Archive for the ‘Child Custody & Visitation’ Category
Legal and physical child custody generally hinges on the decisions of a court. A court will listen to both parents and the relationship that each has with his or her child in question, and will additionally balance a variety of family factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child.
The Best Interest of the Child in Illinois
The following are several factors that a court will weigh and assess in determining what type of custody arrangement is in the best interest of a child:
- The ideal arrangement for each parent;
- The ideal arrangement based on a child’s wishes;
- The relationship and interaction between and among a child, his/her siblings, each individual parent, and any other relative who interacts with the child;
- The extent in which the custody arrangement will alter a child’s daily routine or lifestyle;
- The extent in which the custody arrangement may impact the mental and physical health of a child;
- If there is any past abuse or misconduct (or threat of abuse or misconduct) between a child and a custodial/non-custodial parent.
Joint Child Custody
Joint child custody is considered, in the eyes of the state, the gold standard. If both parents can be involved, that is usually in the best interests of a child. Before granting joint child custody, a court does take into consideration the following factors:
- The ability of each parent to cooperate and agree on the best parenting plan for each child;
- The residential and financial lifestyle of each parent; and
- If there is any history of past abuse or misconduct which would make it dangerous for a child to be in contact with either parent or an acquaintance of either parent.
The Effect that Social Media Sites Have on Custody Arrangements
With the increased use of technology and social media, courts have been taking into consideration other factors: each parent’s presence and behavior on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.
Recently, there have been quite a few cases where misconduct and certain behavior that a parent has exhibited on social media websites has seriously impacted the legal and physical custody arrangement previously made.
In one case, a parent tricked his ex-spouse into exchanging lewd and lascivious videos on Facebook (the eight-year-old child served as cameraman of the videos) and introduced the videos as evidence of neglect and abuse of the child. Ultimately, the endangering of the child on both the part of the ex-wife who requested her child to tape the videos, and the ex-husband who had tricked the wife into taping the videos in the first place, forced the court to revoke custody of the child from both the ex-spouses and place the child in custody with a third party.
In another case, one parent who had posted terrible things about her child on Facebook had that post used as evidence to revoke her custody rights. Clearly, social media is having a significantly negative impact on custody rights and the best interest of the child.
The Other New Factor: How Much of a “Helicopter-Parent” Are You?
So what has been found to help your custody case? Ultimately, showing evidence of being a “helicopter-parent” is extremely useful.
A “helicopter-parent” is a coined term for a parent who intensely hovers around his or her children and smothers his or her children with surveillance. A recent study has shown that judges are more likely to grant custody to parents who can show evidence of them being “obsessive, helicopter-parents.”
The following are qualities of a “helicopter-parent” in the eyes of the court:
- Parents who know the name of their child’s teachers or friends;
- Parents who attend classes with their child; and
- Parents who coach their child’s sport team.
Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County
These are just some of the newest factors taken into consideration in child custody cases. Child custody and the best interest of the child analysis is one that can be highly subjective and determined by a court. It is important to not only put your best evidence (and foot) forward, but also to have an experienced family law attorney by your side. The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help guide you through the child custody negotiations. Contact our DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.
With the status quo of “traditional” families being amended to include the increasingly more common combinations of families that are now present in American society, certain laws in Illinois are still championing the role of the “traditional” family. One of the most recent laws, which affects the rights of married and unmarried fathers and their relationships with their biological children, creates a double standard that espouses the married, but divorced father, over the rights of the unmarried, biological father.
Recent Case Designating the Double Standard
In a recent case, the Illinois Supreme Court reviewed the standard and burden of proof that would be applied to the biological father regarding his visitation rights with his biological child. In this case, a woman, who was married, had a one-night stand with another man. As a result, she became pregnant and gave birth to a child. The law creates a rebuttable presumption that any child that is begot from a marriage is the child of the husband. In this case, the husband, who was not the biological father, was presumed to be the biological father of the child and paternity was designated to him. The man from the affair, after seeing photos of the child posted onto a social media site, noted similarities between him and the child, and paternity was established between him and the child. The husband, who had been presumed to be the father of the child, later divorced the woman.
The biological father petitioned the court for visitation rights to the child. The standard for determining the rights of the biological father in the face of the husband who had been married to the woman has led to split court decisions, and had to be decided.
Illinois’s Visitation Rights Debate
Visitation rights of the biological father in Illinois have been the subject of a much heated debate in Illinois. Courts have been split on the issue of the type of burden of proof the biological father needs to show to establish visitation rights. Prior to this case, the majority of the decisions within the Appellate level pointed to the “serious endangerment” standard outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which was applied equally to both married and unmarried, noncustodial parents.
