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parenting time awards, Illinois fathers, Illinois child custody, Barrington family law attorney, parenting timeStudies repeatedly support the fact that continuous engagement with both parents is key to a child’s long-term development and wellbeing. Divorced parents in Illinois are expected to divide parenting responsibilities (absent issues of danger or neglect), including childcare duties; however, this mandate does not necessarily translate into equal time for both parents. While a growing number of states at least state a strong preference for, if not outright demand, equal parenting time, Illinois has no such provision and merely says both parents are presumed fit and some amount of parenting time should be allocated to each.

A recent study by Custody X Change that looked at how states divided parenting time between mothers and fathers found that Illinois ranked among the bottom, only surpassed by Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Specifically, Illinois fathers, on average, get 23.1 percent of time with their children. Obviously, this number is low, and does not bode well for fathers who must rely on the Court system to make this decision. Consider the following on how Courts evaluate parenting time questions, as well as strategies to boost a father’s chance at receiving more parenting time.

Court’s Assessment of Parenting Time

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Barrington family law attorney, non-parents and custody, children and divorce, custody rights, child custody rightsParents are traditionally, legally and historically associated as the primary caregivers in their child’s life. This standard is supported by the fact that society and the law presume parents to be the most fit individuals to provide for their child’s needs and to make decisions in their child’s best interests. This paradigm works well in the vast majority of families, including those in which child custody is shared following a divorce or separation. However, in a minority of families, one or both parents are unavailable to provide adequate care, usually due to illness, substance abuse, or criminal issues. These children still require care, and if the living situation at home is unsafe or unstable, then alternate arrangements must be found.

The question that routinely arises in these situations is the long-term custody rights of non-parents to care for these children. In the worst case, these children end up — at least temporarily — in foster homes or State shelters. In fact, a recent article about Illinois’ handling of children unable to live with their parents reveals hundreds suffered unnecessary weeks and months in State psychiatric facilities, even though cleared for release, because there was nowhere for these children to go. Children should always have the benefit of growing up in a supportive environment.

Who Can Request Custody Rights

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Palatine family law attorney, child legal advocates, children and divorce, child custody, divorce proceedingsDivorce, child custody and child support are all emotional and difficult legal issues that separated families face. Parents typically intend to shield their children from the stress and negative emotions of these proceedings; however, sometimes, they leach out anyway. Further, even in the best of situations, the best interests of the child can become lost in the midst of legal battles.

To ensure the child’s needs are properly addressed and considered, a Judge has discretion to appoint a child advocate to help him or her better understand the child’s situation and the type of arrangement that would best promote the child’s healthy development. Attorneys are used for such an appointment and would serve in one of three differing capacities intended to provide a voice to the child’s past and current situations.

Consider the following three roles an attorney may play as a child advocate in family law cases, and examples of circumstances that may prompt a Judge to make this type of appointment.

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allocating parental responsibilities, parental responsibilities, Hoffman Estates family law lawyer, child custody issues, non-biological parent rightsDividing child custody (legally termed parent responsibilities) is a critical, complicated, and emotional undertaking that challenges even the most cooperative spouses getting divorced. Practically speaking, both parents will have to compromise and cede some amount of authority and autonomy over the child’s life in order to facilitate sharing responsibilities with the other parent.

Until a Court order says otherwise, both legally recognized parents (typically, those biologically related to the child) have full rights to make any decision on the child’s behalf and to determine the child’s physical location, without the other parent’s knowledge or permission. Once a Court order is issued, though, this expansive ability to make unilateral decisions stops if parental responsibilities are shared, which is almost always the case.

Biological parents have a tough time sharing these rights and duties, and when a non-biological parent seeks the same level of parental authority, the other parent is likely to push back hard against such claims. This situation occurred between a same-sex female couple from Rockford who used artificial insemination to impregnate one of the women, yet failed to legally acquire parental rights for the other spouse. An Illinois appellate court recently ruled that the non-biological former spouse had parental rights that she could attempt to enforce.

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Inverness family law attorney, substance abuse, child custody issues, alcoholism, alcohol abuseCouples decide to divorce for a variety of reasons, though finances and the stresses of parenthood are often at the top of the list. However, one factor that greatly increases the likelihood a marriage will end is alcohol or other forms of substance abuse.

Forming and maintaining intimate relationships with spouses and children when judgment is routinely impaired, and priorities are more often focused on finding the next drink, is almost impossible. This behavior can leave other family members feeling unsupported and neglected. Moreover, these issues can be of particular importance if the addicted spouse is entitled to ask for parenting time in a divorce.

The safety and security of minor children is a general societal concern, and both the Courts and state agencies have a vested interest in protecting children from possible harm due to a parent’s alcoholic tendencies. One woman, who was recently arrested in the Chicago area for drunk driving and dubbed “one of the worst DUI offenders in the U.S.,” lost custody of her 11 children due to past behavior and the number of convictions and outstanding warrants on her record. Alcoholism can cause a huge disruption in a person’s life, and this does not end when a divorce case is filed.

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