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Arlington Heights child custody lawyer parenting time denialProtecting a child from harm is the number one priority for parents. Rarely does this danger come from within a family, but when it does, a parent may be forced to make hard choices to ensure the child is properly protected.

Parents are presumed to have a fundamental right to spend time with and make decisions for their children, and this is reflected in the child custody laws that govern divorce cases in Illinois. As a result, in the vast majority of divorces, both parents will receive some amount of parenting time on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, this arrangement is not always appropriate, and in some cases, corrective action needs to be taken to ensure the child’s safety.

The normal way to address children’s safety involves requesting a modification of the family’s parenting plan, but this process takes time, and that is something a parent concerned about his/her child’s safety may not have. However, refusing to allow parenting time that has been allocated in a divorce decree is a direct violation of court order, and this can have serious consequences. Parents may wonder what to do if circumstances exist that would negate this rule for the child’s sake.

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Barrington family law attorney, children and divorce, counseling and divorce, post divorce parenting class, Illinois divorce proceedingsChildren are known to suffer negative emotional and social effects following divorce, and parents must be willing to address these issues both during and after a divorce case concludes to prevent long-term damage. To support the wellbeing of children struggling with the adjustments divorce demands, various counseling programs are specifically targeted to this group and often need tailored approaches to avoid the academic, behavioral and financial repercussions.

After parents seek to intervene (and in some cases before), Courts also have the authority to order counseling as a measure to potentially save a marriage and help families with child-related issues deal with this difficult transition.

Consider the following information with regard to when a Court may order participation in counseling, as well as an overview of the parenting class all divorcing couples must attend, which is intended to facilitate more effective communication and parenting post-divorce.

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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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divorce cases, alternative dispute resolution, collaborative divorce, Barrington family law attorney, collaborative law processDivorce does not have the best reputation for promoting civil and cooperative relationships between spouses. Traditional divorce actions pit the parties against each other in an adversarial process that does everything possible to limit — or completely cut off — direct contact. While this can make moving from the marriage easier, both emotionally and physically, the litigation model of standard divorce cases does not prepare the parties for working together over child custody, or allow them to have much a say in the terms of the divorce decree.

In recent years, the legal system has increasingly favored settling divorce cases in less contentious environments due to the practicalities of limited Court resources and also to facilitate a better outcome for the parties. This reduces the likelihood of needing to return to Court to settle additional issues.

A fairly new process in the alternative dispute resolution realm is collaborative divorce — mediation being the form with which most people are familiar— which was formalized into Illinois law this summer and will become effective January 1, 2018. Collaborative divorce is the least combative way to end a marriage, and in fact tries to give the parties a firm foundation for future interactions by teaching them more effective ways to communicate and cooperate.

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Barrington family law attorney, medical decisions, decision-making responsibilities, divorce, child custodyAs the summer comes to a close, parents of children entering school for the first time must adjust to the change in routine and their child's daily needs. Yet while this transition is challenging for any parent, those who share child custody have the added factor of coordinating decisions on education, transportation and health with an ex-spouse.

Most schools, including those in Illinois, require all incoming students to prove they received certain vaccinations as a measure of preventing the spread of dangerous diseases. The vaccination of school-aged children has become a controversial issue in recent years, with some parents opposing the practice due to fears that vaccinations can provoke serious physical/developmental reactions in children. A difference of opinion on this issue can create complications when parents are together. However, conflicting viewpoints post-divorce can lead parents to seek Court intervention if a compromise cannot be struck.

Decisions related to a child's health are some of the most important matters a parent will ever consider, and determining how to balance this shared responsibility with an ex-spouse is a critical aspect of co-parenting.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Barrington family law attorney, child custody, parenting plans, domestic violence, domestic abuse victimsEvery parent takes precautions to protect their children from exposure to violence, including depictions in the media and, more importantly, in real life interactions. Continued contact with incidents of violence is almost guaranteed to leave a negative and long-lasting impact on the child.

Typically, the consistent presence of violence in a child's life comes from domestic violence issues in the home. One method used by the state to curtail the perpetuation of violence is to take serious account of domestic violence issues in the allocation of parental responsibilities (often referred to as child custody).

According to statistics gathered by the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the number of domestic abuse victims helped by the organization in 2016 was 41,916. Disturbingly, 8,124 children witnessed some of this abuse.

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Posted on in Divorce

mental illness and divorce, spousal threats, Barrington family law attorney, divorce process, child custodyWhy a person decides to divorce is often varied. Yet many divorced individuals cite financial and family pressures as the impetus for ending a marriage. However, a situation that is particularly difficult to navigate is when one spouse has a mental health issue, either due to substance/alcohol abuse or a psychiatric condition, which makes staying married unworkable.

Individuals with mental health problems can be unstable and unpredictable, which complicates the legal process. Even amicable divorces are likely to have some amount of contention due to the nature of the situation. Still, divorcing someone with mental health issues can greatly inhibit, if not completely eliminate, the ability to negotiate a settlement or avoid a highly-litigated divorce case.

While mental illness can impact a number of issues related to divorce, the one that rightfully gets the most attention is child custody/parental responsibility. Courts will work with struggling parents to give them every opportunity to see their children. Still, mental health problems frequently reverberate far beyond child custody.

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Barrington family law attorney, divorcing parents, parenting time, shared custody, allocation of parental responsibilitiesWhen divorced parents are asked what part of the experience was hardest to confront, most will respond that the impact the divorce had on their children was most difficult. A number of studies have shown that children thrive best in two-parent households that divorce suddenly and permanently takes away. However, parents still have the ability to mitigate this negative impact with proper intervention and long-term planning.

Shared child custody, the situation most divorced parents face, presents many logistical and financial challenges for the adults. Moreover, shared custody can be emotionally upsetting the child. To minimize the likelihood of future disputes between ex-spouses and to better protect the well-being of the child, advanced long-term planning should be a large aspect of any parenting plan or custody agreement and should be executed as part of any divorce or legal separation.

Advanced planning presupposes the parties mutually and privately agree on terms that will govern the exercise of parental responsibilities. While parties do have the option of allowing Courts to decide this issue for them, a Judge can never fully know the unique needs of each family, nor have the capacity to address every potential concern of each parent.

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Barrington family law attorney, spousal maintenance awardsTransitioning from a two-income household down to one, following divorce, is a large adjustment for most individuals. In most instances, though, each party is able to financially support himself or herself, excluding child support, without contribution from the former spouse. However, maintenance, or spousal support, is sometimes necessary to sustain a former spouse while he or she, for example, gains new skills or training to make him or her more employable.

Illinois amended the laws on spousal maintenance in 2015 to make these awards more predictable by removing any subjectivity on the amount and duration of the maintenance obligation — although, a Court's obligation to first determine if maintenance is appropriate remains the same. A set formula now determines how much and for how long maintenance awards will be, and only marriages of 20 years or more are eligible for permanent maintenance, which is left to the Court's discretion to decide.

However, even though maintenance awards are easier to predict under the new provisions, changes may occur once the Court order is in place that justify a modification or cancellation. Someone subject to pay maintenance should not be locked into this obligation if circumstances make this arrangement untenable or unfair.

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