attorneys, or they may take the case to trial. If you are a parent who is involved in a child custody disagreement, you may be unsure of how to handle the situation. Although there is no perfect way to manage a child-related legal dispute, there are certain mistakes that parents should always try to avoid, including:

Putting Children in the Middle of the Conflict

Multiple studies have shown that parental discord can be harmful to children’s emotional and psychological well-being. Parents should make every attempt to keep their children out of legal and personal conflicts. While it can be tempting to criticize your child’s other parent, doing so in front of your child can make him or her feel like he or she has to choose sides. Experts encourage parents to keep adult conversations out of earshot of children and to never ask children to act as a messenger between parents.

Oversharing on Social Media

The majority of U.S. adults use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or some other type of social media. It is important that parents involved in a custody dispute use extreme caution when sharing information or pictures on social media. Even if your account is set to “private,” anything you post on social media could potentially be used against you during court proceedings. For example, if a parent posts a picture of himself or herself drinking alcohol at a party, it could be argued that the photograph is evidence of the parent’s inability to be a responsible caretaker for the couple’s children.

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Wheaton divorce attorney for sole child custodyIn 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) underwent major revisions. One of the biggest changes was an update to the language used to describe child custody. Instead of “child custody” and “visitation,” the terms “parental responsibility” and “parenting time” are used to describe parenting duties. Parental responsibilities refers to a parent’s authority to make major decisions about a child’s education, medical care, and other issues involved in their upbringing, whereas parenting time is the actual time that a parent spends caring for the child. Many divorced and unmarried parents split parental responsibilities and parenting time in a shared parenting arrangement, but some situations may require one parent to take on all of the parental responsibilities and/or parenting time.

Illinois Courts Typically Encourage Shared Parenting

Illinois courts usually prefer parenting arrangements that allow both of a child’s parents to be involved in his or her life. However, there are some situations in which a parent may be awarded “sole custody” or sole decision-making authority for a child. Non-custodial parents have a right to reasonable amounts of parenting time, unless there is some reason that the parent cannot adequately provide for the child’s safety and well-being. If a parent is found to be “unfit,” it is possible that the court will award the other parent 100 percent of the parental responsibilities and/or parenting time. If you wish to have all of the decision-making authority and parenting time, you will need to provide evidence to the court which proves that it is in your child’s best interests not to spend time with his or her other parent.

A parent may be considered unfit to have decision-making authority and/or parenting time if he or she cannot adequately complete caretaking tasks and keep the child safe. More specifically, a parent may not be awarded parental responsibilities or parenting time if he or she:

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Wheaton divorce lawyer co-parenting bird nesting

If you are a parent who is planning to divorce, you probably have concerns about how the end of your marriage will affect your children. Fortunately, research shows that children with divorced parents can lead lives that are just as happy and healthy as children with married parents. In some cases, children are actually happier after their parents’ divorce, because they no longer see their parents arguing all the time or otherwise being miserable. Nevertheless, adjusting to a two-household family after divorce can be challenging for many children. One solution that more and more divorced parents are utilizing is “bird nesting.”

How Does Bird Nesting Work?

In the majority of divorce cases involving parents who share parenting time, the parents live in separate homes, and the children are transported between the two homes. While this scenario works for many divorced families, it can also sometimes lead to confusion and complication. For example, children may struggle to keep track of school supplies and special projects when they must move these items back and forth between the houses.

In a bird nesting situation, the children stay in one home, while the parents take turns living in the home during their assigned parenting time. This arrangement may provide many benefits, including increased stability for the children. However, bird nesting is not preferable or even possible in every shared parenting situation. If the parents are remarried or have children from another relationship, it may not be possible to share a home with their ex in this way. Bird nesting also requires both parents to be respectful of each other and work together. For example, if one parent is responsible for all of the cleaning while the other parent lets the children trash the house, this can lead to serious conflict, which will only add stress to the children’s lives.

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