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Naperville child custody attorneyWhen unmarried parents have a child together or married parents get divorced, a decision must be made about how to divide parental responsibilities and parenting time. Many parents choose to co-parent their children—the child spends time at both homes and the parents share responsibility for making major decisions about their child. In other cases, one parent is responsible for all or nearly all of the parental responsibilities and parenting time. There are countless issues that can influence child custody decisions. One concern that many parents have is whether or not their mental illness will impact these custody determinations.

Will I Be Denied Parenting Time Because of My Mental Illness?

Whether you suffer from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or another type of mental illness, you are not alone. Just under 20 percent of the U.S. adult population has at least one mental illness. A mental health diagnosis alone cannot prevent you from spending time with your child. However, there are many different ways that a mental illness can impact child custody determinations.

Mental Health Concerns and a Child’s Best Interests

When Illinois parents divorce, they have 120 days to file a parenting plan with the court. The parenting plan describes each parent’s rights and explains how the parents will share parenting responsibilities and parenting time. If the parents cannot reach an agreement about the terms of the parenting plan, the court may intervene and make a decision on the parent’s behalf. Illinois courts make decisions about parental responsibilities and parenting time by evaluating the facts of the case and determining what would be in the child’s best interests. The court may require supervised parenting time or deny a parent parenting time altogether if his or her mental illness causes the parent to:

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Naperville child custody attorneyIn Illinois, child custody is broken down into two main components: parental responsibilities and parenting time. Formerly known as visitation, parenting time refers to the time a parent spends directly caring for his or her child. Illinois courts make all child custody decisions based on the child’s best interests. In some cases, the court may decide that supervised parenting time is necessary to ensure the safety of the child.  

When is Supervised Visitation Required?

Supervised visits may be ordered anytime that there is concern about a parent’s ability to adequately care for a child and ensure the child’s safety. Often, supervised visitation is required because the parent has been accused of domestic violence or abuse. This abuse may have been directed at the child, the other parent, or another party. Supervised visitation may also be required if a parent has a severe mental illness, substance abuse problem, or addiction that could endanger the child. The court may also require supervised visits if the parent has previously neglected the child or there is a concern that the parent could attempt to kidnap the child.

What Happens During Supervised Parenting Time?

If you are required to have supervised parenting time, you may be unsure of what to expect. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to have someone watch you spend time with your child. Often, the best way to deal with supervised parenting time is to pretend that the supervisor is not there. Spend time with your child like you normally would. Do not feel like you must “put on a show” for the supervisor or act differently. Demonstrate your commitment to being a good parent by showing up for your visitation period on time. Never consume drugs or alcohol prior to your visit, even if drug or alcohol use is not the specific reason for the supervision requirements. During the visitation, find something to do with your child that you both enjoy. This could be playing a game, reading a story together, working on a craft or project, or another type of age-appropriate activity.

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Naperville divorce lawyerDivorcing parents are expected to create a “parenting plan” that addresses how they plan to allocate child-related responsibilities within 120 days of filing for divorce. However, many couples struggle to reach an agreement about the numerous issues addressed in a parenting plan. Because most parents have strong opinions about what is best for their children, disagreements about child custody concerns during divorce can quickly become contentious. If you and your spouse do not see eye-to-eye about child custody concerns, one option that may help you reach an agreement is collaborative law.

What is the Collaborative Law Process for Family Law Issues?

Family law deals with issues such as divorce, the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, and child support. One alternative resolution method that may help individuals settle family law issues without taking the case to trial is collaborative law or collaborative divorce. The collaborative law process involves the parties and their respective attorneys meeting together to negotiate the unresolved issues, find common ground, and explore potential solutions. The end goal of the collaborative process is to reach a mutually-agreeable decision about the issue at hand.

Benefits of Using Collaborative Law to Resolve Child Custody Issues

Collaborative law differs from mediation in that the spouses retain attorneys who provide legal representation, guidance, and advice during the collaborative process. The goal of the collaborative process is not to “win” or “lose” but instead to find solutions that are reasonable, sustainable, and mutually- beneficial.  This can help parents remain on good terms and set the foundation for a respectful, pragmatic co-parenting relationship in the future. Although each spouse retains their own attorney, all of the parties involved in the collaborative process agree to negotiate in good faith, keep discussions confidential, and freely exchange information. The parties also agree not to take the case to litigation. If the parties cannot resolve their issues and the case goes to trial, the lawyers involved in the collaborative process are prohibited from representing the parties in court. This ensures that everyone is highly motivated to reach a resolution.

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DuPage County child custody attorneysIf you are a parent who is unmarried, divorced, or planning to end your marriage, you may have questions about child custody. Disputes about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time can be complicated and contentious. One issue that commonly arises is a parent wishing to move or relocate. If you or your child’s other parent is planning to move, you should know the laws in Illinois regarding parental relocations and how this may influence your parental responsibilities and parenting time.  

Defining “Relocation”

Considerable changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) went into effect in 2016. Among these changes was a total overhaul of how the state deals with parental relocations. Formally called “child removal,” moving with a child when you share custody can dramatically change the co-parenting situation. If a parent with the majority of parenting time, formerly called the “custodial parent” or a parent with equal parenting time wishes to “relocate,” there are certain steps he or she is required to take. A parental move is considered a “relocation” if:

  • The parent currently lives in Cook County, Kane County, DuPage County, Lake County, Will County, or McHenry County and wishes to move to more than 25 miles away while remaining in Illinois.
  • The parent currently lives in another Illinois county and wishes to move more than 50 miles away while remaining in Illinois.
  • The parent wishes to move more than 25 miles away to a new residence outside of Illinois.

Relocation Requirements

If you are the parent with the majority of parenting time or equal parenting time and your move is considered a relocation, you will need to notify the other parent about the relocation at least 60 days in advance. You must tell the other parent the date you intend to move, your new address, and how long you plan to live in the new residence. If the other parent does not object to your relocation, you then make any necessary adjustments to your parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval.

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DuPage County divorce attorney child custody

Illinois divorce law states that if a couple cannot agree on the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court will make a decision based on the couple’s child’s best interests. These decision-making rights allow either one or both parents to make determinations regarding a child’s education, health (both physical and mental), and if and how religion will be incorporated into their child’s upbringing. The law continues to define what a child’s best interests are in the eyes of the court. Certain factors, including psychological issues, can play a role in making child custody decisions.

A Child’s Well-Being

The overall goal of child-related decisions in a divorce is to do what is in the child’s best interest. Some of the most significant considerations when deciding child custody in an Illinois divorce may include:

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