The Serious Endangerment Standard
The serious endangerment standard stated that visitation rights are in the best interest of the child, except if there is evidence to suggest that visitation would seriously endanger the child. This language suggested that the court felt that visitation from a noncustodial parent, whether married or unmarried, was a right, and not a privilege. The new standard outlined in this most recent case finds that visitation is a privilege and not a right.
The recent case creates a double standard whereby the standard is laxer for those noncustodial parents who were married to the custodial parents. Married, noncustodial parents enjoy the rights of visitation in the face of evidence to suggest serious endangerment of the child, whereas unmarried, noncustodial parents must show that visitation rights are in the best interest of the child. This thereby shows the Illinois courts’ preference for the married, nuclear family in the face of less traditional forms of family.
The “Best Interest of the Child” Standard
The “best interest of the child” analysis weighs factors to assess how a judgment, like visitation rights, will affect the child in question. The analysis looks at the wishes of the custodial parent, the wishes of the child, the past and future relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent, the mental and physical health of the individuals involved, and the presence or absence of past abuse, among other considerations.
Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County
The new double standard is not as easy to apply as one would think. If you or a loved one is going through a visitation rights dispute, it is important to request guidance from an experienced DuPage County family law attorney at Mevorah Law Offices LLC. The attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are experienced in matters relating to divorce settlements, child custody, and maintenance, and additional family law matters. Contact us today to schedule your confidential consultation.
A recent bill signed into law in Illinois will have a tremendous impact on custody and visitation rights. The law amends the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act by determining that when one of the parties who has custody or visitation rights with the child(ren) must leave the child for a significant period of time with a third party (for example, nanny, family member, or current spouse), then he or she must offer a right of first refusal to the other custodial parent to take care of the child.
Purpose of the “Right of First Refusal” law
The presumption put forward by the court is that it is advantageous and in the best interests of the child to let the child have significant time with both parents. Most divorce decrees keep this presumption in mind and the courts tend to lean on the favor of joint custody arrangements so that the child may spend significant time with both parents.
This “right of first refusal” requires that parents who leave their child with a third party, for a significant period of time, must offer the opportunity first to the other custodial parent before a third party may come in to care for the minor child. However, “right of first refusal” is terminated upon termination of custody or visitation rights.
Issues to Consider for “Right of First Refusal”
The “right of first refusal” is an excellent way to permit increased quality time with a minor child between the parents, but it also leads to complex legal issues with regards to the enforcement of the “right of first refusal.” The vagueness of the law requires that the court, before enforcing the “right of first refusal,” must take into consideration the following:
What constitutes a significant period of time? Hours? Days?
What type of notification must be used? Phone, email, etc.?
How long does the other parent have to respond before a third party may step in to care for the child?
What constitutes an emergency where “right of first refusal” is not required?
What are the transportation requirements?
How close do the parents have to live to each other for “right of first refusal” to be invoked?
How to Make “Right of First Refusal” Work for You
These types of issues have yet to be contemplated and will lead to substantial confusion between parental parties. However, to limit the amount of confusion, if parents are interested in a “right of first refusal,” it may be necessary to amend current custodial or visitation rights to incorporate answers to the above mentioned considerations.
For example, a divorced couple may want to amend and include into their custody agreement that a “right of first refusal” should be invoked when the parent has to go on a work trip that lasts longer than 24 hours. If the couple lives close by and has flexible hours, the “right of first refusal” may be invoked more often as it would be easy to drop the children off with the other parent. It becomes more difficult when parents have rigid schedules and live far away; “right of first refusal” would be hard to enforce if parents live two hours away and a child only needs to be watched for four hours.
Experienced Family Law Attorneys
If you and your divorced spouse are interested in invoking the “right of first refusal,” it is important that both parties seek counsel from their attorneys regarding the ramifications and consequences of “right of first refusal.” Seeking guidance from experienced DuPage County family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC will help to identify possible issues that may result from “right of first refusal” and may also help divorced couples navigate these complex issues. Contact Mevorah Law Offices LLC today to schedule a confidential consultation.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is the law that governs how child custody is determined in Illinois. When we think of the word “custody,” we sometimes view it in terms of the time spent with a child regardless of whether the courts award joint or sole custody. However, custody in Illinois actually has to do with determining which parent has the decision-making power over the child. The length of time a parent spends with the child is not the focus of the determination.
