Understanding Family Law as it Pertains to Children
Going through a divorce is a stressful and overwhelming experience. When children are involved, however, the entire process may feel impossible to navigate. That’s where decision-making responsibility and parenting time agreements come into play, two relatively new concepts in Illinois law which have replaced traditional child custody and visitation. Divorce can already turn a child’s world upside down. During the formation of a parenting agreement, it’s vital that every decision is made with the child’s wellbeing in mind.
How Are Decisions Regarding Parenting Time and Responsibility Made During a Divorce?
Significant decision-making responsibilities are given to a parent or parents who are responsible for the child’s care and health. This was previously determined by the parent with primary custody of the child. During a divorce, the parents may need to come to a decision regarding how their child or children will be raised and with whom.
This decision is incredibly vital and the effects are multifaceted, even determining how often a parent will see the child and who has a say in the child’s most important life events.
Typically, this decision can be made one of three ways.
- Decision-making responsibilities can be negotiated through informal, attorney-led meetings in which the parents will attempt to resolve any disagreements or disputes by negotiating with whom the child will live, parenting time to which each parent has a right, and the powers each parent will have regarding decisions made on behalf of their children, medical care, religion, education and more.
- Decision-making responsibilities and parenting time for each parent can also be facilitated with the help of a mediator (an attorney or mental health professional), or a child specialist in the Collaborative Law Process.
- Court-dictated decision-making responsibilities are choices made within a court regarding which parent will be responsible for what in the child’s life. These decisions are made by a family court judge who distributes parenting time and decision-making rights to each parent based on a long list of factors.
Other Parental Figures
When there is a decision-making or parenting time dispute between unwed parents, a judge typically treats the issue similarly to the same parenting issues for married couples. The parents may either settle the parenting dispute in or out of court.
Individuals who are not the child’s parents may also seek to gain decision-making responsibilities for of parenting time issue the child as a non-parental guardian. If, for example, an aunt, grandparent or close family friend believes the parents are unfit to raise the child, they may petition for those rights.
What About Child Support?
Child support is a monthly payment paid by one parent to the other to be used for child-related costs such as housing, groceries, new clothing, school supplies or medical bills for the child. This payment may be decided by a judge or by an out-of-court agreement between the parents. However, if the out-of-court agreement is violated, there may be little one can do if there is no court order which details the agreed upon support. Depending upon the parenting time and decision-making situation, child support may not be appropriate.
Let Our Experienced Family Law Attorneys in Chicago, Illinois Help
Divorces and family law disputes pertaining to children can prove confusing and distressing without the proper legal guidance. When stress levels are high, it can help to have a level-headed, objective legal expert on your side to ensure your child receives the best possible outcome. We are here to make sense of parenting time and decision-making responsibilities for you.
If you’re struggling through a decision-making or parenting time dispute in the Chicago area, let the compassionate experts at Conniff & Keleher, LLC help. To schedule a consultation, contact us online or call 708-763-0999.