Child custody agreements can lay the foundation for children to thrive under the support of both parents. The parents often share parenting time and decision-making in Illinois. Sometimes, though, one parent makes most or all of the major decisions, or has most of the time with the children.
Understanding Child Custody Agreements
Child custody agreements involve various nuances. They are not one-size-fits-all.
What Are the Different Types of Child Custody in Illinois?
Illinois has several types of child custody. For example, in sole custody, one parent has most or all of the decision-making authority, while both parents have this authority in joint custody.
However, Illinois does not use the term, “custody,” anymore. Rather, “allocation of parental responsibilities” is the new phrase. It consists of two parts, significant decision-making and parenting time.
Decision-making authority covers areas such as the choice of schools, which surgeries or vaccinations the child gets, extracurricular activities, and more. Parenting time is about how much time children spend with each parent and when.
Factors Considered When Determining Child Custody
Child custody laws consider the best interests of the child when allocating parental responsibilities. Factors include what the children want, how attached they are to their home, school, and community, each parent’s ability to offer a stable living environment, and the parents’ and children’s mental and physical health.
Can parents’ mental health records be revealed in child custody cases, though? It is possible, especially if solid evidence supports the need to do so. The courts balance parents’ right to privacy against the child’s needs. One parent’s attorney may seek a subpoena to obtain the records.
The Legal Process of Obtaining Child Custody
Parents sometimes agree on child custody through direct discussions with each other. If this kind of talk is not realistic, mediation could be a viable route. A neutral third party, often a family law attorney or a retired family law attorney, facilitates discussion and offers guidance. Meditation agreements are not legally binding, but the parties can take agreements to their divorce lawyers to take the next step.
Court proceedings (trials) may be necessary in some cases when the parents are too far apart in their points of view.
Role of the Family Court System
In trials, the judge makes the decisions regarding child custody. These decisions are legally binding. The court can also order mediation and oversee the process in hopes of avoiding a trial.
The process usually involves one parent filing a custody petition in family court. Subsequent documentation from both parties includes various legal petitions and forms, financial records, parenting plan proposals, and evidence supporting a claim for custody (witness statements as to the capability to provide a stable home environment, for example).
Otherwise, in uncontested divorce and custody cases, judges evaluate the parents’ agreements to ensure they are fair.
Finding Legal Representation in Chicago or Des Plaines
A child custody lawyer can be helpful whether you envision an amicable agreement, a heated trial, or something in between. A lawyer can advocate for you and your children, clarify the issues, make sure agreements are legally binding, and offer different avenues for exploration. Lawyers can also represent you in court.
Before you speak with lawyers, it is a good idea to review the best questions to ask. They can vary depending on your situation. Common areas you could cover include these:
- What are the potential problems you see in my case?
- Do you think what my ex and I have agreed on is fair and in the children’s best interests?
- What do you think is the best way to ensure equitable time for both of us?
- Would my previous mental health issues be a problem?
- How far away could I relocate?
Enforcement and Modification of Child Custody Agreements
Parents can face penalties for not following child custody agreements in Chicago or Des Plaines. These agreements can be changed if necessary.
What Are the Legal Consequences for Violating Custody Agreements?
Violations of child custody agreements include not following visitation schedules, relocating without following proper procedures, and not properly communicating or sharing information.
The legal consequences can vary depending on the severity and frequency of violations, as well as the supporting evidence. Common consequences include changes to the parenting schedule (including a loss of parenting time). Extreme cases may call for contempt of court with fines, community service, or jail time possible.
If you feel the need to violate custody agreements for a valid reason, such as not letting your child go with a parent who may have substance abuse issues, it is best to discuss matters with your lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you on what to do and make any necessary emergency court filings. However, one parent typically does not lose custody for not paying child support. They are two separate issues.
Track any custody violations, why, when, where, and the circumstances.
Modifying Custody Arrangements
A change in circumstances can prompt custodial parents to change arrangements. For example, maybe the children are involved in an activity that drastically changes their schedule and makes the existing arrangement unfair. Changes in parents’ jobs, health, living situations, or the child’s needs can result in the desire to adjust custody arrangements.
Parents sometimes agree between themselves on the need for changes. They might then make these adjustments internally without going to court. This can be a grave mistake. One parent could allege a custody violation months later, for example, since the processes no longer follow the court-approved agreement. The net result could be that one parent gets penalized unfairly for following an agreement made in good faith.
It is safer to follow legal processes for changing custody agreements. Your lawyer can advise you on whether circumstances might warrant a modification and file the necessary documents with the court.