As a parent, you want to be a strong presence in your children’s lives, providing both the love and the emotional support they need on a daily basis. Participating in simple daily routines, such as getting them ready for school, sharing meals together, and tucking them in at night all provide valuable opportunities to strengthen and nurture the bond between you and your children. When the ability to take part in these rituals is threatened, it can strike at the very heart of this relationship. Child custody is one of the most common types of legal matters dealt with in the family court, and is often among the most hotly contested issues for couples going through a divorce or separation. If you are involved in a child custody dispute, it is important to be aware of recent changes in the laws governing these types of proceedings, and how these changes could potentially affect both you and your child.
Effective as of January 2016, amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act have done away with the term ‘child custody,’ in favor of the more inclusive allocation of parental responsibilities. Under the Illinois Compiled Statutes (750 ILCS 5/600), the court now defines these responsibilities as meaning both the actual amount of parenting time each party gets to spend with the child, as well as the ability each party will have to make decisions that have the potential to impact the child’s health, welfare, and future. Similar to the previous method of granting custody, parenting time and decision making responsibilities can be allocated to one parent solely, or jointly to both parties. Decision making responsibilities the court will decide on include the following:
For the majority of parents going through a divorce or separation, their overwhelming concern is where and with whom their child or children will live. As stated above, in lieu of granting custody to one parent or the other, the Illinois court now seeks to allocate parenting time between both parties. Under Part VI, Section 5/602.7(b) of Marriage Dissolution Act, there are two options for determining where the child lives and the amount of time each parent gets to spend with the child:
In determining the children’s best interests, the court will factor in the wishes of the children as well as their parents, the children’s current living situation and their current primary caregiver, as well as factors such as the distance between the party’s residence and the children’s current education and social needs. The court may also offer each parent the right of first refusal. This means that if one of the parents intends to leave the children with an alternate caregiver, they must first offer the other parent the right to care for the children themselves.
If you or a loved one is involved in a child custody dispute, contact Sabuco, Beck, Hansen, Massino & Pollack, PC today. Our experienced Will County family law attorneys provide professional legal representation you can count on in sensitive family court matters, defending your interests while protecting your legal rights as a parent.
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