Types of Custody
There are two types of custody in Illinois: sole custody and joint custody.
Sole custody refers one parent having the right to make all major decisions for the child. These decisions include health care options, where the child goes to school, and what religion the child will take.
Joint custody refers to both parents having the right to equally participate in all major decisions for the child. This requires a situation in which both parents demonstrate a willingness and ability to work together in the best interest of the child. This includes all the same decisions awarded with sole custody. However, if there is a medical emergency, both parents must approve what course of action will be taken. The physical time spent with each parent does not need to be split evenly. Generally, when joint custody is awarded, the child will reside mostly with one parent. This parent receives what is known as “residential custody.” The residential custodian is often awarded child support from the non-residential parent.
How is Custody Determined by a Court?
A court will decide what is in the best interests of the child when awarding custody. There are several factors the court will review to make this determination, including:
- What the parents’ want;
- What the child wants;
- How the child interacts with his or her parents, siblings, and other close family members;
- How the child is adjusting to the home, school, or local environment;
- The mental and physical health of all parties;
- Any threat to the child’s physical or emotional health in either home environment. This can include physical, verbal or emotional abuse by anyone towards anyone;
- How the parents interact with each other; and
- The sex offender status of either parent.
National Debate on Changing Child Custody Laws
Advocates for changes in the current law argue that the best interests of the child means equal time or more evenly distributed time spent with both parents. These advocates are against laws awarding sole custody to one parent, and would like the law to spell out a minimum percentage of time a child should spend with each parent.
However, those who are in favor of the status quo, like the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office and Illinois State Bar Association, argue that having strict requirements about custody will take away a judge’s ability to determine the best interests of the child. They fear a cookie cutter answer will not allow the judges to make critical decisions about the child’s welfare.
Illinois is one of seven states currently dealing with legislation proposing changes to the laws as part of a larger national debate on the issue. The most recent legislation proposed in Springfield would ask judges to consider equal time for both parents but would not make it a requirement. It would also create a 90-day deadline for custody disputes. The most recent proposal was approved by the House in April and is now in the Senate for debate.
An experienced attorney will always stay abreast of national and state laws regarding child custody and other family law matters. For more information about family law issues, please contact the experienced Lombard family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC.
Keeping children away from harm and making sure they are part of a loving and safe home environment is a top priority for any federal or state government. Child welfare in Illinois is safeguarded by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”).
DCFS is in charge of investigating claims of abuse and, if necessary, removing children from unsafe environments. Because DCFS is tasked with such an important responsibility, it must be adequately funded. It must also be staffed with highly capable and vigilant guardians who will protect vulnerable children in need of care.
Financial and Budgetary Constraints
The budgetary resources for DCFS have always been an issue. The fiscal year begins on July 1st, and Illinois lawmakers are in a tough situation where they may need to make some drastic cuts to funding. It is possible that DCFS could face a 14 percent budget cut this year. This would be the equivalent of a loss of $87 million in state dollars alone. Factoring in federal dollars that are matched to state funding, it could go as high as a $100 million.
The practical result of a cut in funding could mean that DCFS may have to lay off as many as 300 employees of the total 2,600 on its staff. Much of the staff is comprised of social workers who investigate the child abuse and neglect cases. The obvious implications of these layoffs are enormous and alarming.
DCFS will have to reduce the number and type of services it provides. It also means that the length of time it takes to complete the investigations will be increased. If investigations are taking longer, that also means the time it takes to remove a child from foster care and place him or her in an adopted home will also increase.
A key component to combating child abuse and neglect is prevention, and DCFS awareness campaigns are generally the first piece that is cut out under budgetary constraints, since other programs are under strict court mandates.
In recent years, DCFS’ budget has been consistently reduced. These reductions in budget may end up creating more costs down the road. For example, foster care costs more to run than adoption.
Frequent Staff Changes
DCFS has a new Acting Director named Bobbie Gregg who had been serving as interim director for two months. DCFS has had four different chiefs since the start of November of last year. Gregg, a former federal prosecutor, promises more transparency and accountability in the department. One of her first tasks is to begin regularly publishing data on children who died from abuse or neglect who had previous contact with DCFS. The lack of consistent leadership and a consistent message and plan of action can severely jeopardize the functioning of DCFS.
Lessons Learned from Other Broken Systems
The Massachusetts’ Child Welfare Department has been under attack as the Commissioner of the department, Olga Roche, recently stepped down amid the reports of the deaths of three children who were failed by the system.
