Know Your Illinois Child Custody Options
DuPage County Child Custody Attorneys
If you are going through or considering a divorce, one of the greatest concerns you are likely facing is regarding your children. You have to decide amongst yourselves whether one parent should be given sole custody, or if you will share the parenting roles until the child reaches the age of 18. Whichever parent has custody of the child(ren) after a divorce will have the ultimate say in the upbringing of the child, and it is therefore critical to consult with knowledgeable child custody attorneys in order for you to preserve your relationship with your child post-divorce.
Roles of the Custodial Parent
Whoever is granted custody of the child or children is given the responsibility of upbringing. This may include decisions involving the educational, medical, financial, or religious upbringing of the child, in addition to day-to-day decision making regarding extra curricular activities and rules of the home. A non-custodial parent does not have rights to enforce rules, inflict punishment, or participate in important decisions regarding the welfare of a minor child. A non-custodial parent may, however, have visitation rights, scheduled visits, or vacation time with children depending on the circumstances and the provisions of the divorce settlement.
A non-custodial parent may still be ordered to pay child support even if they are not the decision-making parent after a divorce. The amount, frequency, and rationale for this support may vary depending on the circumstances of the family. Being a “non-custodial” parent does not necessarily mean that there will be no future interaction with the child, but does limit that parents’ rights to govern the child’s life.
Determining Custody Arrangements
Determining custody can be very difficult emotionally both for the parents and the children. As such, the ultimate guiding principle in making custody determinations is the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child may is determined by the Illinois courts and based off of the following considerations:
- The wishes of the parents;
- The relationship of the child with each respective parent;
- The child’s wishes regarding his or her arrangements;
- The mental and physical state of each involved party;
- The possibility or threat of violence;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- The willingness of each parent to maintain an amicable relationship with the other;
- The geographical location of the parties after the divorce; and
- Other relevant considerations that may assist the court in determining the best course of action for the placement of the child.
Often, when parents cannot agree upon custody, a guardian ad litem is appointed to facilitate the decision-making process. The guardian ad litem (“GAL”) is a neutral third party appointed by the court that assesses the child’s best interests. They may conduct interviews, ask questions, and investigate the family history. The GAL will then make its recommendation to the court regarding the best custody arrangement for the best interest of the child.
Sole custody means that one parent has full decision-making power over the interests of the child. Sole custody will arise either 1) when one parent voluntarily relinquishes the rights to govern their child’s upbringing or 2) when a court deems one of the parents unfit to care for the child’s interests. The latter is more common, as most divorces are characterized by a struggle to determine a custody arrangement.
Sole custody may also occur when a biological parent is not in the picture or if there are questions regarding the paternity of the child. Most paternity questions must be resolved before a decision can be made about the custody of the child.
Joint custody is generally a more desirable outcome for the parents so that they can share in the upbringing of the child. Joint custody may also help preserve the child’s relationship with both parents. Joint custody is the preferable method if both parents are willing to be amicable with one another, if they intend to remain in geographical proximity to one another, and if they are willing to make (and stick to) a schedule.
Some individuals are concerned that joint custody may disrupt the routine of the child to the extent that it may have a negative impact on their life. This possibility is one of many things a court (or GAL) will consider when making recommendations for custody arrangements. If it is possible for both parents to maintain a relationship with the child and the child is open to that as well, joint custody is the best answer for those families.
Wheaton, Illinois Child Custody Attorneys
If you or anyone you know is going through a divorce with children, you understand how emotional and taxing the process can be. At Abear Law Offices, we strive to simplify and expedite the process, all while ensuring that you understand what is going on in your case every step of the way. We encourage our clients to be involved and to clearly articulate their desires for their children’s well-being. Regardless of whether you are considering divorce, in the middle of settlement negotiations, or if you have a pre-existing custody arrangement that you believe requires modification, our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys can help. Contact one of our five convenient Chicagoland locations at (630) 904-3033 to learn more about your parenting rights and post-divorce options today.