When parents are divorced, the death of a parent can create a number of difficulties. If the deceased ex-spouse was the custodial parent, this will likely mean that the other parent will have more parenting time with their child. However, it is important to understand how Illinois courts address child custody in cases in which a parent dies.
The Courts Are Generally in Favor of the Surviving Parent
When a custodial parent dies, and the courts need to reassign custody of children (known as “allocation of parental responsibilities” in Illinois), they will generally give preference to the surviving parent. The court will typically assume that the surviving parent has a greater interest in the care, custody and control of the child than anyone else. This will generally hold true even when another person, such as a grandparent or stepparent, asserts rights over the child....
Even those who do not regularly follow celebrity news may have heard about the breakup of Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson. Aside from the entertainment aspect of the story, people may be curious about the legal effects of the breakup and how similar matters would be handled in Illinois. Since the couple has a child together, the question of how child custody and child support will be handled may be on some people’s minds.
Child Custody for Unwed Parents in Illinois
When a child is born to a married couple in Illinois, the husband is assumed to be the father of the child. However, that is not the case when the parents are unwed. If unmarried parents break up, the parentage of the child will need to be legally established before decisions can be made about child custody.
Parentage is established in one of three ways in Illinois. The easiest way is for both parents to complete a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) in which they both agree the man in question is the biological father of the child. If the parents do not agree to submit a VAP, a court may order DNA testing to establish that the man is the child’s biological father, and an Order of Paternity will be issued. In addition to these options, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services may also conduct paternity testing and enter an Administrative Paternity Order....
There are few things more difficult for a family to go through than divorce. This is particularly true when there are children involved. Emotions run high, and everyone wants to leave the marriage in a manner that is fair to them, and the entire family can struggle to move on with their lives. In addition to all of this, parents must negotiate a child custody agreement and determine child support obligations. During this process, there are three very important things each parent must keep in mind.
1. Keep Your Emotions in Check
Spouses will normally experience strong feelings when going through a divorce, such as sadness, anger, disappointment and frustration. However, letting these emotions rule child custody negotiations typically results in a longer, more difficult process. Parents should do their best to try to avoid being confrontational during these proceedings, and remember at all times that negotiations are taking place in the best interests of the child, not the parents. In addition, remember that these negotiations can take time. Rather than rushing to reach an agreement as soon as possible, you should ensure that the final agreement protects your parental rights and meets your children’s needs.
2. Know the Laws
Child support is determined by a judge who will use the financial information the two spouses have submitted to make a decision. Due to this, both parents going through a divorce must provide accurate financial documents, and they should be sure to understand the laws surrounding child support....
The terms of a divorce settlement or judgment will attempt to cover the many different issues the two parties will face as a divorced couple. However, marital settlement agreements cannot possibly cover every situation. One of the most common situations divorced couples with children face is whether or not parents should leave their child alone with another person, such as a babysitter, when they cannot care for them.
It can be upsetting to hear that a child was left with someone other than their parent. This is particularly true when one parent does not personally know the person watching the child. While this type of situation can be stressful and sometimes cause arguments, is it against the law?
The Right of First Refusal
Historically, Illinois did not have many laws on the books pertaining to someone other than a parent watching a child. However, as of January 1, 2014, parents can choose to leave their child with someone else, but they may first have to ask the other parent. This is known as “right of first refusal,” and this right is covered under 750 ILCS 5/602.3. This statute simply requires that, in certain cases, the parent caring for the child could be required to give the other parent the first opportunity to watch them....
The emotional and psychological fallout of separation and divorce can have a major impact on a family. Once the initial shock passes and the legal process is underway, children start to get a sense that the change of divorce is really happening, and they may need extra support to get through the transition. The need for assistance is especially prevalent in high-conflict divorce cases in which both sides seek outcomes diametrically opposed to one another. These situations often involve animosities that are transferred to the children. Studies have long shown that divorce can lead to a wide range of negative and long-term emotional and psychological damage in children if not properly handled.
Addressing the needs of a child going through a divorce is complicated, and parents may require the involvement of multiple adults to provide sufficient support. For children who are struggling and starting to exhibit destructive behavior, such as depression, skipping school, or outbursts of anger, more direct intervention may be demanded. The courts have the power to order two processes that speak to this situation: custody evaluations and counseling.
When parents cannot agree on parenting plans, and this stalemate lasts for a long period of time, courts are often asked to step in and make the decision for them. Each family is unique, though, and any decision issued by the courts will affect the quality of life for the parents and children for years to come. To help the court form a better understanding of the family dynamics, and more specifically, the best interests of the child, a judge may order a custody evaluation to look at the relationship between the spouses, the parent/child relationships, and the child’s overall welfare....
