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Frequently Asked Questions About Illinois Child Custody Cases

 Posted on March 17, 2023 in Child Custody

Elmhurst child custody lawyerWhen it comes to Illinois child custody cases, there are many questions that parents may encounter. How will parental responsibilities be allocated? What does parenting time involve? What should be included in a parenting plan? These and other frequently asked questions about Illinois child custody cases can be daunting for those who are going through a divorce or who need to address custody issues as unmarried parents. It is essential for parents to be aware of the laws that affect these matters so that they can make wise decisions when confronting family law issues. 

At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we understand the difficulties that many parents face when addressing legal issues related to their children. Disagreements between parents are common, but parents can often do their best to minimize conflict by focusing on their children’s best interests. Our attorneys work closely with parents in family law cases, helping them determine the best approach to take and the ideal methods of resolving disputes in a way that will allow for continued cooperation and co-parenting. We can answer any questions our clients have, ensuring that they will be prepared to address child custody issues effectively.

What Is the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities in Illinois?

Many people are familiar with the distinction between legal custody and physical custody in family law cases. Illinois law refers to legal custody as the allocation of parental responsibilities. This aspect of a child custody case will address the roles of each parent in deciding matters concerning their children’s health, education, and well-being. The allocation of parental responsibilities defines each parent’s rights and responsibilities as they make decisions about how children will be raised. 

In most cases, parents will share legal custody, and they will have equal rights and responsibilities in different areas of decision making. However, depending on the needs of a family, one parent may be given primary responsibility in certain areas, or they may even have the sole deciding power over certain issues. The four areas of parental responsibility that Illinois law recognizes are healthcare (including choice of doctors and forms of medical treatment), education (including choice of schools and issues such as tutoring), extracurricular activities, and religion.

If parents encounter disputes over the allocation of parental responsibilities, they may need to resolve these issues in court. A family court judge may consider various factors when determining how responsibilities will be shared or whether sole responsibility may be appropriate. These factors include the wishes of the parents and the children, the needs of the children, the parents’ ability to cooperate with each other, each parent’s level of participation in making child-related decisions in the past, any history of abuse or neglect by either party, and whether each parent is willing to encourage children to have a positive relationship with the other parent. 

What Is Parenting Time?

As opposed to legal custody, physical custody addresses the amount of time children will spend with each parent, where they will primarily live, and other issues related to their daily lives. In Illinois, physical custody is referred to as parenting time. Parents may be able to reach agreements on how parenting time will be divided, or they may leave the decisions up to the judge in their case.

When determining how parenting time arrangements will be handled, a judge will consider a number of factors to evaluate what is in the best interests of the child. These factors include the wishes of the parents and the children, the physical and mental health of the parents and the children, each parent’s level of participation in providing childcare and related functions within the previous two years, the distance between the parents’ homes and the difficulty of transporting children, any special needs children may have, and whether there are any potential risks related to instances of abuse or neglect. 

Parents will generally have the right to reasonable amounts of parenting time, regardless of how parental responsibilities are allocated. Most of the time, parents are presumed to be fit and able to care for their children. However, if there are concerns about children’s safety or well-being while they are in the care of a parent, certain restrictions may be put in place. For example, if there is evidence that a parent has committed abuse or neglect, the court may require their parenting time to be supervised. Supervised visitation involves another adult being present during visits between a parent and child; this could include a social worker or other designated third party who acts as an observer for safety reasons. 

What Is a Parenting Plan?

When decisions about child custody are made in a family law case, a court order will be created that addresses these issues. This document is known as a parenting plan. It covers topics such as the rights and obligations of each parent, the allocation of parental responsibilities, the schedule for parenting time, and other details related to the parents and their children. 

A parenting plan's goal is to help parents work together as they raise their children while ensuring that children’s safety and best interests will be protected. Depending on the family’s specific circumstances, a parenting plan may include provisions that stipulate how communication between the parents should take place, specify transportation arrangements for parenting time, detail when children will stay with parents on holidays or during school vacations and include other rules, such as the appropriate methods of discipline. In short, a parenting plan serves as an all-encompassing guideline to ensure that parents can address child-related issues correctly in the years to come.

During a divorce or child custody case, parents must file a proposed parenting plan with the course within 120 days after the initial divorce or child custody petition was filed. Parents may work together to negotiate a parenting plan, and they may submit an agreed plan together. If the parents cannot agree on the terms of their parenting plan, each parent may submit their own proposed plan, and they may ask the judge in their case to make the final decisions. If necessary, the judge may appoint a child custody evaluator, or the parents may be ordered to use mediation to attempt to resolve their differences and reach an agreement on the terms of their parenting plan.

