Hamilton & Antonsen
Joliet Child Custody Lawyer
Understanding Child Custody law in Illinois
Child custody can be one of the most important issues for parents who are seeking a divorce. In the last few years, Illinois has significantly altered child custody laws throughout the state. If you are currently involved in a child custody dispute or are interested in learning how the new laws may affect your rights as a parent, a Joliet child custody lawyer may be able to answer any of your questions.
Illinois Law on Child Custody or “Parental Responsibilities”
Revised in 2016, child custody laws no longer use the exact term “child custody”; instead, the Illinois code favors a division of so-called “parental responsibilities.” While the Illinois legislature may have changed the terminology, the same standard applies – the Court will do whatever is in the “best interest of the child.” The so-called “best interest of the child” standard, described in Section 602.7 of the Illinois Code, lists a set of applicable factors for determining the “best interest of the child,” which include:
- The wishes of each parent
- The wishes of the child, considering their maturity and ability to express themselves
- Amount of time each parent has been a “caretaker” in the immediately preceding 24 months
- Any prior agreement or conduct by the parents relating to their ability as a caretaker
- The child’s relationship with any siblings
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
- The child’s needs
- The distance between the parent’s homes
- The ability of the parents to cooperate
- Any physical violence or threats of violence by a parent
- Each parent’s ability and willingness to place the child’s needs above their own
- If the parent is a convicted sex-offender
- Any military family-care plan a parent must complete before deployment
- Any other relevant factor
Under Illinois’ previous approach to child custody arrangements, the judge would assign one or both parents “custody” of the child. Under the new scheme, focused on “parental responsibilities,” the judge may assign certain responsibilities for the child’s welfare to a parent, or to both parents. For example, an Illinois judge may assign the “parental responsibility” for the child’s education to one parent while assigning the “parental responsibility” for the child’s health to both parents. Instead of weighing three options – custody by one parent, the other parent, or joint custody – and determining the custody of the child by the totality of the factors, this new approach allows for a judge to determine the best interest of the child depending on the circumstances.
Illinois Law on Visitation or “Parenting Time”
In addition to overhauling child custody laws, Illinois has also altered visitation rights in the last several years. Also similar to child custody, the legislature has replaced the term “visitation” with “parenting time.” When determining parenting time, a judge will look at the following factors:
- The child’s wishes, considering their maturity and ability to express them
- A parent’s involvement in the preceding two years
- The child’s relationship with other family members – siblings, grandparents, and any other relative who could be affected
- The distance and cost to travel between the parent’s residences
- The willingness of each parent to put their child above themselves
- Any other relevant factor
To learn more about child custody arrangements in Illinois, contact a Joliet family law attorney.
Most commonly, the term is used to describe the divorce process where both parties want divorce but can’t agree on issues like child custody, child and spousal support and property division.
Every divorce, contested or uncontested, begins with filing a divorce petition and service of process on the spouse who didn’t file the petition. If there are contested issues, one of the Illinois divorce lawyers may request a hearing. The hearing may be requested at the same time the divorce petition is filed or at a later date.
Temporary Orders in Contested Divorce
Depending on the case, the divorce attorney may request a hearing to establish temporary orders. The purpose of the temporary hearing is to establish orders that will remain in effect until the divorce is final. A contested divorce case may take months or longer to complete – life doesn’t stand still during that time. Someone must care for the children, pay bills and maintain property.
Temporary orders may be entered by agreement or established at a contested hearing. If a contested hearing is necessary, both spouses will have the opportunity to present a limited amount of evidence to help the divorce court decide on how to rule on short-term issues. Temporary orders remain in effect until either the final divorce decree is entered or a party moves to modify and the judge grants that motion.
During the Pending Divorce
While a divorce is pending, each spouse’s attorney may request discovery from the other spouse. This may include income records, deeds or titles to property, business account records, credit card bills and other spending records, proposed witness lists and almost anything else that may relate to the financial, custody, and visitation issues in a divorce case. At the same time, the court may require the parties to attend divorce mediation, custody counseling or other programs designed to help with the divorce process and prevent stress on children.
The Final Hearing
At a contested final hearing, the judge will hear evidence from both parties. This may include testimony from both spouses, other witnesses, financial records, police or medical reports and any admissible form of evidence. The evidence presented helps to establish fair division of debts and assets and the best interest of the child of the marriage.
Speak with a Local Joliet Divorce Attorney about Contested Divorce
A contested divorce case can be a long, involved and emotionally draining experience. A local Joliet divorce lawyer can help you understand the necessary steps, gather the evidence you need and navigate the divorce court system. Please call 815.729.9220 for a free consultation or for more info.
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