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DuPage County family law attorneyDivorced parents will usually share custody of their children, and when doing so, they will follow the parenting plan that was included as part of their divorce decree or judgment. This document will address the allocation of parental responsibilities (commonly known as “legal custody”), and it will include schedules for parenting time (also referred to as “physical custody” or “visitation”). A parenting plan will provide a framework for how parents will work together to raise their children. Because parents’ and children’s lives may change in the years following a divorce or breakup, modifications to child custody arrangements may be needed. Parents should be sure to understand when these types of changes may be made and the steps they will need to take to do so.

Modifying a Parenting Plan Because of Changed Circumstances

Illinois law states that changes to the allocation of parental responsibilities cannot be made within the first two years following the issuance of a divorce decree or child custody order, although exceptions may be made if the court determines that a child would be at risk of physical or emotional harm in their present environment. Parenting time, on the other hand, can be modified at any time, either by an agreement between the parents or because of a “significant change in circumstances.” After the first two years, legal custody modifications may also be made based on changed circumstances.

Significant changes in circumstances may include any issues that affect either the parents or the children and require changes to how parents make decisions about the children or adjustments to the time the children spend in each parent’s care. For example, one parent may begin a new job that will require them to work during their scheduled parenting time, and they may ask that the schedule be changed to ensure that they can continue to spend the same amount of time with their children. Legal custody may be modified if children experience changes that affect the parents’ ability to make decisions. For instance, a child may experience a serious illness or health condition, and the parent who primarily provides care to the child may ask for the sole authority to make the necessary decisions about the medical care the child will receive.

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DuPage County child custody lawyerDuring a divorce, child custody is often one of the most important concerns that a couple will need to address, but it can also be one of the most divisive issues. When the relationship between parents has broken down, they will be unlikely to agree about what is best for their children, and each parent may believe that they should be granted sole or primary custody. Those who are going through a divorce will need to understand how the law applies to their situation, and by working with an attorney, they can ensure that their parental rights will be protected while also arguing for what is in their children’s best interests.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Child custody consists of two separate, but related, issues. Legal custody, which is known in Illinois as the “allocation of parental responsibilities,” addresses the decisions parents make about their children’s lives, including their education, the medical care they will receive, religious practices or training, and the extracurricular activities they will participate in. Physical custody, which is known as “parenting time,” is the time children will spend in the care of each parent. During their parenting time, each parent will have sole responsibility regarding the routine decisions about children’s day-to-day lives, as well as the right to make emergency decisions about children’s health and safety.

While it is possible for one parent to be granted sole legal custody, courts usually believe that it is in children’s best interests for both parents to be involved in children’s lives, and parents will usually share parental responsibilities. However, different areas of responsibility may be allocated solely or primarily to one parent in some cases. For example, if only one parent had been involved in the children’s education during their marriage, such as by helping with homework and attending parent-teacher conferences and school events, that parent may be allocated sole responsibility in this area.

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Naperville parental alienation attorneyWhen parents choose to get divorced, they will need to address a wide variety of legal issues related to their children, and they will need to determine how they can continue to work together as co-parents to meet their children’s needs in the years following the end of their marriage. Since divorce can be an emotional and stressful process, parents’ negative attitudes toward each other may spill over into their interactions with their children and affect children’s relationships with both parents.

When one parent attempts to negatively influence their children’s attitudes toward the other parent, this is known as parental alienation. Whether it is done intentionally in hopes of gaining an advantage in decisions about child custody or is a by-product of a parent’s emotional difficulties during the divorce process, parental alienation should be addressed promptly to ensure that it does not cause harm to the children or affect the other parent’s parental rights.

Signs of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation can take a variety of forms. It can involve overt comments by a parent about their former partner to their children, such as blaming them for the divorce or claiming that they do not love their children or want to spend time with them. In many cases, parental alienation is more subtle, consisting of activities such as removing a parent as a contact at children’s schools or scheduling activities that the children would enjoy during the other parent’s parenting time.

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Naperville Family Law AttorneyThe mental fitness of each parent can be an important factor when determining who should receive greater responsibility for the children following a divorce or separation. A family court or one of the parents can request a psychological evaluation of the other parent if they believe that the other parent’s mental condition may affect their ability to care for the children. You may be understandably upset if your co-parent questions your mental wellness. However, undergoing a psychological evaluation does not guarantee that you will lose your parental rights, and behaving calmly and cooperatively is the best way to prove that there is no reason to worry about your mental condition.

Granting an Evaluation

Though your co-parent is allowed to request that you undergo a psychological evaluation, the court will determine whether to grant that request, based on whether it believes that your co-parent’s claim has merit. The court understands that a psychological evaluation is invasive and expensive and will order one only if it is convinced that there are serious concerns about your psychological condition that may affect your parental fitness. If your co-parent is the one who initially requested the evaluation, they will be required to pay for it.

Protection Against Baseless Claims

Your co-parent is not allowed to use requests for psychological evaluation as a way to harass you or prolong the trial. Baseless allegations against you should be rejected and may damage your co-parent’s credibility when they try to make other arguments during your case.

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