Getting a divorce when you have children is a difficult and stressful time. One of your main concerns about the divorce process is probably child custody.
If you are an already unmarried parent with questions about Illinois custody laws and procedures click here.
Maybe you want to have primary custody or you do not think your spouse should have custody of your children. Custody arrangements are typically the contested issues in a divorce case.
If you and your spouse do not agree on custody terms, you should retain a Chicago child custody lawyer.
How Is Child Custody Determined in Illinois?
Illinois custody laws deal with both legal custody and physical custody. A parent has physical custody if the child lives in their home. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make decisions about their child’s life. This includes the right to make decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and more.
Child custody arrangements in Illinois determine both which parent or parents have physical custody and which parents have legal custody. Both physical and legal custody can be shared by both parents.
This is called joint custody. In a joint physical custody arrangement, the child typically spends equal or near-equal time with each parent. A joint arrangement for legal custody usually involves both parents consulting each other about important decisions in their child’s life.
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Illinois courts decide on custody arrangements based on the child’s best interests. Some state courts presume that some form of joint custody is best for the child when it is possible. Illinois courts do not follow this standard.
If sole custody is best for the child, the court will award one parent sole physical or sole legal custody. For example, parents who have frequent conflicts may struggle to work together to make decisions about their child’s life. In such a situation, it may be in the child’s best interest for one parent to have sole legal custody.
How Do Illinois Courts Determine the Child’s Best Interests?
Illinois courts consider a variety of factors when determining which custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests. These factors include:
- The child’s relationship with each parent;
- Whether the child has siblings;
- The child’s level of adjustment to their current custody situation; and
- Mental and physical well-being of the child and both parents.
Courts are reluctant to separate siblings. A judge will usually decide on the same custody arrangements for each child in a marriage with multiple children. In addition, courts do not usually favor making changes to a child’s environment when the child is happy there.
For example, if awarding one parent custody would require a child to leave the school where they have friends, a court is unlikely to award custody to that parent if there are no other factors that weigh in favor of doing so.
The child’s preference for custody arrangements is also taken into consideration. Child’s preference does not determine the custody arrangements but is considered in light of all the other factors.
Mental and physical health of the parents is also a major factor in determining child custody. If a parent has a severe mental health issue or a substance abuse disorder, a court will consider how this health issue has affected the parent’s ability to care for their child. A judge will consider whether the parent has received treatment and whether the parent’s behavior has endangered the child in the past.
Custody determinations are complicated, and judges have a lot of discretion to decide how heavily to weigh the relevant factors. Hiring a child custody lawyer in Chicago can help you get the custody arrangement that is best for your child.
Can You Sue for Child Custody?
If you want to change existing child custody arrangements, you can file papers with the court describing the changes you want to make. You may be able to modify various aspects of a custody arrangement, such as where a child lives or how much child support you must pay.
If your spouse does not agree to the modification you want, you will have to show that the circumstances have changed since the court ordered the current custody arrangement. For example, if the parent with primary physical custody moved to a different township, you can argue that this necessitates a modification of the custody arrangements.
If the other parent does not agree with the changes to the custody arrangement, you must wait two years from the date of the original child custody order to file papers requesting modification. Parents can agree to change a child custody order at any time.
When Should You Hire a Child Custody Lawyer ?
Hiring a child custody lawyer is crucial for any parent who has a dispute with the other about who should be responsible for the kids. An experienced Chicago child custody lawyer will know the Illinois custody laws, including how different courts tend to determine the child’s best interests.
A lawyer will know how to make the best possible argument for the custody arrangements that you want. In addition, there are often deadlines and filing requirements for divorce cases. An attorney will know the requirements and make sure that your filings meet the deadlines.
If you and the other parent are still discussing child custody arrangements with one another, hiring a Chicago child custody lawyer can help you reach a resolution.
Your attorney can help you negotiate by remaining calm throughout discussions. In addition, an attorney will know how the facts of your divorce are likely to affect a court’s decision about your case and can use this knowledge to leverage an agreement.
Who Is the Best Child Custody Lawyer for You?
The best child custody lawyer in Chicago to handle your case is someone with experience. You should do your research before hiring an attorney to make sure that your attorney has a history of achieving positive client outcomes in custody cases.
In addition, you need to hire a Chicago child custody lawyer whom you can trust. Divorce cases can sometimes bring up details of your personal and private life. It is important that you hire an attorney that you feel comfortable with.
You should feel confident that your attorney will advocate for you from the beginning of your case until the end, regardless of the details of your case. It is important that you are able to be honest with your child custody lawyer. You should talk to the lawyer who will be working on your case before you make a decision about hiring.
What If You Can’t Afford a Lawyer For Custody?
Family law attorneys are often expensive. If you are getting divorced and will have to decide on custody arrangements, but you cannot afford a child custody lawyer, Chicago has legal aid offices you can talk to. If you meet the eligibility requirements, Legal Aid Chicago may offer you legal assistance with your case. In some situations, you can also ask the judge in your case to appoint a legal aid lawyer to represent you.
Another low-cost option is to use Vantage Group Legal Services’ subscription legal services, where you will have access to an experienced child custody lawyer for a low monthly fee.
Consult a Chicago Child Custody Lawyer Today
Call Vantage Group Legal Services today at (773) 938-4747 to talk about hiring a child custody lawyer in Chicago. We are ready to offer you our family law legal services so you can achieve the best possible outcome in your custody case.
We offer each potential client a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case and the options available for you. Contact our office to start the process of getting the custody arrangement that is best for your child.