Child custody always has the potential to become an extremely complex issue. However, when parents are not married, it can become even more complicated. While married couples will make decisions about child custody as part of their divorce, unwed couples may need to take legal action to address issues related to their children. In some cases, paternity will need to be established before decisions can be made about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time.
Establishing Paternity in Illinois
In Illinois, married spouses are presumed to be the parents of any children born during the marriage, unless there is documentation that says otherwise. However, when the parents of a child are not married, the same assumption is not made. In the case of unwed parents, the paternity of the father must be established. There are three ways to do this:
- Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity: If both parents agree on the paternity of the child, they can both complete and sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.
- Administrative Paternity Order: If the parents cannot agree, the State of Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Child Support Services can issue an Administrative Paternity Order to establish paternity.
- Order of Paternity: The last method of establishing paternity is to appear in court and have a judge issue an order of paternity.
An Administrative Paternity Order and an Order of Paternity are typically only required if the father disputes that he is the biological father of the child. In these cases, DNA testing will usually be used to confirm that a presumed father is in fact the child’s biological father....
For many parents going through divorce, the biggest fear they have is that they will not be able to spend as much time with their children. This fear is an understandable one. Although the divorce laws in Illinois state that a parent’s gender should not be considered when making decisions about child custody, many judges still have a bias, even if they do not realize it. In many cases, parents worry that they will be treated unfairly when courts allocate parenting time, and they may be unsure of how they can protect their parental rights and ensure that the decisions made during divorce will provide for their children’s best interests. However, Illinois lawmakers are currently considering legislation that could change how parenting time is addressed in divorce and family law cases.
Are There Minimum Parenting Time Standards in Illinois?
Studies have found that it is in a child’s best interests to spend at least 35 percent of his or her time with each parent. However, under Illinois law, there is no minimum requirement for the amount of parenting time that should be allocated to a parent. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) states that parents are presumed to be fit to care for their children unless there is evidence to the contrary. However, parents are only entitled to “reasonable” amounts of parenting time, and the IMDMA does not specify a minimum amount or percentage of parenting time that is considered reasonable. Because of this, Illinois has received a ranking of C- from the National Parents Organization in its Shared Parenting Report Card. Clearly, there is work to be done in the state regarding shared parenting, and some lawmakers are attempting to address this issue.
House Bill 0185
A bill has been introduced to the Illinois House of Representatives that would change the way judges decide on parenting time in the state. House Bill 0185 would require judges to begin a child custody case with the presumption that it would be in children’s best interests for parents to share equal amounts of parenting time, as long as each parent is fit and able to care for his or her child. If, after reviewing the facts of the case, a judge determines that one parent should have less parenting time than the other, he or she would be required to provide a written explanation for the deviation from this presumption. The goal is to reduce the amount of conflict in divorce and child custody cases and make them easier and fairer for everyone involved, while protecting children’s best interests at all times....
As of January 1, 2020, marijuana is legal in Illinois for both medical and recreational use. However, even though the possession and use of this drug is no longer a criminal offense, people who have gotten a divorce and have at least partial custody of their children should think carefully before using marijuana. Irresponsible use of drugs or alcohol could negatively affect the amount of time you are able to spend with your child.
How Marijuana Use May Affect Parenting Time and Parental Responsibility
In Illinois, child custody is referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities, and visitation is referred to as parenting time. When determining how much time each parent will spend with their child, the court will consider what is in the child’s best interests. If one parent is concerned that the other parent is using marijuana when the child is in his or her care, this issue can be brought to the attention of the courts, and the parent may ask for a modification of the parenting plan. For example, a parent may ask that the other parent’s parenting time be reduced or that the parent be prohibited from using marijuana during his or her parenting time.
Understanding this issue is important for anyone who currently has parenting time with a child. Sometimes, a bitter ex will tell the court that a parent is using marijuana excessively around the child as a means of obtaining a greater allocation of parenting time. A parent may claim that the other parent’s use of marijuana is endangering the child, and the other parent may be required to prove that he or she has not acted in a way that has harmed the child....
If you are going through a divorce with children involved, you will also have to go through child custody proceedings. Child custody, which is known as the “allocation of parental responsibilities” in Illinois, is one of the most emotional and hotly contested aspects of any divorce, since there is a lot on the line. In order to give your case the best chance of success in court, you should be sure to know what to do and what not to do. If you are currently going through a custody battle, make sure you avoid making any of the following mistakes that could sabotage your case:
1. Try to Alienate Your Children From the Other Parent
During a divorce, one parent may try to influence the other parent’s relationship with the couple’s children. He or she may not allow the child to call the other parent during visits, or he or she may speak badly about the other parent to the child. While this type of behavior is common in divorce cases, the courts do not view it favorably. A judge will typically view alienation as damaging to the child, and he or she may choose to restrict the parental responsibilities or parenting time of a parent who engages in parental alienation.
2. Yell at Your Spouse or Children
People sometimes “play dirty” during divorce proceedings, and your ex-spouse may go so far as to record your conversations. If you yell at or belittle your ex-spouse or child in any way, this can have a very damaging impact on your child custody case. While recordings made without your permission are not admissible in court, the mere existence of a record of your behavior can be damaging to your case. The only way to make certain that this type of behavior will not affect your relationship with your children is to never yell at your spouse or children or become violent in any way....
If you are going through a divorce, you will likely come across a variety of procedural rules that you will have to follow and many different legal terms you may not have heard before. One of these terms is “guardian ad litem.” Many divorcing couples do not understand the role of a guardian ad litem (GAL) or why one may be appointed by the court. However, this person can play an important part in decisions about child custody, so you will want to be sure to understand how to proceed if a GAL has been appointed.
What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?
In some divorce cases, matters related to the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time may need to be addressed by the judge. When making decisions about these issues, the judge must take a number of factors into consideration, including the home life of both parents, the financial situation of each parent and ultimately, what is best for the child.
While this information is all very important for a judge to have, he or she will be unable to perform extensive interviews with the parents, the child or other relevant parties, such as teachers, doctors, family members and counselors. To gather the required information, a judge may appoint a guardian ad litem who will investigate the case and report the findings to the judge. The GAL will typically prepare a written report, and each parent’s attorney may cross-examine the GAL in court. The judge is not bound by the recommendations made by the guardian ad litem, but he or she will usually take the report into great consideration when making decisions....