Once a married couple decides to split and file for divorce, the inevitable question, sooner or later, is when to move on and start dating again. Dating, in and of itself, presents complications, but when children are added to the equation, their opinions, as well as that of the other parent, may begin to matter.
A parent’s choice to begin a new relationship may play a part in decisions about the allocation of parental responsibilities and other divorce-related matters. Even if a parent begins dating after the divorce has been finalized, the other parent may potentially bring this matter before a judge and ask for a modification of the parenting plan. Thus, while there is no legal prohibition against dating, new relationships may have a practical effect on how a court may view certain behavior, and they may influence child custody decisions.
Dating During a Divorce
From the outside, dating while a divorce is still pending may appear premature, but couples may have extended periods of separation before taking the final step to formally end their marriage. That being said, appearances do make a difference in the outcome of divorce. Thus, starting an active dating life before the divorce has been finalized is likely to produce conflict and increase the odds that the other spouse will be less willing to compromise and more willing to litigate disputed issues. This can leave the other spouse with the choice of accepting a settlement that is less advantageous than they really want in order to avoid the time and expense of litigation, or they may choose to let a judge make the final decisions, which can be unpredictable and unlikely to produce a satisfactory outcome....
Being free to move about the country is one of the rights and privileges enjoyed by all Americans, and being divorced does not necessarily remove this option from the table, even if child custody is shared. For relocations of a significant distance, Illinois law requires a legal process to be followed, ensuring that the rights of both parents are taken into account, and most importantly, the best interests of the child. Ignoring these requirements can lead to significant consequences, including modification of the custody arrangement in favor of the other parent, so working with an experienced family law attorney to ensure the applicable rules are followed is critical.
In one recent case, a drawn out custody fight that now straddles the court systems in Illinois and Massachusetts illustrates how dire the consequences can be for violating parental relocation laws. This case includes an allegation of unauthorized parental relocation as one of the issues both courts are being asked to sort out, and the Illinois court issued an arrest warrant for the father after he failed to attend six hearings related to the relocation. Fortunately, conflict does not have to escalate to this level, as long as parents meet their legal requirements when relocating.
What Is Considered Relocation?
Not every move will trigger the provisions regarding parental relocation, just those likely to interfere with the other parent’s ability to participate in the child’s life. Thus, when a parent in Illinois who holds the majority of the parenting time, or shares parenting time equally, wishes to move with the child, court approval is necessary, if one of the following is true:...
In a perfect world, all children would live with both parents in a safe and loving home. However, this stable and supportive situation does not exist in all families, and children can end up splitting their time between parents, living solely with one parent, or being cared for by relatives.
Child custody, referred to as parental responsibilities under Illinois law, legally and traditionally rests solely with the parents. Parents are presumed to be fit, and efforts are made to keep children under their parents’ care. For a variety of reasons, however, parents are sometimes unable or unsuitable to take on this responsibility, and in these cases, a safe and stable alternative must be found that protects the best interests of the child. The road to achieve custody rights as a non-parent can be difficult, but not impossible.
Challenges to Custody
The biggest challenge any non-parent will face when seeking to assert custody rights is whether he or she has standing to bring the matter before the court. Standing refers to the petitioner’s ability to maintain a legal case. With non-parents, standing will only be found if the child is not in the physical custody of either parent (step-parents and grandparents do not necessarily need physical custody to gain standing if certain conditions are met). The person caring for the child must have obtained possession by consent, acknowledgment, or acquiescence of the parents, and the arrangement needs to be more than temporary....
Protecting 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....
Divorce, 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....
Having an active and important role in a child’s life is the principal goal and priority of parents. However, maintaining this level of involvement can become tricky after divorce when child custody, or, as custody is now called, parental responsibility, determines when and how much time each parent has with the child. Children generally have less negative long-term effects from a divorce if both parents remain a continuing and supportive aspect of their lives.
A group of fathers in Illinois think the current laws on child custody often leave them with a much smaller opportunity to see and engage with their child on a regular basis when a Judge decides this issue. In hopes of changing this perceived paradigm, the Illinois Fathers for Equality is currently pushing for the passage of a law that would favor splitting responsibilities between parents 50/50.
Proposed Revisions to Child Custody Law...
While parents who share child custody have to negotiate and compromise when disagreements arise, generally they are able to cooperate and keep the needs of the child a priority when making decisions. However, when parents who share childcare responsibilities with a former spouse or partner are asked what their greatest fear of the arrangement is, they will likely respond with having the other parent take their child out of the state or country.
