Geneva family law attorneyIf you are facing divorce with children, there are several very complicated steps and processes for you and your soon to be ex-spouse to figure out and resolve. The most important of these will be parental responsibilities, formerly called child custody in Illinois—determining with whom the child will spend the majority of his or her time, and which parent will have visitation rights or non-legal guardianship. In the past, the father almost always was the parent that was not awarded legal custody, but as the social fabric of our country has changed—and more women have entered the workforce than ever before—so too has the standard divorce proceeding. In fact, rather than awarding either parent sole responsibilities, leaving the other to feel a type of “part-time parent,” in many modern divorces the couple instead opts for a shared parenting agreement, or co-parenting, which many psychologists believe is much better, at least, for the children.

Bird's Nest Co-Parenting

A co-parenting agreement may involve a so-called nesting provision, meaning that the parents will share the marital home, rather than awarding one spouse or the other full ownership, and the children will stay stable in said home. Parents will then take turns taking up residence, while the other lives in a nearby second home that they both share. This type of arrangement is called a “bird’s nest.” Bird nesting will work in situations in which both parents are committed and interested in pursuing a healthy relationship with each other—it of course would not work if the divorce was particularly nasty. It may also not be possible emotionally for one parent if he or she was blindsided by the divorce and was not 100 percent on board with the marital dissolution from the beginning.

Geneva family law attorneyFor a couple with children, a divorce or separation can be particularly challenging. In addition to the difficulties inherent to every other marital dissolution, such as property division and alimony, divorcing parents are also faced with the prospect of sharing parental responsibilities. As with most aspects of divorce, the court can and will determine arrangements for dividing these responsibilities, but only if necessary. Illinois courts and the law much prefer that divorcing parents reach an agreement of their own, as a negotiated arrangement is more likely to be followed than one simply imposed by a judge. Drafting a parenting plan that works well for you, your spouse, and your child is a vital part of the divorce process for parents.

Decision-Making Authority

Your parenting plan must clearly lay out the rights and responsibilities for both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse regarding your child. Recent changes to the law in Illinois have eliminated the concepts of sole and joint child custody, so the two of you will need to decide who will be responsible for what, especially regarding significant issues like education, health care, religious training, and extracurricular activities. One of you may be responsible for all significant decisions, they may be split between you, or you may choose to make all such decisions together—presuming that communication is strong enough to facilitate cooperation.

Geneva family law attorneyThe vast majority of divorced or unmarried parents recognize their responsibility to provide, at the very least, some level of financial support for their children. In most cases, the parent with less allocated responsibilities and parenting time is ordered to pay child support to the other parent in accordance with a formula provided in the law. For a parent who works for an employer and draws a regular paycheck, these calculations are generally straightforward, since they are determined as a percentage of net income based on the number of children to be supported. When the supporting parent owns a business, however, determining his or her actual income can be considerably more complex.

Mixing Business and Personal Income

Whether it is done with the intent of avoiding child support or claiming tax advantages, those who are self-employed often do not keep business and personal interests completely separate. They may use business revenue to cover day-to-day living expenses, essentially claiming no “take-home” income.  Virtually all income and expenses are assigned to the business.

Kane County family law attorneyThanks to legislation that was passed in Illinois last spring and signed by the governor last July, 2016 has been a year of change and adaptation in the realm of family law. While the new statutes address a wide variety of topics, perhaps the most important changes affect the way in which courts will now approach the idea of child custody. Beginning this year, in fact, the phrase child custody has been all but removed from the law, replaced by the allocation of parental responsibilities.

In the minds of many parents, child custody was once a very black-and-white issue. A parent was either granted sole custody or would share joint custody of a child following a divorce, separation, or other situation in which the parents stopped sharing a household. These two types of arrangements referred to the authority of each parent regarding major concerns in the child’s life, not just how much time the child spent with mom or dad. A parent with sole custody was responsible for all important decision-making, while parents with joint custody were responsible for developing a plan to make such decisions together.

A Customized Plan

child support, employer, Geneva family lawyerWhen you have been ordered by the court to pay child support, your obligation is seen as more than just another bill. The law in Illinois makes child support an extremely high priority, not only for the paying parent but for his or her employer as well. The Income Withholding for Support Act provides that, unless other arrangements are expressly made, all orders for child support must include provisions for serving any employer of the supporting parent with a properly prepared income withholding notice to facilitate the payment of child support obligations.

Benefits of Withholding

For many years, a supporting parent’s only option for making child support payments, other than income withholding, was by writing a check every month and sending it to the State Disbursement Unit. Today, online payments are available, but still require the supporting parent to take action to make his or her payments. Income withholding, on the other hand, requires no additional effort by the supporting parent and secures the payment before other obligations can prevent the parent from paying. Thus, the two-fold benefits—convenience and security—are what make income withholding the most common method of paying child support in Illinois and around the country.  

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