Chicago Child Allocation Attorneys
When a couple decides to separate, one of the most contentious and emotional issues involves the care of their children. Because of this, parents need experienced help to negotiate an arrangement that suits the child's needs and wishes, and those of both parents. Divorce can take a significant emotional toll on all involved, and a solid parenting plan can minimize the stress on both the child and the parents. The legal team at Nottage and Ward, LLP, has been helping Illinois residents protect their parental rights for over 30 years. Let us utilize our experience to get you the best child allocation arrangement possible. Call our Chicago family law lawyers at (312) 332-2915 for a consultation.
Under Illinois law, child allocation is broken into two parts: physical allocation and legal allocation. Physical allocation describes who the child lives with and sets a schedule for parenting time. One parent may be the residential parent; however, both parents have parenting time with the child.
Legal allocation describes who has the right to make significant decisions for the child. These decisions include, but are not limited to, education, religion, extracurricular activities, and health. These decisions include where the child goes to school; when, where, and how he or she receives medical treatment; and other life-shaping decisions. Sole allocation allows only one parent to make these important decisions for the child while joint allocation assures that these decisions are made by both parents jointly.
"... the strongest representation I could ask for in a very complicated, emotional matter. She has continuously looked out for my best interest and the best interest of my son."
Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a parenting plan is defined as: "a written agreement that allocates significant decision-making responsibilities, parenting time, or both.” Parenting plans establish the rights and duties of each parent in the care of their children. When the parents agree on these issues, a parenting plan can be drafted with the help of the attorneys that represent each parent, pending final approval by a judge. Once approved, a parenting plan becomes a court order that requires compliance from each parent. Changes to a parenting plan can only be made through legal modification. A parenting plan will outline the time the child spends at each home, how he or she will be transported, how school vacations and holidays will be shared, and how all of the significant parenting decisions will be made.
When considering approval of a parenting plan, a judge will take the following into consideration:
- First and foremost, what is in the child’s best interests.
- The wishes of the parents.
- The wishes of the child.
- The child’s relationships with parents, siblings, or other parties that could impact the future happiness and stability of the child.
- The child’s relationship to the community, including home and school.
- Mental health of the child and parents.
- Abuse or threats of abuse to the child.
- Domestic violence.
- Whether each parent appears to be willing to encourage the relationship with the other parent.
- Whether either parent is a sex offender.
When only one parent has physical allocation, the parents or court may create a parenting time plan (formerly a “visitation” plan) to allow the non-allocated parent and the child to see one another. In most cases, a child should see his or her non-allocated parent as regularly as possible. This helps the child and non-allocated parent maintain an active relationship. Setting up a parenting time plan means considering several factors, and this process is not always easy. The child's age, needs, and desires require serious consideration. Other things that will affect scheduling include the parents' work schedules, the child's school schedule, activities, and where the child will spend the holidays. The relationship between the parents also has a profound impact on the drafting of a parenting time agreement. If the parents cannot agree, a formal negotiating process or mediation in court may be required.
A non-allocated parent may be unable to be alone with the child for any number of reasons. Illinois courts may restrict parenting time if it would seriously endanger the child's physical, mental, or emotional health, or impair his or her moral upbringing. Illinois courts focus on the child's welfare while seeking to provide as much safe parenting time as possible. Supervised parenting time may be required in these cases.
Grandparents, great-grandparents, and siblings may also receive visitation time. Relatives seeking visitation should enlist the help of an experienced Illinois child allocation attorney to ensure their rights are respected.
Q: Can a child choose which parent to live with?
No. However, children can provide statements and preferences that weigh heavily on the outcome. A child's age and reasoning will be taken into account – the more mature the child and his or her requests, the greater the significance a presiding judge will place upon his or her testimony.
Q: Once allocation has been determined, what if the child wishes to live with the other parent?
Desire to live with the other parent doesn't necessarily mean it will occur. In order for the child to be handed over to the other parent, proof must be given that the child's welfare and overall condition has either deteriorated significantly, is in the process of deteriorating, or has the potential to degrade as a direct result of the parent's situation, behavior, etc.
Q: How often are siblings split up?
Splitting up siblings is a rare move and hardly ever seen in Illinois state courts. In order to do so, both parents and their representatives must make a case as to why this must occur – courts will generally never take such action unless there is a dramatic need present. Even with a substantial argument, it is considered an unwise ruling and not in the best interests of the children.
Q: Can a parent move a child out of state?
Yes, a parent who has been allocated a majority of parenting time or who has been allocated equal parenting time may seek to relocate with a child, but only with a court order or consent of the other parent. Under Illinois law, “relocation” is defined as a change of residence from the child’s current primary residence in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will County to a new residence within Illinois that is more than 25 miles from the current residence; a change of residence from the current primary residence located in a county other than Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will to a new residence within Illinois that is more than 50 miles from the child’s current primary residence; or a change of residence from the current primary residence to a residence outside of Illinois that is more than 25 miles from the current primary residence.
In determining whether or not to allow a parent to relocate the child, the court considers the following factors:
- The circumstances and reasons for the intended relocation;
- The reasons, if any, why the other parent is objecting to the intended relocation;
- The history and quality of each parent’s relationship to the child and whether the parent has exercised the parental responsibilities allocated to him or her;
- The educational opportunities for the child at the current and proposed new locations;
- Family members who are present or absent from each location;
- The anticipated impact of the move;
- Whether the court can create a reasonable allocation of parental responsibilities;
- The wishes of the child;
- Minimization of impairment to the parent-child relationship caused by the relocation
If the allocated parent wishes to move out of state, a Petition for Removal must be filed with the court. The non-allocated parent may oppose the move.
Q: What about vacations? Can a parent take a child out of Illinois?
Yes, provided notice has been given to the other parent and his or her attorney on the location to which the parent and child will be traveling and when they will return.
No one parenting arrangement is right for every family or every situation. Your parenting plan must be tailored to your needs and your child's needs. The Chicago child allocation lawyers at Nottage and Ward, LLP, have seen, time and time again, how parenting disputes can get acrimonious. We can help you avoid such a situation. In examining the specifics of your case, we will help devise a plan that ensures your child's best interests are accurately represented when allocation is being determined.
If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, formal negotiation during the settlement conference may be needed. At Nottage and Ward, LLP, our Chicago divorce lawyers are experienced negotiators who can help you and your spouse reach an accord even in a contentious case. We can present and defend your needs and interests in negotiation with your spouse and your spouse's attorney. Litigating child allocation in court is a last resort, but we are prepared to guide you through the process if need be.
Nottage and Ward, LLP, has focused solely on divorce law for over thirty years. Our Chicago family law attorneys have the experience to make sure that your rights and needs are addressed during your divorce. To discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer, schedule your initial consultation today by calling (312) 332-2915.
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Leslie has been the strongest representation I could ask for
Leslie has been the strongest representation I could ask for in a very complicated, emotional matter. She has continuously looked out for my best interest and the best interest of my son. She is always prompt in getting back to me and in keeping me well informed about my case.
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