Individuals recognized as parents under the law, usually through marriage or a paternity claim, have equal rights and access over their child. Therefore, they do not need permission from the other parent or a Court to see their child or travel with their child. However, when an enforceable parenting plan is in place governing when and how a parent can exercise his or her rights, the extent of that access and right to transport the child is restrained. In this situation, parents are required to abide by the terms of the parenting order, specifically, the allocation of parenting time.
Unfortunately, some parents decide not to follow these rules and become determined to take the child out of the state or country, or otherwise conceal him or her from the other parent. Typically, such action is precipitated by warning signs....
Establishing and maintaining a meaningful connection with one's child is one of the primary goals of all parents. While this effort often becomes more complicated as a child grows up, parents that are separated or divorced have an even bigger hurdle to overcome.
Nurturing a relationship with one's child when custody is shared is challenging for both parents, but the parent allocated the lesser amount of parenting time must work even harder to overcome the lack of time together. Parents generally have a right to exercise a reasonable amount of parenting time with their child, and are presumed fit to exercise parental responsibilities unless evidence is submitted to show the contrary. However, in practical terms, one parent — often the mother — is granted a greater share of the parenting time and care taking duties. The other parent, on the contrary, is typically left with weekends — not always consecutive — and one night per week to foster the parent-child connection.
Reflecting the tendency for fathers to receive less parenting time, a non-profit hosted a free event for fathers in Chicagoland affected by divorce or other family disruptions to learn how to be the most effective parent possible under such circumstances. Regardless of which parent has a greater role in a child's day-to-day life, the parent with more parenting time has the power to block the other parent from seeing the child, in violation of the parenting plan....
As 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....
Every 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....
Divorce has the potential to completely uproot a child's sense of stability and security when child custody considerations (now titled decision making and parenting time under Illinois law) are not handled properly.
Raising a child under the best of circumstances is a challenging endeavor, and this responsibility is greatly increased when a couple has a child with special needs. In the event of divorce, deciding how to split parental responsibilities under these circumstances can be especially difficult due to the additional attention and/or medical care special needs children often require.
Further, special needs children often require some level of care for their entire lives that has direct implications on child support from both parents and is another issue that most divorced parents do not have to face....
Disputes over child custody are not uncommon in divorce cases, as each parent vies for retaining the maximum amount of control and physical custody. These conflicts involve fully formed and sentient human beings. But what about the legal status of frozen embryos?
Medical technology is making it easier for couples to become parents or expand their families along an extended and predetermined timeline. As part of this process, some couples are electing to create and freeze embryos in order to shorten the gestation process for use at a later time, or to address fertility issues that require in vitro fertilization.
This decision is prudent and forward-looking for couples in solid relationships, but a complex issue arises if a couple later decides to divorce and some or all of the frozen embryos remain viable for potential use. This issue is particularly thorny because lawmakers rarely keep up with scientific advancements, leaving gaps in the law Courts must struggle to answer....
Why 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....
Divorce is an emotional process that can sometimes bring out negative aspects of a person's personality. However, these behaviors are momentary lapses. When one spouse has a mental health issue, what is already a difficult process becomes exponentially more complicated.
Marriage to someone with mental health issues that manifest as erratic behavior, severe mood shifts and the potential to harm him/herself or others can quickly become overwhelming.
A study conducted in 2011 looked at the impact of mental health disorders on the rate of marriage and divorce found that these issues increased the likelihood of divorce from 20 to 80 percent, varying by the type and degree of disorder present. Mental health issues often result in high conflict relationships that are hard to endure long-term. If a couple shares children, the implications of mental health disorders on a spouse's ability to parent effectively and safely become a major concern that Courts do carefully consider....
No issue is more important to a parent than the role he or she plays in a child's life. The importance of this active participation in a child's life particularly comes into play during divorce. The process of separating and dividing a household and family brings unavoidable change to a parent's relationship with his or her child. In an ideal situation, parents work out a shared custody arrangement so the child does not lose too much interaction with either parent. Still, parents do not always agree on what is best for the child.
If a Court has to intervene and decide child custody, Illinois has a specific set of provisions that govern how Judges should make these determinations. Currently, Judges have discretion to order the custody arrangement they decide is in the best interests of the child. However, several groups supporting the rights of fathers in Illinois are pushing for legislation that would create a presumption in favor of joint custody, requiring a parent who opposes an agreement to argue why joint custody is not appropriate.
Judges and family advocacy groups disagree such a change is prudent since a 50/50 split is not workable in some families. Given that child custody is such an integral issue for any parent contemplating divorce, an overview of how Courts assess this issue is necessary....