Until recently, Illinois had a joint custody law. The “joint” only referred to legal custody, and even in this area, the noncustodial parent’s rights were sharply limited. Today, Illinois has a co-parenting law. No longer do children “live” with one parent and “visit” the other one, at least in most cases. Instead, the current law usually requires both parents to take an active child-rearing role. So, non-residential (noncustodial) parents are usually entitled to more time with their children. And, they must be more than babysitters during their parenting time periods (periods of possession).

Now more than ever, both parents have important legal rights and responsibilities in child custody matters. As a result, both mothers and fathers need a strong Rolling Meadows family law attorney to advocate for them. This advocacy should include not just legal representation in court. An attorney must also be a good negotiator since most parental responsibility disputes settle out of court. Based on their clients’ wishes, lawyers must know when to compromise and when to stick to their guns.

Initial Determinations

Appointing the residential parent and determining the parenting time division are the two biggest priorities in an initial parental responsibility allocation division.

Most psychologists agree that, regardless of the terms used, children need to live with one parent and visit the other one. In many cases, one parent has an emotional, physical, or other disability which makes it impossible to be an effective residential parent. A substance abuse problem and a history of domestic violence are two of the big ones. In other situations, the determination is more subjective.

These same principles apply to the parenting time division. Abusive or addicted parents should not be alone with children for extended time periods. But in most other cases, there is a presumption that children benefit when they spend consistent, meaningful, and frequent amounts of time with each parent. 

Some factors to consider in these determinations include the preference of the parents, the preference of the children, the current informal arrangement, and the fitness of each parent.

Subsequent Modifications

Parental responsibility allocations are not set in stone. The factors which determine an original order may change later. Parental substance abuse is a good illustration. If Mom kicks a habit or Dad develops a habit, the living and/or time-sharing arrangement should probably be reconsidered. Frequently, Rolling Meadows family law attorneys are able to settle such disputes out of court.

Other changes could have a similar effect. A relocation, even a short-distance relocation, could significantly affect the pick-up and drop-off ballet that happens every week. Job changes, which are even more frequent than residential changes, often mean more or less family time. 

The modification rules are the same in all these situations. A judge may legally change parental responsibility orders if relevant circumstances have substantially changed and the requested modification is in the best interests of the children. Moving parties have the burden of proof on both these points.

Talk to a Hard-Hitting Cook County Attorney

Various legal solutions are available for your changing family. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Rolling Meadows, contact Andrea Heckman Law, Ltd. After-hours and virtual visits are available.