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DuPage County child custody lawyerIn 2016, sweeping reforms were made to the family law statutes in the state of Illinois. One of the most notable changes was the elimination of the old idea of child custody and the introduction of a new way of thinking. This new approach is called the “allocation of parental responsibilities,” and it focuses in a positive way on how each parent will contribute to raising their children in the wake of a divorce or breakup.

Understanding Parenting Plans

Today, parents who are involved in a divorce—or, in fact, any proceedings that address the allocation of parental responsibilities—are expected by law to create a written parenting plan proposal. This expectation is set forth in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). The IMDMA recognizes that an agreement between the parents is almost always preferable to litigation in the courtroom, so parents are statutorily encouraged to develop a workable agreement if at all possible. The parenting plan agreement must address a number of required concerns, including but not limited to:

  • Each parent’s authority for making significant decisions about the child’s upbringing;
  • How much parenting time each parent will have and when;
  • The child’s primary address for school registration and similar purposes;
  • Each parent’s rights and access to health records, school records, and other documents regarding the child;
  • The process through which the parenting plan may be amended;
  • How parental moves or relocations are to be handled; and
  • The right of first refusal of additional parenting time.

Presenting the Plan

Each parent has 120 days from the notice of filing to submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. Upon a showing of good cause, the deadline may be extended. Each parent may create and file their own plan, or the parents can work together on a single proposal. If the two separate plans are dramatically different and the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court may order the parents to participate in mediation to come up with a reasonable compromise. If mediation is unsuccessful, or if both parents refuse to file a proposal, the court will create a parenting plan for them.

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parenting-coparent-custody.jpgParents who recently gotten divorced or broken up are often left facing difficult decisions when it comes to how to make arrangements for raising their children. In recent years, changes to the law in Illinois have led to a more intense focus on cooperative parenting plans. Cooperative parenting—or co-parenting—may work perfectly fine in most situations, but there may be cases where one parent feels that he or she should have sole authority for making important decisions regarding their child. While the law no longer uses the term “sole custody,” Illinois courts do have the authority to give one parent sole decision-making responsibility if necessary.

Updated Language

Prior to 2016, Illinois law provided for two different types of child custody arrangements: joint custody and sole custody. Both of these referred to “legal custody,” which was the authority to make choices regarding the life of the child and his or her upbringing. Parents who shared joint custody were responsible for making important decisions together, while a parent with sole custody could make decisions without consulting the non-custodial parent.

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DuPage County family law attorneyThe allocation of parental responsibilities, commonly called child custody, can be a complicated part of family law. When a couple who is unmarried has a child, there are different rights and responsibilities applied to each parent than if the couple is married. For example, a woman who gives birth to a child immediately has custody of that child. If an unmarried father wishes to claim legal paternity of the child, he must do so through one of several established ways.

Rights and Responsibilities of Unmarried Mothers

Mothers are automatically considered the primary custodian of a child they bear. This means that they have authority over decisions related to their child’s welfare as well as the responsibility to care for the child. More specifically, they have the right to make decisions about school, childcare, geographical moves, healthcare, religious affiliation, sports, summer camps, travel, and other aspects of the child’s life. It should be noted that there are some extreme cases in which a mother does not get custody of a child she gives birth to. For example, mothers who were found to have been using illegal drugs while pregnant can be disallowed immediate physical or legal custody of their child.

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