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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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Naperville family law attorneyIn many divorce cases, proceedings to allocate parental responsibilities—previously known as child custody in Illinois—are challenging, nuanced, and emotionally-charged for all involved. It is not uncommon for “winning” child custody to become the main focus for divorcing partners and parents.

With such high stakes, the situation can quickly get very intense, and the spouses may have trouble communicating and negotiating. If you find yourself in the midst of a difficult and contentious dispute over parenting responsibilities, it is crucial to keep your child’s best interest as your top priority. To do so, you should make every effort to avoid:

1. Allowing Hostile Feelings to Take Priority Over Parenting

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Naperville family law attorneyChild custody, now known as allocation of parental responsibilities under Illinois law, is an important topic that comes up for a variety of different reasons. We most often think of child custody during divorces, but child custody issues can also come up between unmarried parents who are arguing about parenting their children, or if two unmarried parents agree on parenting and wish to put their parental rights and obligations into writing. In the conflicted cases, however, if the case reaches a court, the court must rule on child custody issues like parenting time schedules and which parent gets what decision-making authority. Courts look at the child’s best interest when making a decision. Clients involved in child custody situations often ask if there are any factors that could hurt the chances of a court ruling in their favor. While no one can guarantee how a case will be decided, there are a few common factors that weaken one parent’s case.

Being Hostile and Uncooperative

Judges often favor parents who are able to cooperate and be reasonable with each other. This sounds obvious, but, all too often, one parent refuses to put the needs of their children over their own anger. If one parent can prove that the other has been hostile or acting out of emotion instead of prioritizing their children, they will likely have a stronger case for custody. Being unreasonable could lead to a judge not granting shared or joint custody. How can parents be expected to co-parent effectively if they can not even cooperate leading up to their court date?

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