As a parent, your children’s health and well-being is at the top of your mind at all times. You want to do everything you can to meet their needs and provide them with safety and security as they grow up, and this will always be true, no matter how your relationship with their other parent might change. If you are planning to get a divorce, if you are splitting up with an unmarried partner, or if there are other reasons you do not reside with your children’s other parent, you may need to address a variety of legal issues related to child custody. In these cases, you need a dedicated attorney on your side who can advocate for your children’s best interests.
The attorneys of Corri Fetman & Associates, Ltd. know the importance of your relationship with your children, and we are ready to help you make sure you can continue to be the parent they deserve. We will work with you to protect your parental rights while helping you reach an outcome that will meet your children’s needs.
Child Custody Under Illinois Law
Even though decisions about where children will live and how parents will raise them are typically referred to as “child custody,” this term is no longer used in Illinois law. In 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act underwent a major revision, and the term “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “ parenting time” is now used to address these matters. The law identifies two areas of parental responsibilities: decision-making responsibility and parenting time.
Decision-making responsibilities involve the right to choose how children will be raised. There are four areas of significant responsibility:
- Education – Choice of schools children will attend and decisions about tutoring or other types of education.
- Religion – Whether or where children will attend church, mass, temple, etc., as well as what types of religious training they may receive.
- Medical care – Choice of doctors and decisions about the medical, dental, or mental health care children will receive.
- Extracurricular activities – Authority to enroll children in sports, clubs, or other pursuits meant to help them grow socially, culturally, or athletically.
Illinois law has also updated the language used to describe the time children spend in the physical care of each parent. Instead of the terms “physical custody” or “visitation,” this time is referred to as “parenting time,” and it includes the time when parents supervise children, meet their developmental and nutritional needs, and exercise non-significant decision-making responsibilities.
If parents are able to work together, then it may be possible able to reach an agreement about how to allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time. In some cases, you may be ordered by the court to attend mandatory mediation, where parents will be required to meet with a mediator to attempt to resolve any outstanding issues. Any parenting plan agreement reached in mediation may be incorporated into an allocation judgment.
The parenting plan will specify how the different areas of decision-making responsibility will be allocated between parents. Parents may share equal authority in each of the areas of responsibility, or certain responsibilities may be granted exclusively to one parent. The agreement may also address issues such as discipline or communication with children, along with any other relevant issues, such as access to children’s medical and/or educational records.
The Parenting Plan will also address a schedule for how parenting time will be divided. Ideally, this schedule should be as detailed as possible, stating when children will be with each parent on a daily or weekly basis while also addressing where children will stay on significant holidays, summer, spring break and winter vacations from school, parents’ and children’s birthdays, and any other events that may be important.
However, if you and the other parent cannot agree on whether the sky is blue, no amount of mediation will assist in reaching a parenting plan. If an agreed parenting plan is not possible, then the case will proceed to a litigated parenting dispute. If an agreement cannot be reached, the allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time will be litigated in court. In most cases, a custody evaluator will be appointed by the court. Additionally, a guardian ad litem or child representative may be appointed by the court to represent your child. A custody evaluator may be appointed by the Judge to investigate, prepare a detailed report and offer recommendations to the court. Ultimately, if litigated, the judge will make the final decisions, which will be based on many different factors, including the best interests of the children.
When addressing matters related to your children, you need a strong legal advocate who understands the law and knows the best ways to achieve favorable results. Attorney Fetman and the lawyers of Corri Fetman & Associates, Ltd. can provide the representation you need. Contact us at 312-341-0900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can assist with your child custody case.