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DuPage County family law attorneysIn Illinois, divorcing parents who wish to share parental responsibilities and parenting time of their children must draft a document called a Parental Allocation Agreement or parenting plan. This agreement describes the official allocation of parental responsibilities, formerly called custody, and parenting time, formerly called visitation, between the two parents.

Typically, parenting agreements also contain information about how the child will be raised, how major decisions about the child’s life will be made, and provisions regarding any future proposed changes to the shared parenting arrangement. All Illinois parenting agreements must include a provision describing how “the right of first refusal” will apply to the parents. Read on to learn about this important provision as well as how the right of first refusal can affect the way you share parenting time of your child after an Illinois divorce.

Maximizing Each Parent’s Parenting Time

Except for in cases involving child abuse or other special circumstances, Illinois courts encourage parents to spend as much time with their children as possible. Many studies show that children are healthier and happier when both of their parents are actively involved in their life. In order to help parents maximize their parenting time in situations involving divorced or unmarried parents, Illinois parenting agreements include a provision called the right of first refusal. This provision states that when a parent cannot fulfill his or her parenting time obligation, they must contact the other parent to see if the other parent wishes to have the child stay with them.

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DuPage County family law attorneysFamily courts in Illinois—like those in the rest of the country—often have the unenviable task of making very difficult decisions regarding how a child will be cared for following the divorce or breakup of his or her parents. In more tragic situations, including those in which the child’s parents are deceased or incarcerated, the courts may need to decide on a guardian or other caretaker for the affected child. Throughout all of these types of cases, Illinois law provides that the child’s best interest should always be the top priority. To make sure the best interests of the child are fully protected, the court may appoint a specially-trained attorney to serve as a guardian ad litem for the duration of the proceedings.

The Role of a GAL

A guardian ad litem, or GAL, is an attorney who does not work on behalf of any party in a child-related legal matter. Instead, he or she serves more as an extension of the court and as an independent expert witness. The GAL is tasked with developing a proposed outcome for the case that, in his or her trained opinion, will provide the best possible scenario for the child. To do so, the GAL is granted the power to investigate the relevant circumstances of all involved parties by conducting interviews, visiting homes, and reviewing appropriate documents, including previous court records.

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Illinois family law attorney, child custody and visitationOn January 1, 2016, significant changes will go into effect in Illinois under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). Specifically, changes will be made to child custody and visitation. Therefore, it is important to be aware of these changes as 2016 begins.

Allocation of Parental Responsibility

Beginning January 1, 2016, the entire section on custody will be named the Allocation of Parental Responsibility—the terms “custody” and “visitation” will no longer be used in Illinois. Moreover, custody orders, visitation agreements, and parenting agreements will be removed from the chapter and will be replaced with allocation judgments, parenting time, and parenting plans. An allocation judgment is a judgment that allocates or directs parental responsibilities.

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Illinois family law attorney, modifying child custodyFor numerous reasons, a parent may wish modify a child custody determination. While under most circumstances a modification of a child custody judgment is difficult to obtain, it is possible. Understanding the process of modifying a child custody judgment is important for parents who believe their child would benefit under a different custody plan.

Demonstrating Modification is Necessary

The court retains continuing jurisdiction to modify a child custody judgment. However, under most circumstances, modification of a child custody judgment will not be considered until after two years have passed since an original custody judgment is entered—it is believed that giving children the greatest amount of stability after a decision has been made is most beneficial for them. Under Illinois law, the only way a child custody judgment may be modified earlier than two years is if a court permits it on the basis of affidavits that there is reason to believe the child's present environment may endanger seriously his or her physical, mental, moral or emotional health.

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remarriage, visitation after remarrying, Illinois family law attorneyIf you are getting married, a great deal of change will occur in your life. A majority of this change will likely be beneficial for you and your new spouse. However, if you had children in a previous marriage before getting divorced, your new marriage may impact child support and visitation.

Child Support

Historically, remarrying did not impact child support as courts did not examine the amount of a new spouse's earnings. This changed slightly when, in an Illinois Appellate Court decision, it was held that the “trial court may equitably consider the income of a parent's current spouse in determining an appropriate award of support.” As a result, courts are not prohibited from considering a new spouses income when addressing certain modifications of child support.

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From our law office in Wheaton, IL the family law and civil litigation law attorneys of Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick and Mirabella, represent businesses and individual clients throughout the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois including Wheaton, Naperville, Oak Brook, Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream, Lombard, Downers Grove, Burr Ridge, Lisle, Elmhurst, Oakbrook Terrace, Winfield, Woodridge, Warrenville and throughout DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties.

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