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Wheaton IL child custody attorneyMany parents’ primary goal during divorce proceedings is to ensure they maintain a close relationship with their children. Illinois law recognizes the importance of both parents remaining in their children’s lives, and has recently moved away from the term “custody” to the “allocation of parental responsibilities,” which emphasizes the importance of the parents coming to an agreement. However, disputes about children can still sometimes be bitter, and it is important to understand your rights as a parent if you find that your relationship with your children is being challenged.

Parenting Time Rights in Illinois

Unless you have been convicted of certain crimes, or otherwise deemed to be a threat to your children’s physical, mental or emotional health, you are legally entitled to parenting time—formerly known as visitation—with your children. For your former spouse to deny this is actually against the law. However, the form your parenting time takes may vary, and it may not be exactly equal to that of your ex, depending on factors like your work hours and where you live in location to where the other parent is located. For example, a parent who lives in a rural area several hours’ flight away from where the other parent and children live may receive less frequent in-person parenting time than a parent who lives 15 minutes away in the next town.

The watchword in determining parenting time rights and schedules is “reasonableness.” A schedule that is unreasonable to one or both parties, or to the children, can lead to significant problems in the future. Illinois works hard to ensure the ideal of reasonableness is upheld so that both parents have as much time as possible with their children. Illinois even offers a special provision called the “right of first refusal,” which allows a parent the first opportunity to take care of the children if the other parent needs child care for a period of time. This right is somewhat unique, having only been adopted in a handful of states up to this point. 

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DuPage County parental responsibilities attorneyWhen married parents get a divorce or unmarried parents are separated, arrangements for child custody will be put in place. A court-approved parenting plan will include decisions regarding parental responsibilities and parenting time. While parenting agreements are meant to protect a parent’s rights as a father or rights as a mother, there are some circumstances where a person’s parental rights may be involuntarily terminated. Illinois has extensive rules and guidelines in place to determine when the termination of parental rights is appropriate.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Parental rights will only be terminated if it can be proven that a person is unfit as a parent, and remaining in contact with their child or children will not be in the child’s best interests. Some ways a parent might be considered unfit include:

  • Child abandonment

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Posted on in Uncategorized

DuPage County Custody LawyerSharing parenting time is not ideal, but is a necessary part of allowing a child to maintain a significant relationship with both parents after a divorce. Parenting time encompasses a designated period in which a parent is allocated childrearing duties and the authority to make daily decisions for the child’s care. This division of parental responsibilities is typically shared between divorced parents, and the purpose is to foster a continuing connection between the child and each parent because this support is important to the child’s development and well-being.

The expectation is that each parent will be the person who cares for the child during his or her allotted time. Of course, things come up and it is understandable that changes to schedules are necessary, including the use of a babysitter. However, if using third-party childcare during scheduled parenting time becomes a pattern, or is expected to last for an extended period of time, the other parent may be able to exercise a right of first refusal and keep the child instead.

What is the Right of First Refusal?

As noted above, parenting time allows each parent an opportunity to have a relationship with their child, and this requires being the person actually caring for the child on a regular basis. If a substitute caregiver is doing this work, the intent of this arrangement is gone. The right of first refusal gives a parent the ability to opt to keep the child if the other parent will need a third-party caregiver for a significant period of time. This right is not automatic, and a court may award it to one or both parents if it is in the best interests of the child, or the parents may agree to include it in the parenting plan. If it is ordered by the court, a judge will create a structure that addresses the following factors:

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Posted on in Family Law

Wheaton, IL Father's Rights LawyerUntil recent years, the rights of a father to their biological child largely depended on their marriage to the child’s mother. However, with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, much of our society is waiting until later in life to marry, or opting to avoid marriage altogether. The number of unwed mothers delivering children has risen from 4 percent in 1950 to nearly 40 percent each year since 2008, which has left many fathers without rights to their offspring. As non-marital children become a societal norm, more biological fathers are pushing for their natural rights, which has become known as the Father’s Rights Movement.

A Child’s Benefit to Having a Father in their Lives

There has never been a question regarding the bond between a mother and a child. Traditionally, mothers were arguably the most critical person in a child’s life. The mother was caring, supportive, and protective. However, fathers also play a pivotal role in their child’s life. They can also be caregivers, nurturers, and disciplinarians. Studies show children who grow up with a father figure:

  • Do better academically;
  • Are more emotionally stable;
  • Have an easier time with language and social development;
  • Are less likely to develop drug or alcohol addictions; and
  • Have a higher sense of who they are.

The Belief of Father’s Rights

The Father’s Rights Movement began in the 1960s and continued to progress into what it is today. Most members are fathers who want an equal right to their children, either after a divorce or in an unwed situation. Many women also support the movement. Their primary focus has been to establish legal rights for fathers in regard to custody, support, and maintenance, and even domestic violence. While this civil rights movement has progressed slowly, it has paved the way for many Illinois fathers by pushing for the restructuring of many family laws. Fathers now have legal protection, with or without marriage, including in:

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Posted on in Visitation

incarcerated, Wheaton parental rights attorneyCommitting a crime is never a good choice, and in many cases, the penalties for doing so are severe. In addition to the jail time and the fines assessed for some offenses, if you are a parent, it may be a long time before you are able to see your children again. However, it is not an absolute that you will lose all rights to see them. Knowing your rights is critical.

Unfitness as a Parent

Parental rights are terminated if a parent is deemed to be unfit. Unfitness is a concept used by the state to determine whether or not a child’s best interests are served by remaining in the parent’s custody. There is no single definition of “unfit” in Illinois; rather, it is shown that a parent is unfit if or when they display certain characteristics or behavior patterns (or, conversely, fail to do so). For example, a parent may be declared unfit if they are incarcerated, but only if they have previously shown a pattern of disinterest or neglect regarding the child, or if they have been repeatedly incarcerated to the point where they are unable to perform parental duties.

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