Here at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates here in Joliet, we wanted to cover common questions about child custody in Illinois. Child custody can be fraught with concern and frustration. Getting answers to common questions can help you understand custody and can help allay concerns and fears about custody issues.
Who gets custody?
When a court must determine who gets custody, they usually use “the best interest of the child” as their standard. There are a number of factors when the court weighs custody issues. When a court weighs factors, no one factor is a controlling factor and not all factors will have the same significance. Some of the factors that go into determining parental custody include:
- Each of the parents’ wishes and preferences
- The child’s wishes, often taking the age of the child, maturity, and education into account
- Parents’ interactions with child
- Adjustment of the child to school, community, and home
- Physical and mental health of involved parties
- Any violence exhibited by either parent
- The willingness and ability of parents to have a close and on-going relationship, as well as encourage and facilitate a close relationship with the other parent.
Joint Custody and Sole Custody—How are They Different?
This is one of the more common questions about child custody in Illinois. When parents are able to cooperate, communicate, and work together for the sake of their child, joint custody may be awarded. In joint custody, parents share decision making for major decisions that include healthcare, education, and religion.
A Joint Parenting Agreement is drawn up when joint custody is awarded. The agreement outlines each parent’s rights and responsibilities for their child and determines the residence arrangements. The agreement also specifies what should be done when there is a disagreement about a parenting decision.
If one parent is not suitable or able to be appropriately responsible for parenting decisions or if the parents cannot cooperate effectively with each other, sole custody may be awarded to one parent. Sole custody designates one parent as having sole authority for the child’s major life decisions.
Sole custody does not mean one parent no longer gets visitation rights and joint custody does not mean that the parents split visitation rights equally. There is a visitation schedule that is either court ordered or agreed to by both parents. Visitation schedules may dictate that one parent has most of the time or that the time is shared to varying degrees. Regardless of sole or joint custody, both parents have a right to school, medical, dental, and child care records.
Joint Custody and Child Support—Does Custody Determine Support?
The parents’ financial resources and the needs of the children are the main factors in determining child support but other factors such as parenting time do play a role in determining each parent’s financial responsibilities. Parents may have joint custody and share time equally, but one parent may be expected to pay more.
Can You Prevent Visitation if Child Support has Not Been Paid?
You cannot refuse visitation based on whether or not child support has been paid. At the same time, you cannot refuse to pay support if you are prevented from seeing your child. Denying visitation or child support can result in being found in contempt of court.
Can My Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?
Another of the common questions about child custody in Illinois, children in the state do not get to outright choose to reside with one parent. The child’s wishes can be taken into consideration as one factor in determining where a child will reside.
What Happens when Parents Cannot Agree on Custody?
When parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, the court will sometimes mandate mediation. A mediator is trained and appointed by the court as a neutral third party. Mediators work to help parents reach an agreement on custody. Mediation discussions remain confidential regardless of the outcome and if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the issue will proceed to trial.
Sometimes, when parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (custody evaluator) to assist the court in making a determination about custody, based on the best interest of the child. The custody evaluator’s determinations will be taken into consideration when the custody issue goes to trial and the judge makes a determination.
Can I Increase My Chances of a Larger Custody Agreement?
An experienced family attorney, such as O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet, can advise you about ways to increase your chances at a better outcome and answer your questions about child custody in Illinois.
Here is an additional list to help you when proceeding with a divorce and wanting to achieve your goals in regards to the time you wish to be granted with your children.
- Do not make the other parent’s visitations difficult or complicated. Also, do not interfere with their visitation rights.
- Do not yell at the other parent or your child.
- Avoid any physical confrontations.
- Make all child support payments
- Do not take your child out of daycare or school for a non-emergency without discussing it with the other parent.
- Try to engage in positive interactions as much as possible with the other parent and your child.
- Consult with your attorney before making any significant changes to your living arrangements.
- Do not unfairly or excessively criticize the other parent to others or your child, even if you feel your criticisms are all warranted.
- Do not deny the other parent phone contact when the child is with you.
What Should I do at a Custody Trial?
In a custody trial, it is important to present yourself in the best possible light. Be sure to dress professionally and exhibit good conduct at all times. Be calm during all testimony and try to maintain neutral facial expressions – no matter what. It is important to avoid letting the judge see expressions of anger or frustration. Let your attorney object when objections are needed. If you need to tell your attorney something in court, write a note. It is important to conduct yourself professionally at all times in court.
If you have additional common questions about child custody in Illinois, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet. We can help you with your custody issues and work diligently on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome.