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Wheaton child custody lawyer parenting time restrictionsIn 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) underwent significant updates. What used to be called child custody is now called the “allocation of parental responsibilities.” The time that a parent spends directly caring for his or her child is referred to as “parenting time.” Although the terms “sole custody” and “joint custody” are outdated, these terms are still sometimes used to refer to different types of parenting arrangements. If you are a father who is considering divorce, you may want to know if you could be awarded sole custody, or more accurately, all of the parental responsibilities and/or parenting time. The answer to this question will depend on a variety of factors.

Reaching an Agreement About Your Illinois Parenting Plan

Parents who divorce in Illinois are asked to create a parenting plan in which they describe how they plan to divide parental responsibilities and parenting time, as well as how other important matters will be addressed. Many divorcing couples struggle to reach an agreement about the provisions in their parenting plan. If you and your spouse disagree about child custody issues, a family law attorney may be able to help you negotiate a parenting plan that you can both agree to. Alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or collaborative law may also enable you to resolve custody disagreements.

Do Illinois Family Courts Favor Mothers Over Fathers?

If you cannot reach an agreement through other means, the court will step in and determine a parenting plan on your behalf. Many people are under the assumption that mothers are favored over fathers during child custody disputes. However, the laws in Illinois treat parents the same, regardless of their gender. Illinois courts make all child-related decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests. Some of the factors courts consider when allocating parental responsibilities and parenting time include:

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Wheaton parenting plan lawyerDivorcing parents in Illinois are asked to create a “parenting plan” that describes each parent’s child-related rights and responsibilities moving forward. Reaching an agreement about the elements of the parenting plan can be very challenging. Many divorcing parents disagree about how parenting time or parental responsibilities should be distributed. They may worry that they will not get to spend as much time with their child as they want to. One element of the parenting plan that many parents overlook is the “the right of first refusal.” Understanding this important right is crucial to maximizing the benefits of your parenting plan.  

Required Elements

If you are a parent who is planning to divorce, you and your spouse will be encouraged to present a parenting plan to the court. This plan must include a number of provisions, including but not limited to:

  • Allocation of significant child-related decision-making responsibilities

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Wheaton child support lawyerIf you are a single parent, you know just how difficult it can be to pay for child-related expenses on your own. Making ends meet without financial support from your child’s other parent can be exhausting. According to Illinois law, both parents are expected to financially contribute to their child’s upbringing even if the parents are unmarried or divorced. A parent is also expected to provide financial support even if he or she does not have parenting time, or visitation rights, with the child. If your child’s other parent is not paying child support, there are several actions you can take to get the financial assistance you and your child need.

Establishing Child Support

The state of Illinois only has the authority to enforce child support payments that have been legally established. If you and your child’s other parent had an informal agreement regarding child support, this is likely unenforceable. To start receiving payments, you will need to obtain an official court order for child support. However, to get an order for child support, your child’s other parent must be legally recognized as his or her parent. If your child’s father is not paying child support and paternity has not been established, you will need to legally name your child’s father before you can obtain a child support order. Depending on your particular circumstances, this may be as simple as having the father sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). If the father contests his paternity, it may necessitate a DNA paternity test or require other steps.

Enforcing a Current Child Support Order

If you already have a child support order, but your child’s other parent is violating the order, you have a right to seek enforcement. Parents who violate a court order for child support can be held in contempt of court and face criminal consequences. However, going through the court system is not always the best way to enforce a child support order. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) can help parents with a variety of needs including:

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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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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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