This past month a four-week-old died. In the child’s case, police told the Massachusetts DCFS in a fax that baby could be in danger, but no action was taken by the department. In the two other cases, a two-week-old baby whose family was being monitored by child welfare officials died, and a five-year-old, whose family was also being monitored, was also found dead.
The Illinois DCFS needs to learn from these horrific Massachusetts examples what the dire consequences are that funding and poor oversight can mean for the welfare of children.
For more information about family law issues in Chicago, please contact the experienced family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC.
Child abuse is a horrible crime that unfortunately affects many families throughout the United States. One of the biggest hurdles law enforcement faces is identifying the victims of the crime. One of the major goals of law enforcement is to prevent future abuse from taking place. Prevention requires education and advocacy. Many communities have come together to spread awareness and to educate the community on signs to look for to identify this often hidden crime. The month of April is designated Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month.
In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is the organization that deals directly with identifying child abuse in the home and works closely with social workers and law enforcement personnel to keep children that are abused safe from harm. Once child abuse is suspected or identified, DCFS moves in quickly to remove the child from the home and undergoes an investigation to determine the safest option for the child. This may mean placing the child in foster care or working directly with the families to prevent future abuse. There are also national organizations whose goal is to protect children. These organizations often have local chapters in each state to target smaller communities.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. These are people who specifically advocate on behalf of the rights of children. There are a total of 933 community-based programs in the United States, and each program is in charge of recruiting, instructing, and encouraging volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. These advocates work in the local communities and go to court in defense of children.
The volunteer advocates provide judges with vital information about each individual child’s circumstances and needs, which is essential to ensuring each child’s well-being is protected while in foster care. Volunteers are part of each child’s life until they are permanently placed in a home. Like a mentor or guardian, they are a constant presence in a child’s life. This is a vital role, as many of these children have no positive role models or consistent adults in their lives.
CASA Kane County is a volunteer, non-profit organization in Illinois that advocates for the best interests of neglected and abused children who are in the juvenile court system.
Last year, volunteers with this organization worked with 552 children across the Kane County area. CASA Kane County also hosted its annual Hands Around the Courthouse event on April 10th, 2014, to alert the public during Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. This was the 10th year in a row that CASA Kane County held this event.
Throughout the month of April, CASA Kane County took part in educating the local community by displaying blue pinwheels on the courthouse lawn. Each pinwheel represented a child the agency served in the previous year.
Raising awareness of the issue of child abuse is the first step in prevention of future abuse. Taking part in local awareness campaigns or going so far as to volunteer as a child advocate will contribute a great amount towards reducing the number of children who become victims of child abuse each year.
Resources in Illinois
If you would like any additional information about any family services available in your community, do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices, LLC today for a free consultation.
Divorce is painful, emotional, and complex. It touches every part of your life, and if you have children, you will likely have to deal with the fallout for years. Once the marriage is dissolved, new problems can easily crop up. One such problem that lawmakers, family law attorneys, and divorced people have tackled with varying levels of success is child custody and visitation.
In Illinois, the involvement of both parents in the raising of the child is a matter of public policy written expressly into the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. To this end, both parents have the right (if not the duty) to participate as much as they can in the upbringing of their children. If either parent interferes with the visitation or custody order from the court, absent a good reason, they open themselves up to liability from the courts. The parent with whose rights have been interfered has options on how to correct the interference.
Criminal Court and the Crime of Unlawful Visitation or Parenting Time Interference
In Illinois, interfering with visitation rights is a crime. If one “detains or conceals a child with the intent to deprive another person of his or her rights to visitation, parenting time, or custody time,” she is subject to a petty offense with a fine. (The feminine pronoun is used here because, as of 2007, mothers made up 82.6 percent of the custodial parents in divorced couples. Men are subject to the crime as well, be they custodial parents or not.) If the parent is convicted more than two times for the crime, it becomes a Class A misdemeanor, with possible jail time. While this statute is a valuable tool to enforce visitation agreements, it severely limits the options for the parent pursuing the agreement’s enforcement. A better option may be the civil courts.
Civil Court and Enforcement of Visitation Agreements
If a parent wishes to enforce their visitation agreement after interference, he can file a petition with the family court. The judge will hold a hearing regarding the visitation agreement and its violation. The judge can then modify the agreement, order additional visitation time to make up for the time lost, or the nebulous “[o]ther appropriate relief deemed equitable.” If the judge feels that visitation is being unreasonably impeded, he can use the contempt power of the court to levy a fine against the interfering parent, suspend the parent’s driving privileges, or even imprison the parent for up to six months.
