DuPage County Custody and Visitation Lawyers
Wheaton Attorneys for Parental Responsibility and Visitation Matters in DuPage, Kendall, and Will Counties
Few things are more important in a divorce than ensuring that parents can maintain positive relationships with their children. While it is usually best for parents to attempt to reach agreements on issues related to custody and visitation or parenting time, a judge may establish orders on child-related issues if the parties are unable to resolve disputes outside of court. The experienced attorneys at Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC understand that child custody and visitation are frequently contested issues in many divorce cases. If child-related disputes are unresolved after mediation and negotiation, a trial may need to be held to resolve these matters. At all times, we will advise clients of their rights, inform them about the legal process, and educate them on the options that are available. Contact our child custody attorneys who are knowledgeable about court rules and the laws related to custody and visitation.
Terms Related to Child Custody and Visitation
As our clients proceed through the divorce process, we inform them about their options in child custody and visitation matters. There are many terms that may be used when discussing child custody issues. Clients come to us with questions about terms such as:
- Sole custody
- Joint custody
- Physical custody
- Shared custody
- Legal custody
- Split custody
- Shared parenting
- Custodial parent
- Residential parent
We inform our clients about the meanings of the various legal terms, as well as the pros and cons of different custody and parenting time alternatives. If you have questions regarding any of these terms or want to learn more about your options, please contact us to discuss your case.
Basics of Parental Responsibilities
In Illinois, courts have long encouraged both parents to remain active and involved in raising their children even after a divorce. Custody orders, as such, could take many different forms. In the past, courts would sometimes order that one parent have sole custody of the children. This meant that the "custodial" parent would be responsible for both day-to-day decisions regarding child care and major decisions related to children's education, healthcare, and religious issues. The non-custodial parent was usually still entitled to visitation with the children. Joint custody would also be ordered in some situations. When joint custody was ordered, parents shared decision-making responsibility for the children, even if the children would reside with one parent for a greater percentage of time.
Currently, the concept of child custody in Illinois has been revamped to encourage parents to be closely involved in raising children regardless of whether they are married, unmarried, separated, or divorced. Courts generally no longer consider sole or joint custody, instead allocating parental responsibilities for decision-making between the parents and creating parenting time schedules that allow both parents to participate in important caretaking functions. The laws are designed to maintain the focus of such proceedings on protecting the best interests of the child. While there are some situations where all parental responsibilities and/or parenting time may be allocated solely to one parent, these cases are relatively rare, and most of the time, parents will be able to share custody and have regular, ongoing parenting time with their children.
Resolving Issues Related to Parental Responsibilities and Visitation/Parenting Time
Parents will usually be encouraged to work together to create an agreement on how issues related to parental responsibilities and parenting time will be addressed. An agreed parenting plan will provide for the needs of all parties involved, and parents will be more likely to comply with orders that are based on decisions they have made themselves. However, there may be some situations where parents will be unable to resolve their disputes without outside help. In these cases, a judge may make the final decisions and put orders in place regarding parental responsibilities and parenting time.
In most cases, temporary child custody orders will be put in place while a divorce is in progress. After the initial divorce petition is filed, both parents may make requests to the court related to these issues, and any temporary orders that are put in place will remain in effect until the divorce is finalized, unless subsequent temporary orders are issued by the judge.
In many cases, parents will be ordered by a judge to participate in mediation. During the mediation process, the parents will meet with a mediator, who will be a neutral party who can help them resolve outstanding issues and reach agreements on how matters related to their children will be handled going forward. When the mediation process is complete, an agreed parenting plan will be submitted to the court. To address possible future disputes, parents may state that they will use mediation to address any concerns that may arise or requests to make changes to child custody or parenting time. In fact, courts will typically require a parenting plan to include terms stating that mediation will be used to address future disputes between parents.
If, during the mediation or negotiation process, parents cannot agree on certain child-related issues, a judge may order a child custody evaluation to take place. In these cases, an expert such as a guardian ad litem or child custody evaluator will typically be appointed, and they will conduct interviews with the parents, children, and other relevant parties and use other methods to gain information about the case. The evaluator will then make recommendations on how issues related to custody and parenting time should be resolved.
If child custody disputes cannot be resolved through other means, a trial may be held. After hearing testimony from both parties and any witnesses and reviewing evidence, the judge will make decisions about how parental responsibilities and parenting time will be allocated in order to serve the best interests of the children. Issues that the judge will consider may include the ages and maturity levels of the couple's children, the children's preferences, each parent's level of involvement in performing caretaking duties in the past, the physical and emotional health of children and parents, or any other issues that may affect the children's best interests.
Modification of Custody and Visitation
Once a parenting plan has been finalized in court, circumstances may arise that require changes to be made to child custody orders. Modifications to child custody and parenting time that are requested by either parent will usually only be made if the parent shows that there has been a substantial change in the circumstances of one or more parties, including the parents or the children. If you believe changes are needed to your parenting plan after orders are established in a divorce or child custody case, our attorneys can help you take steps to petition for child custody modifications.
Contact Our DuPage County Child Custody Attorneys
For skilled and compassionate legal representation in matters related to the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, contact the knowledgeable attorneys of Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC at 630-665-7300.