How Can I Get Custody of My Child?
One of the most emotional and difficult parts of the breakup of any relationship is deciding what is going to happen with the children. During a divorce or separation, often a court will be involved in making a custody determination. Sometimes custody determinations are only made long after a separation has occurred and sometimes circumstances change and parents want to modify a previous custody order. Whatever the circumstances, the courts are bound to take several factors into account when making a ruling about custody.
Differences Between Joint Custody, Sole Custody, and Parenting Time
Before filing for custody it is important to understand the different terms used in the court system. Illinois recognizes two different kinds of custody, joint custody and sole custody. Joint custody means that both parents are equally responsible for making the important decisions about a child’ welfare including choices about health, education, and recreational activities. Joint custody does not mean each parent has equal time with the child.
Sole custody means that only one parent has the final authority to make the decisions affecting the child. But, this does not mean that the non-custodial parent doesn’t have to be consulted and it doesn’t mean that the non-custodial parent doesn’t get to spend time with the child.
Parenting time is the amount of time a parent gets to spend with their child. Regardless of the type of custody awarded, a parent has a right to a reasonable amount of parenting time. What a reasonable amount is depends on the circumstances of each case.
The Process of Determining Process and What Judges Look at
Illinois child custody law requires judges to look at the following factors when making a custody determination:
- The wishes of the parents
- The wishes of the child
- The interactions between the child and any siblings, parents, or others who may significantly impact the child’s life
- The child’s comfort and adjustment with a routine and with school
- The mental health of everyone involved
- The physical health of everyone involved
- The presence of any violence, abuse, or threats of violence by either parent against anyone
- The willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close, positive relationship between the child and the other parent
When a judge makes a custody decision the judge must do what is in the best interest of the child as determined by the factors above and any other factors the judge believes are relevant.
When the case begins the court encourages parents to come to an agreement on their own and often orders mediation to help the parents come to an agreement. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, a judge typically orders a custody evaluation from neutral third-arty expert. That expert then meets with the parents and the child and performs and investigation and makes a report to the court.
The judge then weighs the recommendations of the expert with the other evidence and arguments submitted by the parents, and issues an order. Because circumstance sometimes change, parents can go back to court and ask for a modification to an existing custody order if they can prove it is in the best interests of the child to make a change.
Child custody cases are complex and emotional. If you are involved in a custody dispute it is essential you get advice from a seasoned attorney who has understands how judges see custody disputes. You need an advocate who can help protect your rights and isn’t emotionally involved in the dispute.
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Contact our office today to discuss your custody and visitation questions. We offer a free initial consultation by phone or in person. You are able to reach a member of our firm at any time, day or night. You can reach us by phone at 815-723-2895, toll free at 866-733-5529 or via e-mail.
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