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IL family lawyerIn Illinois, the presumption is that it is in the child’s best interest to have some type of relationship with both parents. In general, courts want to keep both parents involved in their children’s lives. In the vast majority of child custody cases, both parents will be granted some parenting time and some share of the parental responsibilities. However, there are outlier cases where one parent is so harmful or dangerous to their children that allowing them to spend any time at all together is simply not in the children's best interests. In these cases, it may be possible for one parent to be given exclusive access to their children. If you are in the type of situation where you feel that getting sole custody is necessary to protect your children, you will need to get in contact with a well-qualified child custody attorney as soon as possible. Obtaining sole custody in Illinois is not easy.

Under What Circumstances Could Sole Custody be Possible?

Courts will often resort to using supervised visitation before they will sever the relationship between a child and one of their parents. While you may not like it, supervised visitation is generally safe, as there will be a responsible and trusted adult present to keep an eye on things. That said, there are some circumstances under which courts will consider giving one parent exclusive custody, such as:

  • Abuse - If your co-parent has a history of abusing your children, spending any time with the abuser could be harmful to the children. Your children may be fearful of the abuser to the point where having to visit them would be upsetting or even traumatic. Even with supervision, children may experience intense emotional disturbances if forced to spend time with the parent who abused them. Courts may refuse visitation to a parent who has been abusive.
  • Criminal activity - Simply having a criminal record is not enough to show that the other parent is unfit for shared custody. Quite a few people with some criminal history manage to turn their lives around and parent responsibly. However, if your children’s other parent is still engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct - for example, if they are a drug dealer or in a gang - then the court may not want them to have any access to their children.
  • Mental illness or substance abuse - A lot of excellent parents are in substance abuse recovery or are managing mental health issues. However, if your co-parent’s ongoing substance abuse or unmanaged mental illness is so severe that they cannot be trusted around vulnerable children, the court may consider sole custody.

Even if you are given sole custody, there is a chance that the order could change later. If the other parent makes substantial changes to their lifestyle, like going to rehab and staying clean, the custody issue could be revisited in the future.

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Il divorce lawyerIt is often said that around 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The actual statistics are unknown, but even if the divorce rate is not that high, the fact remains that a significant percentage of marriages do not last. For those who are planning to get married or who are in a happy relationship, divorce may not seem to be likely. However, it can be a good idea to consider the possibility that a relationship will end, and by making decisions ahead of time through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, a couple can help avoid conflict and uncertainty in the future.

Prenups Vs. Postnups

A prenuptial agreement (prenup) will be signed by a couple before their wedding, while a postnuptial agreement (postnup) can be created at any time after spouses become legally married. Both types of agreements can address the same issues, including detailing how certain issues may be handled during a couple’s marriage and making decisions about what will happen if their marriage ends through divorce, legal separation, or the death of either spouse.

Generally, prenups and postnups will be limited to addressing matters related to a couple’s property and finances. An agreement may specify that certain assets owned by the spouses will remain separate property rather than marital property, or it may decide on how different assets and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce. A prenup or postnup may also include details about spousal maintenance, including specifying whether one spouse will pay support to the other or deciding on the amount that will be paid and the duration that payments will last. However, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements generally cannot make decisions about child custody, and they cannot reduce the amount of child support that a parent would be required to pay by law.

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Il family lawyerThere is a mass incarceration crisis in America. Our country has a higher percentage of people in jail or prison than any other country in the world. Fully one out of five incarcerated individuals in the world is in an American correctional facility. Many of these inmates are parents. Having legal problems does not make someone a bad or harmful parent. Often, it remains in the best interests of the child to have the incarcerated parent be part of their life as much as possible. However, there is a limit to how much parenting time one can have while they are locked up. In Illinois, courts are beginning to recognize the value of helping children maintain a relationship with an incarcerated parent during child custody cases. A lawyer can help you understand how incarceration could affect your custody case.

What You Need to Know About the Impact of Incarceration on Child Custody

While a parent who is in jail or prison cannot have primary physical custody, visitation is a possibility. Courts consider a variety of factors before making a custody decision in any case. When one parent is incarcerated or anticipates being incarcerated, the court has a bit more to consider. Some facts you should know about the impact of incarceration on child custody issues include:

  • Guardian ad Litem - It is very likely that a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to help the court better understand what the best course of action for the child might be. This individual’s role is simply to talk with your child and assess what is in their best interest.
  • Visitation - Getting parenting time during incarceration is not impossible - many judges will still award an incarcerated parent some parenting time. While your child’s other parent will have primary custody, it can be arranged to have your child visit. Depending on the circumstances, like whether there is a divorce involved and when it is finalized, it may be relatively easy or rather difficult to arrange visitation for an incarcerated parent.
  • Child support - Being locked up does not automatically relieve a parent of their obligation to support their child. However, the court will consider your lack of income and ability to pay when making a determination.
  • Circumstances matter - A parent who is serving time for child abuse is much less likely to retain any rights to see their child than a parent who was convicted of a crime that does not directly affect or endanger the child, like theft or minor drug possession.

If you have concerns about how being incarcerated could affect your continuing legal and personal relationship with your child, speaking with an attorney is the best place to start.

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IL family laywerBeing a single parent can be extremely difficult. Your child’s needs do not decrease just because they only have one parent to care for them and provide for them. In Illinois, children have the right to be supported financially by both of their parents. This typically takes the form of child support payments. One problem that many single mothers face is that the father of their child refuses to acknowledge that he is indeed the child’s other parent. This can create a roadblock, but with the help of a skilled attorney, it is often a very surmountable roadblock.

Even if the father refuses to acknowledge paternity voluntarily, Illinois state law provides a mechanism for establishing paternity involuntarily. If you are faced with this difficult situation, you should strongly consider speaking to an attorney about your options.

How Can Paternity be Established if My Child’s Father Will Not Cooperate?

Even if your child’s father refuses to accept or admit that he is the father, there are still ways to establish paternity. In many cases, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services will intervene and try to resolve the situation before involving the court. They may be able to conduct a paternity test or create a legal presumption of parentage if the father fails to show up.

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IL custody lawyerIllinois law presumes that both a child’s parents are safe and capable of caring for their children. However, there are situations in which a parent’s rights may be limited or even eliminated. If there are concerns about a child’s safety with a parent, the court has the authority to impose certain restrictions on parenting time. If you are an unmarried or divorced parent, it is important to understand how and when parenting time restrictions are implemented.

Illinois Courts Impose Parenting Time Restrictions on a Case-by-Case Basis

Illinois law describes parenting duties in terms of “parental responsibilities,” meaning decision-making authority and “parenting time,” which used to be called visitation. The court assumes that it is best for a child to spend time with both of his or her parents unless there is ample evidence to the contrary. Consequently, the burden of proof is on the party requesting a parenting time restriction.

If a parent is worried about his or her child’s safety with the other parent, the parent may file a motion to limit parenting time or parental responsibilities. Many different issues may lead a parent to file a motion for restricted parenting time, including:

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