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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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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, IL divorce mediation attorneyWhen parents get divorced, determining child custody arrangements is often their top priority. It can be extremely difficult for parents who are used to seeing their children every day to transition to a parenting time schedule in which they only see their children part of the time. In Illinois child custody disputes, parents will need to make decisions about the “allocation of parental responsibilities” as well as the amount of time the child spends with each parent, called “parenting time.” Disagreements about these issues can quickly become antagonistic and unproductive. Mediation is one option for parents who are struggling to reach an agreement about child custody concerns. This method of alternative dispute resolution may help you and your child’s other parent reach an agreement about child custody and other child-related disputes. There are a number of good reasons to consider mediation, including:

Mediation Does Not Take Place in the Courtroom

Litigation is typically much more expensive than mediation. Furthermore, the formal courtroom setting can make some parents focus on “winning” instead of trying to find a solution that is in their child’s best interests. By working to reach agreements outside of the antagonistic format of court proceedings, parents may be able to resolve disputes much more quickly and easily. In addition, mediation is also a confidential process, as opposed to the public setting of a courtroom.

Parents Are More Likely to Comply With the Parenting Plan

During mediation, parents negotiate a mutually-agreeable child custody arrangement with guidance from a trained mediator. The mediator helps facilitate productive discussion, but he or she does not tell parents what to do. Ultimately, any parenting arrangement that results from mediation will be the product of the parents’ negotiations, and in some cases, parents may also consider input from experts such as child development specialists. When parents have a hand in creating their own parenting plan, they are much more likely to abide by the decisions contained in that plan.

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DuPage County divorce attorney for mediation and collaborative law

Often, when parents divorce, one of the biggest sources of contention is how they will share the allocation of parental responsibility, or child custody. Parents who get divorced in Illinois are required to submit a parenting agreement or parenting plan to the court which details how they plan to share custody of their children. Parents have the opportunity to formulate a unique parenting plan which works for them, but in some cases, parents cannot agree to a custody or parenting time schedule. When parents disagree about child custody issues, they have several options under Illinois law.

Mediation Can Help Parents Come to an Agreement About Child Custody

Illinois courts may order parents to undergo mediation in order to help them create a parenting plan to address custody issues, or parents may elect to undergo mediation on their own accord. Mediation involves the parents meeting with a neutral third party mediator to discuss how parental responsibility will be shared. The mediator does not tell the parents what to do, but instead helps facilitate productive conversation between the parents so that they can reach a compromise regarding child custody. It is important to note that mediation may not be an appropriate choice for parents with a history of domestic violence or abuse. Furthermore, if parents cannot negotiate or discuss child custody issues without devolving into arguments or hostility, mediation may prove fruitless.

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