Naperville Child Custody Lawyer

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Whether in the process of a divorce or otherwise, facing a child custody issue could be one of the most trying times one can experience. The love a parent has for their child can make the uncertainty and tension of the situation particularly stressful. That’s why those facing these circumstances need a reliable Naperville child custody lawyer. A compassionate attorney can help parents with the legal process while respecting the stressful, challenging time they’re going through.

At Schaffer Family Law, Ltd., our approach starts with understanding the difficult decisions and challenges that you’re faced with. David N. Schaffer comes from a family of MDs, and he recognizes the importance of both problem-solving and treating clients with the utmost respect. Our dedication to your case can hopefully ease some of the stress that you’re facing.

Child Custody in Illinois

In Illinois, child custody is referred to as “parental responsibilities” in the law. These parental responsibilities describe the expectations of parents with regard to raising and caring for a child. A parental rights allocation becomes necessary in the event that parents are no longer living and parenting together, whether through a divorce or a separation. These responsibilities are divided into two categories: “decision-making responsibility” and “parenting time.”

Decision-making responsibility covers the aspects that are often thought of as “legal custody.” These include a parent’s responsibility regarding a child’s medical treatment and health, educational decisions, religious upbringing, and the kinds of extracurricular activities a child might participate in.

Parenting time addresses the aspects that are often known as physical custody and visitation. This will address issues like a child’s primary residence, time spent with each parent, and possibly a schedule for how that time will be allocated. Often, one parent will be named the “custodial parent,” even if the time between the two is roughly even.

How Child Custody Is Decided

Whether you are able to come to an agreement with the other parent or a Judge is left to make the decision, ultimately, a final parental rights order will have to be in the child’s best interests. In most cases, particularly when the parental allocation issue is being addressed as part of a divorce, the parents will negotiate an agreement and develop a parenting plan.

However, even then, a Judge will have final approval and will need to ensure that the parenting plan is in alignment with the child’s best interests. It’s important to work with an experienced lawyer in these situations, as they are often able to ensure that the agreement will fit the court’s expectations.

There are a number of different factors that a Judge will need to take into consideration when deciding what kind of allocation of parental rights will be in a child’s best interests. Some of these factors include:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child, taking into account their maturity
  • Both the child’s and parents’ physical and mental health
  • How willing each parent is to encourage their child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The child’s relationship and comfort with their home, school, and community
  • The daily schedules of the child and parents
  • The distance between the parents’ residences and the impact of transportation between the two
  • How care of the child and decision-making has been addressed in the past
  • If there is any history of domestic violence, child abuse, or sexual offenses
  • How much time caring for the child each parent has spent in the past two years
  • Each parent’s willingness and ability to set aside their needs for the sake of the child
  • In the case of a military parent, pre-deployment family-care plans will be considered.
  • The relationship of the child with other household members, including siblings
  • Whether any types of restrictions on parenting time are appropriate

Decision-Making Responsibilities

Illinois courts often award joint decision-making responsibility to both parents, but nothing in the statutes says that this arrangement is always required. Even when both parents have joint decision-making responsibility, a Judge may still split the authority between the parents, depending on the particular issue in question.

For instance, a Judge could order that one parent has the right to decide what religious practices a child will be brought up with. At the same time, they could give the other parent the right to make educational choices for the child. There may be some cases, though, where the Judge believes that one parent should not be involved in decision-making for the child. Then, they will award the other parent the sole right to make these decisions.

When a Judge is making decisions regarding decision-making responsibilities, they will only consider parents’ conduct that has an impact on their relationship with their child. Irrelevant decisions or actions will not be considered.

Parenting Time

All parents in Illinois are entitled to reasonable parenting time with their children. This is true even if they are not given decision-making responsibilities. The only exception to this requirement is if the court believes that the parenting time would lead to the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health being seriously endangered by the parent in question.

While parenting time is separate from significant decision-making responsibility, it’s important to realize that whoever has the child during their parenting time will be responsible for making routine decisions, such as those regarding bedtime and other routines. They will also be in charge of making emergency decisions regarding health and safety, as there may not be time to involve the other parent.

The parent with whom the child primarily spends their time is often designated as the primary residential parent. There is often a need to have someone designated as a primary residential parent for the purposes of official procedures, such as school enrollment. For these cases, one parent will usually be named the primary residential parent, even if there was a roughly even split in the parenting time.

Modifying Child Custody

The allocation of parental responsibilities is based on the information available and circumstances present at the time that a Judge either approves or decides on a parenting plan. This concerns many parents, as it’s possible that new information or changes could mean that the plan no longer meets the child’s best interests. Because these situations do arise, the court does allow for modifications to a parenting  plan that’s already in place.

These modifications can be decided in the same two ways as the original parental rights allocation. You may be able to negotiate modifications with the other parent, and a Judge will need to approve the change. If this is the case, then you may not need a full hearing if a Judge deems the modifications to be in the child’s best interests. The court may order that parents go through mediation in order to come to an agreement about a potential modification.

Alternatively, there are situations where the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the allocation of their rights. In these situations, it will be necessary to petition the court for changes, and if the court believes that they may be appropriate, there will likely be a hearing where both sides can present their positions.

In these cases, a modification is only likely to be approved if it can be shown that the change in circumstances was substantial and, if the change is being sought less than two years since last allocation order, unanticipated at the time of last order. In other words, modification should be necessary to meet the child’s best interests.

International Child Custody

One of the more challenging forms of parental rights allocation involves international custody concerns. However, it’s an issue that we have significant experience handling at Schaffer Family Law, Ltd. If you’re facing these types of challenges, we are prepared to help you.

International child custody issues can be particularly complicated. In some cases, it will be possible to seek a remedy to the situation through the protections offered by the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, commonly referred to by international family law attorneys as “Hague Convention” if both parents reside in signatory countries. The United States is a signatory to the Hague Convention.

In countries that are not a part of the Hague Convention, there may be other reciprocal agreements that can be relied upon. It’s important to work with a lawyer experienced in the nuances involved in these agreements to give yourself a strong chance at reaching a reasonable resolution.

Get Help With Your Child Custody Concerns

The allocation of parental rights and responsibilities is one of the most challenging aspects of family law. From a legal perspective, it can be difficult to make a case for your desired outcome. Just as challenging, though, can be the emotional side of the process. For many parents, nothing is more important than their children and the opportunity to spend time with them. However, it’s easy for this love to lead to tension and for custody battles to turn contentious.

The unique challenges of parental allocation concerns are why it’s critical that you work with a lawyer who has extensive experience with these kinds of cases. At Schaffer Family Law, Ltd., we have extensive experience and a depth of knowledge in the area of parental rights and responsibilities. David N. Schaffer has nearly four decades of experience to rely on when making the strongest case for your parental rights interests. If you have a child custody concern that you need help with, contact our offices today.

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