What Is the Right of First Refusal?

The right of first refusal can be an important provision that may be included in a parenting plan. These provisions will apply in situations where a parent is unable to provide care for children when they are scheduled to have parenting time. Before making arrangements to have children stay with a family member or receive care from a babysitter, the parent who will be unavailable will be required to contact the other parent and give them the opportunity to care for the children. This permits parents to be involved in their children’s lives as much as possible, and it ensures that children will be able to stay with a parent when necessary.

Illinois law does not require the right of first refusal to be included in a parenting plan. These clauses will usually only be put in place if they are agreed upon by both parents. When addressing issues related to the right of first refusal, parents should be clear about the circumstances in which it will apply, such as the amount of time that a parent will be unavailable before they are required to notify the other parent and offer them the opportunity to care for the children. They should also make sure they understand how transportation arrangements for children will be handled in these situations and how parents will contact each other, which can help avoid potential disputes.

When Can Modifications Be Made to Child Custody?

Child custody modifications can be requested when there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order was issued. There are a variety of changes that may necessitate modifications to parenting time or the allocation of parental responsibilities. These may include a parent’s plans to relocate to a new home, the remarriage of a parent, changes to the work hours of either parent, changes in children’s school schedules, or any other material changes that could potentially impact the children's well-being or the relationship between parents and children. 

In Illinois, modifications to the allocation of parental responsibilities are usually prohibited within the first two years after a child custody order is issued by a court. The only exceptions are in situations where children may be at risk of physical or emotional harm due to issues such as abuse or neglect. Modifications to parenting time may be made at any point after a child custody order is issued, although they must usually be based on significant changes in circumstances, and they must be in the best interests of the children.

What Is Parental Relocation?

Parental relocation is the process of one parent moving with a child to another location, either in-state or out-of-state. In Illinois, a parent who has the majority of the parenting time with their children or who shares equal parenting time with the other parent will need to receive approval for a relocation in certain circumstances. For parents who live in the collar counties surrounding Chicago, approval will be required if they wish to move to a new home that is 25 miles or more away from their current residence.

When a parent plans to move, they will be required to provide notification to the other parent at least 60 days ahead of time, or at the earliest possible date. A copy of this notification should also be filed with their local circuit court. If the other parent has no objections to the move, they may sign the notice, and a proposed parenting plan that includes any required modifications to the allocation of parental responsibilities or parenting time can be filed with the court. In situations where parents agree to these changes, a judge will usually approve the new parenting plan, as long as they believe that it provides for the best interests of the children.

Parental relocation requests can become more complicated if the other parent objects. In these cases, a hearing will be held where a judge will review the request and the reasons the other parent is objecting to determine whether the relocation request will be granted and whether the couple’s parenting plan will be modified. The judge will make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the children, and they may take steps to ensure that both parents will be able to maintain close relationships with their children and be as involved in their lives as possible.

Do Illinois Courts Favor Mothers in Child Custody Cases?

Illinois law is gender-neutral when addressing issues related to parenting. Neither a father nor mother will be given preference when determining how to allocate parental responsibilities and deciding on what parenting time schedules will be appropriate. Each case is evaluated individually, and determinations will be made based on what is in the best interests of the children involved in a case. Issues that may play a role in these decisions include how involved each parent has been in caring for their children in the past, whether each parent will be able to provide a safe and stable living situation for children, how well parents are able to cooperate with each other to address their children’s needs, and whether there are any physical or mental health issues that affect parents or children. 

Can Parents Share Equal Custody of Children in Illinois?

Parents will usually be able to share joint legal custody of their children, and parental responsibilities will be allocated equally between them. When it comes to physical custody, one parent’s home will be designated as the children’s primary residence for purposes of school registration, but this does not necessarily mean that children will spend the majority of their time with that parent. Parenting time schedules may be created that allow for equal or near-equal amounts of time with each parent. The final decisions about parenting time will be based on what arrangements will provide for the children’s best interests.

Contact Our DuPage County Child Custody Lawyers

At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we can answer any other questions you may have about divorce and child custody, ensuring that you are fully prepared to address these issues. We can provide you with effective representation in your case, advocating for solutions that will protect your parental rights and ensure that you will be able to provide for your children’s needs in the years to come. Contact our Elmhurst child custody attorneys at 312-605-4041 to set up a consultation and get the legal help you need.





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