dupage county child custody lawyerParents may become involved in child custody disputes during a divorce or the breakup of an unmarried couple. In these situations, making decisions about how parents will share legal custody and divide parenting time can be difficult. When addressing these issues, it is important to understand how the laws in Illinois may affect a case. Even if a couple plans to negotiate a parenting agreement rather than resolving disputes in the courtroom, knowing how the law addresses their situation can help them make the right decisions. One issue that may play a role in these matters is the way parents have handled and expect to continue handling “caretaking functions” for their children.

What Are Caretaking Functions?

Parents will engage in a number of activities as they provide care for their children, ensure that children’s needs are met, and help children grow and develop successfully. Illinois law details a number of these caretaking functions, and it states that parents are responsible for engaging in these functions during their parenting time. When determining how to allocate parenting time between parents, one factor that may be considered is how each parent has been involved in caretaking functions for their children during the two years immediately preceding the initiation of a divorce or child custody case.

Caretaking functions include:

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child custody lawyer in skokieThere are a multitude of different issues that will be addressed during a couple’s divorce, and at the end of the legal process, a divorce decree or judgment will be issued. This final order is meant to remain in place indefinitely, and it will address how certain issues will be handled going forward. For couples who have children, their divorce decree will include a child custody order, which is sometimes referred to as a parenting plan. There are some cases where these orders may no longer adequately address a family’s needs, and based on changes that have occurred, either parent may request modifications of their parenting plan. By understanding the requirements they will need to meet for modifications to be granted, parents can make sure they approach these cases correctly.

Post-Divorce Child Custody Modifications

Generally, modifications to the allocation of parental responsibilities (also known as legal custody) may not be made within the first two years after a couple’s divorce, unless there is reason to believe that issues have arisen that may affect a child’s physical or emotional health, such as abuse against a child by a parent or another person in their household. Modifications to parenting time or physical custody may be made at any time if the court determines that they are necessary. Parents may also agree to make modifications to legal or physical custody at any time, and these modifications will generally be allowed, unless the court determines that they are not in the children’s best interests.

In most cases, a parent who requests a modification will need to show that there has been a significant change in the circumstances of themselves, the other parent, or the couple’s children. Some valid reasons for modifications may include:

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dupage county divorce lawyerDuring a divorce, matters related to a couple’s children can often be some of the most complex and difficult issues to resolve. Disagreements about raising children can be a significant factor that leads to the breakdown of a marriage, and these arguments may continue throughout the divorce process as parents determine how they will share parental responsibilities going forward. How parents cared for their children, made decisions, and handled family responsibilities during their marriage may be a significant factor in child custody cases. Some parents may believe that the ways they acted while married should determine the role that they will play in their children’s lives following their divorce, while others may feel that it is best to leave the past in the past and find new solutions as they move forward. When parents encounter disputes about issues related to the custody of their children, they will need to understand how the law may address their previous actions and behaviors.

Factors Considered When Determining Children’s Best Interests

While each parent may have an idea of how they would like child-related issues to be handled following the end of their marriage, the wishes of the parents are not the most important concern in these cases. Instead, family courts will focus on finding solutions that will provide for children’s best interests. Decisions about child custody will be made based on what will allow children to thrive, avoid disruptions to their lives, receive the proper care and education, and maintain positive relationships with both parents.

Child custody cases generally address two types of custody, commonly known as legal custody and physical custody. In Illinois, these are referred to as the allocation of decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. Decision-making responsibilities include the rights and obligations of each parent to determine how important issues related to their children will be handled, including the medical and personal care children will receive, their schooling and education, their religious activities and practices, and extracurricular activities children will participate in. Parenting time, which is sometimes referred to as visitation, is the time children will be in the care of each parent. A schedule will be created detailing when children will stay in parents’ homes or visit them in other locations, including on regular weekdays and weekends and on holidays, school vacation days, and other important dates.

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dupage county divorce lawyerWhen married spouses choose to get a divorce, or when an unmarried couple ends their relationship, this will not only affect the couple themselves, but also their children and other extended family members. In some of these cases, grandparents may be concerned about their ability to maintain close and continuing relationships with their grandchildren. This may be an issue in situations where a person does not get along with their former spouse’s parents, and grandparents may worry that a parent will attempt to limit the amount of time they can spend with their grandchildren or otherwise harm a child’s relationship with extended family members. In some cases, grandparents may be able to secure visitation rights with grandchildren. When addressing these issues, grandparents can work with a family law attorney to determine their rights and options.

Petitioning for Grandparent Visitation Rights

Illinois law presumes that parents who are fit to care for their children are able to make decisions about whether continuing relationships with grandparents will be beneficial for their children. However, if a parent has denied a grandparent access to their grandchildren, a grandparent may petition for visitation rights. In these cases, a grandparent will need to show that a parent’s actions to deny visitation by a grandparent will result in harm to a child’s physical or emotional well-being.

If a child’s parents have begun the divorce process, have finalized their divorce, or have received a legal separation, a grandparent may petition for visitation as long as one of the parents does not object to this visitation. Grandparents may also seek visitation rights in cases where a child’s parents are unmarried and not living together, as well as situations where one of the child’s parents is deceased, has been missing for at least 90 days, is incarcerated in prison, or is deemed legally incompetent.

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dupage county child custody lawyerIf you are a parent who is considering divorce, planning to end your marriage, or in the midst of the divorce process, one of your biggest concerns is likely to be how you and your spouse will share custody of your children. Each of you may have different expectations about how parenting issues should be handled and where your children will live, and determining how to resolve these disagreements can often be difficult. As you proceed with your divorce, you will need to be sure to understand how Illinois law applies to you and how you can create a parenting plan that will allow you to provide for your children’s best interests in the years to come.

Sharing Legal and Physical Custody of Children

Child custody involves two different areas of concern: the allocation of parental responsibilities (usually referred to as legal custody) and parenting time (often called physical custody or visitation). Parental responsibilities address the parents’ right to make important decisions when raising their children. These decisions include education, healthcare, religion, and activities that children will participate in. Parenting time includes any time that children will be cared for by either parent, including when they stay at a parent’s home or spend time with them at other locations.

Generally, family courts in Illinois presume that parents should share in the allocation of parental responsibilities. However, depending on how parents made decisions for their children while they were married, how well they are able to work together, and other relevant factors, sole or primary responsibility may be allocated to one parent in certain areas. For example, parents may equally share responsibility in the areas of religion and education, but one parent may have the right to make all decisions about children’s health and medical care.

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