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Will County family law attorneyLegal matters related to a child’s paternity rarely exist in a vacuum. Often, they are accompanied by questions regarding the extent to which the father will be involved in the child’s life. For example, will the relationship be limited solely to financial support, or will the child be spending significant time with the father? The answer varies from case to case, and regardless of the method you use to establish paternity, you should be prepared for the possibility of a court case addressing parenting time and parental responsibilities.

What Comes With the Establishment of Legal Paternity in Illinois?

In many cases, the primary purpose of establishing legal paternity is to ensure that the father is obligated to contribute to child support. This, of course, benefits the child, but it also helps the mother or whoever has custody of the child. Additionally, when a legal parent-child relationship has been established, the child is eligible for other financial benefits from the father, including inheritance, health insurance coverage, and benefits from life insurance, Social Security, and Veterans Affairs.

A child’s legal father also must be notified if the child is involved in an adoption proceeding, giving him the opportunity to consent or contest the adoption. However, the establishment of paternity does not, in and of itself, give the father rights or obligations regarding the exercise of parenting time and parental responsibilities. Rather, defining these arrangements requires additional action in family court.

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Will County family law attorneyFor many divorcing parents, decisions related to their children are not only legal matters, but extremely personal matters. This is especially true when it comes to what the children’s living arrangements will be after the divorce, as the outcome can have major ramifications on parent-child relationships and the day-to-day lives of both the parents and the children. As you attempt to resolve the question of parenting time in your divorce, you should consider a few important questions.

Can You Reach an Agreement With Your Spouse?

If you and your spouse are on fairly good terms, you can work together to create a parenting time schedule that meets the needs of the whole family. Doing so can help you save time and stress during the divorce process, and it can also help you be better, more cooperative co-parents after the divorce is complete. As you work toward an agreement, it may be important to discuss who, if anyone, will continue to live in the family home, how parenting time can be balanced with each parent’s work schedule, how you will share holidays and special occasions, and how you will resolve any future disagreements.

What Are the Children’s Best Interests?

When creating a parenting plan, your top priority should be your children’s best interests. If you and your spouse create an agreement together, the court will need to review it to determine whether your children’s interests are protected. If you are not able to agree with your spouse, you will need to prepare to demonstrate in court that your proposed arrangement best meets your children’s needs. Among other things, it is important to consider the living environment in both parents’ homes, the proximity to the children’s school and other important activities, the children’s preferences and unique care needs, and the ability for the children to maintain a relationship with both parents. In some cases, it is also important to consider whether time with a parent could put the children at risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm.

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Joliet child custody lawyersIn most cases in which a child’s parents get a divorce, and in many cases in which the parents have never been married, an Illinois court will attempt to reach a resolution in which both parents have substantial parenting time and a role in parental decision-making responsibilities. However, the child’s best interests are the most important consideration, and in cases in which a parent’s behavior could put the child at risk, the court may order a restriction of parental responsibilities. One such example is when a parent has problems with drug addiction or substance abuse.

Parental Responsibility Restrictions Due to Substance Abuse

The habitual abuse of alcohol, illegal drugs, and other controlled substances can not only impair a parent’s ability to perform parental responsibilities, but can also directly harm their child. Under Illinois law, parenting time and decision-making responsibilities can both be restricted if there is sufficient evidence that a parent has put the child’s physical, mental, or moral health, or emotional development at risk.

In cases involving substance abuse, the court may order that a parent must refrain from using or possessing a substance before and during their parenting time. The parent may also be ordered to complete a drug or alcohol abuse treatment program as a condition of any parenting time or visitation they are granted. Depending on the situation, additional restrictions may be warranted as well, including:

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Joliet family law attorneyThe stigmatization behind the term “mental illness” has been greatly reduced over the past few decades. Unlike in the past, being diagnosed with a mental illness is fairly common, and contrary to popular belief, the diagnosis does not necessarily impact your ability to perform everyday activities or hold responsibility. In the U.S. alone, nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness. 

If you are a parent whose former spouse or co-parent has a mental illness, you may be concerned about their ability to be there for your child. While having a mental illness is not enough to be considered incapable of parenting, if you have seen your co-parent’s mental health get in the way of their parenting capabilities, you may be wondering how to address this in court and have these concerns reflected in your parenting plan. With the help of a reputable attorney, you can have your concerns heard by the court and keep your child in safe hands. 

Levels of Mental Illness

Mental illnesses can come in many forms and levels of severity. The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes two categories of mental illness: any mental illness (AMI) and serious mental illness (SMI). AMI is defined as a behavioral, mental or emotional disorder that can vary in impact from mild to severe impairment. SMI is a behavioral, mental or emotional disorder which results in serious functional impairment and which greatly interferes with or limits major life activities. According to 2019 data, an estimated 20.6 percent of all U.S. adults have AMI, while only 5.2 percent of U.S. adults have SMI. As you can see, only a small number of Americans suffer from SMI, and in order for your co-parent’s mental health to weigh into your parenting plan, they will likely need to have severe impairment from AMI or be diagnosed with a SMI.

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Is My Co-Parent Purposely Damaging My Relationship with Our Child?When parents get divorced, their ongoing relationship can be tricky to navigate. Unlike other divorced couples, co-parents do not have the option of living completely separate lives. Maybe they spend time with their kids together or perhaps they only communicate regarding parenting arrangements and other necessary decisions. While it is always advisable to have an amicable co-parenting relationship, this is not always the case. In fact, some parents will go so far as to create a division in the relationship between their child and their co-parent in a tactic known as parental alienation.

What is Parental Alienation?

The term parental alienation syndrome (PAS) was coined in 1985 by child psychologist Richard Gardner to describe the behaviors seen in a child when they are subjected to parental alienation. When one parent discredits the child’s other parent, this can directly influence the child’s relationship with the discredited parent. The words and actions that are done to damage this relationship are known as parental alienation. This can come in many forms, a common example being one parent telling the child that their other parent does not love them or care about them. He or she can also provide in-depth details of why their marriage failed in an attempt to turn their child against their other parent. The severity of parental alienation tactics can vary and may not always be intentional. However, these criticisms can leave a lasting, damaging impact on the quality of the child-parent relationship.

Signs of PAS

Parental alienation syndrome is not an officially recognized mental health condition, but a court may acknowledge one parent’s efforts to damage the other parent’s relationship with their child. If you have suspicions that your child is being subjected to parental alienation, look for the following signs:

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