Contact a Family Law Attorney Today
A child is better off with two involved parents, and visitation is essential to ensuring parental involvement after divorce. If your visitation rights have been impeded, an experienced family law attorney can begin the proceedings to help you enforce your rights. Contact an Illinois family law attorney today.
If you are considering or actively seeking a divorce, then you will need the help of experts and legal professionals. They can provide insights into contentious issues like child custody, division of property, and support. In some cases, an expert can give you guidance on the proper settlement to your divorce. In other cases, they can provide trustworthy testimony in a litigated divorce. No matter what type of divorce you are seeking, these experts can assist you in the process.
1. Property Experts
Just as you would get your house appraised before selling it, a property expert will estimate the value of your marital home and other property. Their job is to compile prices of neighboring properties to have a sense of your house’s market value. They will also review custom upgrades, the structure of the home, and curb appeal. They will ensure that you get the proper value for your home when property is divided.
2. Occupational or Salary Experts
When deciding the fairness of child and spousal support, a judge will look at a variety of factors. They look specifically at each spouse’s current and potential earning ability to decide a fair amount. That can also mean that they look at any unemployed spouse’s educational and professional background to evaluate their earning potential. Having the testimony of an occupational expert can be invaluable during your divorce.
3. Psychological Experts
Another issue that can be difficult to decide in divorce proceedings is child custody. A psychological evaluator will assist in determining the right place for your children based upon your specific circumstance. Their informed judgment can define which spouse should retain primary custody and what the parameters should be in place for visitation. Child custody is often determined by what is in the best interest of the children.
Another expert that you should seek is a divorce attorney. Their experience can also help you in the divorce based on your specific needs. Contact a skilled divorce attorney in DuPage County today.
Most parties are able to agree to the terms of a divorce without having to go through the trial. In these cases, the parties would memorialize the terms of the agreement into a marital settlement agreement, which they present to the judge for approval. Absent some glaring deficiencies, the judge will usually make the agreement part of the final divorce decree.
Parties who have hired qualified divorce attorneys will also present the judge with a joint parenting agreement (“JPA”), which sets out the child custody provisions. For example, the JPA will state whether parents have joint legal custody or whether only one has legal custody and the other has visitation rights. In cases where parents are splitting physical custody, the JPA will set forth the daily custody schedule. Yes, the attorney will take a calendar and note on each day which parent has custody.
The JPA is a fluid document and an DuPage family lawyer will adapt it to each case. For example, if the parties are concerned about providing for the children in the long term, the attorney may advise them to create a trust and fund that trust with marital property. The attorney could set up the trust so that it invests the original funding amount and uses the income to provide for their children.
A JPA should also contain a provision requiring either parent to have life insurance and name the children as beneficiaries. The life insurance amount should be large enough to insure support for several years to come. For example, if the children are young, a life insurance policy of $20,000 or $50,000 would hardly be enough. A good rule of thumb would be to calculate how much the children would need yearly until they turn 18 and take out a life insurance policy for that amount. An experienced Illinois divorce attorney can easily make that calculation.
If you facing a divorce, you may have questions. Do not fight alone; contact an experienced Illinois divorce attorney who can represent you with the experience and professionalism you deserve.
In order to fully implement a bird’s nest custody, you need to understand what implications it poses. This type of arrangement is where the parents center their decisions around their children, and not the other way round. What this means is that in the event of divorce, the children will not move with either of the parents, but will continue to reside in the same place, while the parents will alternate homes to care for the children. A compassionate DuPage County divorce attorney can take time to make you understand the implications of this type of arrangement that include making several important decisions, such as where each parent will live when they are not with the children. One cannot go far from the children; otherwise they will not be able to effectively play their role in the arrangement.
Since the children are the focus of the bird’s nest arrangement, the parents, being adults, see themselves through the trials of the divorce. This type of arrangement is recommended for parents who have equal custody of their children.
Remember that costs will be higher for both of you, and you need to ensure that you are fit financially before starting and agreeing to the bird’s nest arrangement. This goes without saying that there needs to be openness between your ex- partner and you, concerning all aspects of your new life, so that misunderstandings do not crop up. The children should not be left out of the discussion either, and need to be informed of the new development. In order to ensure that everything goes smoothly, you need to come up with guidelines together to govern the several events that will definitely crop up like birthdays, anniversaries, and the like.
In order to fully understand the legal implications of this arrangement, you need to seek legal advice from a devoted family lawyer. Feel free to contact us to talk to a qualified Illinois divorce lawyer to learn more.