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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 family law attorney for parenting plan enforcementIn Illinois, divorcing couples with children and unmarried parents who do not live together are asked to create a “parenting plan” that addresses the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and other issues related to the couple’s children. This plan will describe each parent’s rights and responsibilities and include information about how parenting time, sometimes referred to as visitation, will be divided between the two parents. The parents may decide on the terms of their parenting plan through negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law. If parents cannot reach an agreement about one or more terms, the court will order a plan that is based on the child’s best interests. Whether a parenting plan is the result of an agreement between the spouses or an allocation judgment handed down by the court, parents are expected to follow the plan.

Parents Must Comply With the Terms of the Parenting Plan

Parenting plans typically involve a number of different provisions, including those describing each parent’s responsibilities and the time that each parent will spend with the child. The plan may also include information about the child’s education, extracurricular activities, healthcare, religious or cultural upbringing, and how the child will be transported between the parents’ homes. 

One of the most common ways that parents may violate the terms of their parenting plan is by deviating from the parenting time schedule. Understandably, parents may sometimes need to make minor changes to their schedules to account for illnesses, unexpected work obligations, or other special circumstances. However, if a parent consistently fails to fulfill his or her parenting time obligations or refuses to allow the other parent to enjoy his or her parenting time, legal action may be necessary to enforce the terms of the parenting plan.

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Wheaton divorce and parenting plan lawyerWhen Illinois parents get divorced, or when unmarried parents are separated, they are expected to create a parenting plan that designates when the child will spend time with each parent and how parents will share parenting obligations. However, forming a plan that both parents find acceptable is not always easy. Disagreements about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time can be some of the most emotionally-charged legal disputes in all of family law. If you are a parent, you may understandably have strong feelings about these matters. There are a number of factors that contribute to child custody decisions. Often, these include the child’s preferences.

Illinois Law Regarding Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Parents who cannot reach an agreement about parental responsibilities and parenting time have several options. They may negotiate the terms of their parenting plan through their respective lawyers, work on a resolution through mediation or collaborative law, or litigate the case in court. Illinois courts make all child-related decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests. When determining a parenting plan on behalf of parents, the court will consider multiple factors, including each parent’s wishes, the child’s school situation and extracurricular activities, the parents’ work schedule, any past instances of domestic violence or abuse, and the wishes of the child.

Children’s Opinions May Impact Child Custody Cases

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5) states that a child’s preferences should be taken into consideration by the court during child custody proceedings. However, the law also states that the child’s maturity and reasons for his or her preferences should be considered. Small children may be unable to express their wishes. Sometimes, children may express a preference for one parent over the other because that parent has less restrictive household rules or is otherwise more “fun.” However, if the child has a good reason to prefer a certain custody arrangement, it is likely that this preference will influence the outcome of the case.

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As of January 2016, Illinois State no longer uses the term child custody, but instead refers to it as the allocation of parental responsibilities - These responsibilities include deciding who will have visitation (parenting time) with your child and when, lifestyle decisions for your family, and how you plan to execute those decisions.

As a single parent going through a divorce, you likely have many questions about the allocation of parental responsibilities and need to know where to turn for help. DuPage County's Family Center division is an excellent resource for parents attempting to navigate the post-divorce world. Ways your county and state can provide you with assistance in the child custody process include the following:

Mediation

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The process of getting a child support order from the court can be long and frustrating. However, for many parents getting the child support order is just the first step. Sometimes the real problems come in trying to collect child support.

Who is Responsible for Collecting Child Support?

The court can issue child support orders as part of a paternity case, divorce, or parental responsibilities proceeding. The Child Support Division of the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services (DCSS) can also issue child support orders.

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