The newest updates to Illinois Law have changed the terms visitation and custody to “parenting time.” While these terms have changed recently, the concepts are essentially the same.

Child Custody Attorneys in Rockford

Couples with children in Illinois going through a divorce naturally want to know how child custody will be resolved during the course of the divorce proceedings. Though child custody is a thorny, complicated issue, we will attempt to clarify some of the main legal issues related to child custody in your custody case.

Child Custody and Visitation

First, we will define some of the terminology we will be using throughout our explanation of legal issues related to child custody.

Both the recently enacted Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and the Illinois Parentage Act use the terms “parenting time” and “decision making” rather than the older term “custody.” In our discussion, for purposes of clarity and understanding, we will continue to use the older and widely understood terms “custody” and “visitation.”

In the Family Law Courts of Illinois, child custody and visitation are often among the most important considerations. The first priority of the courts is ensuring the best interests of the children in allocating parenting rights, responsibilities, and time. These three – rights, responsibilities, and time – in turn, can be broken down into several different subjects including, but not limited to:

  • Residential custody
  • Regular parenting schedules
  • Vacation parenting time
  • Summer and holiday parenting schedules
  • Babysitting and right of first refusal
  • Parenting exchange location
  • Parenting exchange times
  • Parenting time supervisors
  • Decision-making authority for healthcare
  • Decision-making authority for extracurricular activities
  • Decision-making authority for education
  • Decision-making authority for religious matters
  • Child tax credits

These subjects are relevant in both Divorce and Paternity cases, and the final court order will also consider the Parenting Factors that we discuss in detail elsewhere.

In addition, it’s also essential to remember there are substantial differences between a straightforward divorce case involving children and a paternity case.

Divorce vs. Paternity

In a divorce case involving children, the initial assumption of the court is that if children were born during the marriage, the husband is their legal and biological father. There can be, of course, exceptions, but that is the initial position of the court.

In cases involving disputed paternity, the court must determine who the legal and biological father of the children is before rendering a final decision. This determination is made in a number of ways including:

  • Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP)
  • DNA testing
  • Establishment of paternity through an agreement between the involved parties

It’s important to note here that a man’s signature on a birth certificate, by itself, is not considered proof that he is the father of the child. In the case of a child born to an unwed couple, the man in question is given the opportunity to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). Typically he is given both the VAP and the Birth Certificate at the same time, so it is common that a man who signs one would have signed the other. His signature on the VAP affirms that he is the legal and biological father of the child.

If a VAP was not signed at the time of birth and the paternity of the child is contested, the court may order a DNA test conducted to determine paternity.

Child Support and Child Expenses

Whether it is a regular divorce or a paternity case, in addition to the aforementioned factors, the court will also consider Child Support and Child Expenses in rendering its decision. Further, these considerations can be broken down into Parenting Time and Decision Making for each parent which will be extremely vital components of the court’s final decision.

In Illinois, there is no guarantee that Parenting Time and Decision Making will be equally split between the parents, in fact, it is unlikely a court would award equal parenting time in a contested case. The court will weigh many factors, including the Parenting Factors mentioned above, in rendering its decision. For something like extracurricular activities, for example, the court may well consider what is referred to as Past Care. That would mean the court would consider what role a parent played in the child’s extracurricular activities in the past.

Decision Making

Finally, there is the matter of making decisions on behalf of the child. For routine matters, such as whether to attend a religious service, the decision will probably be made by the parent while they’re exercising their parenting time – referred to as “day-to-day decisions.” But potentially life-changing decisions will be made by the parent with decision-making authority in that area of the child’s life. For example, a life-changing decision would be something like what religious faith, if any, the child is to be raised in.

Rockford, IL child custody lawyers

Rockford, IL Family Lawyers

From this brief summary, it should be apparent that child custody in divorce and paternity cases is an enormously complex issue. If you or anyone you know needs a child custody attorney in Rockford, Illinois we hope you will contact our law firm for an initial free consultation of your case.

Our team of family law attorneys with years of experience will work with you to help you build an effective and efficient legal strategy, and we urge you to contact us today to learn more about the expert legal assistance our law firm can provide.

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We want you to know that first and foremost, we’re here to help you succeed and protect what you value most.

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Helpful questions about family law

How to choose the right divorce lawyer?

Choosing the right divorce lawyer, in our mind, comes down to three factors. First, is this lawyer going to be an aggressive advocate for me? Second, is this lawyer a person I can get along with personally? Third, do I trust this lawyer to communicate with me effectively? If you walk away from an initial consultation with a lawyer answering yes to those three questions, you have likely found the lawyer who is right for you.

Legal work can be extremely time consuming. Your expectations should not necessarily be that your lawyer is someone you can vent to about your personal life, as that would likely result in an unreasonably high bill. But you should expect your lawyer to keep you informed as to the status of your case. You should also expect your lawyer to listen to your wishes and concerns and use those thoughts as a basis for your case. You don’t need to talk to your lawyer everyday, but you should hear from them every other week or so.

Expect the unexpected when it comes to the Court dates. The Court system is based on a first-come-first-serve calendar, when the case is not filed as an emergency. All initial Court dates are determined by the Clerk of the Court, not of the lawyer or client. If you have a lawyer, expect the Judges to want your lawyer to do the talking, unless the Judge asks the client a question directly. You should also expect the Judge to keep the Courtroom as orderly as possible. Judges very much look down on people who speak out of turn. As for dress, the Court does not require a strict dress code, but it is always a good idea to dress professionally to show the Judge that you take the system and their Courtroom seriously.

There is a process in the law referred to as “discovery” that allows a party to a legal proceeding to discover information about the opposing party. In the context of a divorce, “discovery” is primarily used in the form of written questions and written requests for the opposing party to provide documents to the party that is doing the requesting. These are called “interrogatories” and “requests to produce.” During the process, the party answering the questions or requests must provide a written testimony, under oath, that the documents and answers are true and accurate. It is through this process of “discovery” that we are able to learn what assets a party possesses.

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