Child custody disputes can be emotionally intense in any separation or divorce. As such, it’s natural to have myriad questions about the intricacies of custody determinations, your rights, and how to prioritize the well-being of your child in Illinois.
At the Law Office of Vogel and Mourelatos, LLC, our dedication to clients in Kane County, McHenry County, and the broader Chicagoland areas has guided countless families through the multifaceted terrain of child custody.
How is Child Custody Determined in Illinois?
The courts determine child custody in Illinois based on the best interests of the child. The courts use the term “parental responsibilities” to refer to the rights and duties of parents regarding their child’s care, education, health, and religion. The courts also use the term “parenting time” to refer to the schedule of when each parent has physical custody of the child.
The courts can allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time between the parents in different ways, depending on the circumstances of each case. The courts can award joint parental responsibilities, which means that both parents share decision-making authority over major aspects of the child’s life. Alternatively, the courts can award sole parental responsibilities, which means that one parent has the exclusive right to make decisions for the child. The courts can also divide parental responsibilities between the parents, giving each parent decision-making authority over specific areas of the child’s life.
The courts can also award joint parenting time, meaning both parents have substantial and frequent contact with the child. Alternatively, the courts can award sole parenting time, which means that one parent has primary physical custody of the child and the other parent has limited or supervised visitation. The courts can also create a parenting schedule that suits the needs and best interests of the child.
To determine the best interests of the child, the courts consider several factors outlined in Chapter 750 of the Illinois Statutes. Some of these factors are:
- The wishes of each parent and the child
- The wishes of the child, if the child is old enough to express a preference
- The adjustment of the child to his or her home, school, and community.
- The mental and physical health of all parties involved
- The ability and willingness of each parent to cooperate and facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
- The amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions for the child in the past two years
- The occurrence or threat of physical violence, abuse, neglect, or intimidation by either parent against the child or the other parent
- The willingness and ability of each parent to protect the child from any conflict between the parents
- Any other factor that the court finds relevant
The courts may use a statutory formula to calculate child support payments based on both parents’ incomes and expenses, as well as the amount of parenting time each parent has with the child. The courts may also order either parent to pay for additional expenses related to the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, or special needs.
The courts may modify or terminate parental responsibilities or parenting time if there is a substantial change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child. Examples of such changes are relocation, remarriage, illness, or abuse.
How Can I Modify an Existing Child Custody Order?
To modify an existing child custody order in Illinois, you need to follow these steps.
First, you need to have a valid reason to change the order. The reason must be a substantial change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child. For example, you may want to modify the order if one of the parents has moved, remarried, become abusive, lost their job, or developed a health problem. You cannot modify the order just because you are unhappy with it or want to punish the other parent.
Second, you need to prepare and file a motion to modify the allocation of parental responsibilities with the same court that issued the original order. You need to explain why you want to change the order and what changes you are requesting. You also need to attach a copy of the current order and any other relevant documents. You need to pay a filing fee or request a fee waiver if you cannot afford it.
Third, you need to serve a copy of your motion and any other documents to the other parent. You can do this by mail, sheriff, or special process server. You also need to file a certificate of mailing with the court to prove that you served the other parent.
Fourth, you need to attend a hearing on your motion. The court will schedule a hearing date and notify you and the other parent. At the hearing, you need to present evidence and witnesses to support your request. The other parent can also present their side of the story and oppose your request. The court will listen to both parties and decide whether to grant or deny your motion based on the best interests of the child.
Fifth, you need to follow the court’s decision. If the court grants your motion, it will issue a new order that modifies the previous one. You and the other parent must comply with the new order. If the court denies your motion, it will keep the previous order in place. You can appeal the court’s decision if you disagree with it, but you must follow it until it is reversed or changed by a higher court.
Contact an Illinois Family Lawyer
The Law Office of Vogel & Mourelatos, LLC, is devoted to advocating for your parental rights and ensuring your child custody dispute is resolved as favorably as possible.
For guidance on your child custody questions or any family law matters in Illinois, contact us or call 847-428-7725.