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b2ap3_thumbnail_stepparent-adoption_600x400.pngYears ago, child custody arrangements following a divorce almost always defaulted to the mother being given full-time custody while the father was relegated to having a couple of weekend visitations each month. Under this arrangement, fathers may have been able to create some bonding moments, but overall the quality of parent-child bond was generally lacking.

Over the last several decades, however, research has increasingly shown that this “traditional” custody scenario is one of the least healthy arrangements for children. Instead, experts recommend that children spend at least 35 percent of the time with each parent instead of simply living with one and visiting the other on occasion.  

Benefits of Both Parents Having Significant Parenting Time

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b2ap3_thumbnail_guardian-minor-children-600x400.jpgSometimes, parents prove unwilling or unable to take care of their children. In these scenarios, there are several options for the children to receive care, but one that is becoming increasingly common is for a grandparent or grandparents to step in. A decade ago, there were around 100,000 grandparents raising their grandchildren in Illinois, and the number has only risen since then. If you are in a position where you may decide to raise your grandchildren, there is a process to follow to ensure everything is legally sound.

Obtaining Physical Custody and Parental Responsibilities

There are several different options for grandparents to obtain decision-making power over their grandchildren, as well as physical custody of the children. The most commonly used is to bring an action for parental responsibility under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). There are two scenarios under this law in which a grandparent could conceivably obtain physical custody. The first is if the child is not in the physical custody of their parent—if the parents are both deceased, for example, or if one or both parents voluntarily abandoned the child. The second is if one parent is deceased and the other is missing or incarcerated. If either of these applies to your family situation, the IMDMA is likely the best law under which to bring your petition.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_custody2_640.jpgFor several decades, the law regarding child support in Illinois has been rather one-sided. Despite the law stating that either or both parents could be required to make child support payments, the statutory calculations seemed to suggest that only one parent would be required to do so in the vast majority of cases. In nearly every situation, the parent who was not awarded primary custody of the child—also known as the non-custodial parent—would be ordered to pay a set percentage of his or her income as child support to the other parent.

Thanks to sweeping reforms passed in 2015 and which took effect in 2016, the state’s approach to child custody has been updated—including the elimination of the term “non-custodial parent” and other such titles. The methodology for calculating child support, however, was largely left untouched until this past summer when lawmakers passed a new measure that will transform child support considerations in the state.

Public Opinion

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b2ap3_thumbnail_child-custody5_600x400.jpgFollowing your divorce, separation, or breakup from your child’s other parent, you may have been granted a majority of the parenting time with your child. Your child may live with you most of the time, using your address for enrolling in school and participating in activities provided by the local municipality. It is easy for a parent in such a situation to presume that because he or she has more of the parenting time, he or she is also responsible for making most of the important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. This presumption, however, would be inaccurate as the law in Illinois considers parenting time and decision-making authority to be distinct concepts that are not necessarily dependent on one another.

Allocating Parental Responsibilities

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that parental responsibilities—formerly known as child custody—are divided into two primary considerations. The first includes significant decision-making authority for the child’s life. Such authority is roughly comparable to the previous understanding of legal custody, which concerned each parent’s role in deciding on important issues in the child’s life, including education, medical care, religious training, and extracurricular activities. Based on the best interest of the child and each parent’s strengths, decision-making authority can be granted to one parent, divided between both parents by area of concern, or shared equally between the parents.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_child-custody1_640.jpgEvery year, approximately 1.5 million children are forced to endure the divorce of their parents. As difficult as the new reality can be for children, it can be just as stressful—if not more so—for the adults, with each parent struggling to find ways to remain an active part of their child’s life. When a parent approaches the process of divorce, he or she may wonder what his or her rights are regarding parenting time with his or her children.

Visitation Is Now Parenting Time

For many years, a non-custodial parent could expect reasonable rights to visitation with his or her child, presuming that the parent was not found to present a danger to the child. Beginning this year, new legislation in Illinois overhauled the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and its provisions regarding child custody and visitation. Child custody has been renamed the allocation of parental responsibilities and parental visitation is now known as parenting time. The intent of the updates was to make such proceedings less confrontational and more cooperative, keeping the focus on the child best interests of the child as much as possible.

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