child custody, coparenting, Geneva family law attorneyWe have all heard it a hundred times. Someone you know is going through a nasty divorce and, while they may spare you the details, it is often clear that your friend is determined to “win” at all costs. He or she feels wronged by the other spouse and may go to great lengths to get what feels like justice. In many cases, “winning” or “losing” is a financial or property value outcome, with the “winning” spouse getting a satisfactory share of the marital estate. For parents, however, the stakes are even higher, and in too many cases, children are used as leverage in the raging war between divorcing spouses. Thanks to recent updates to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, parents will be expected to adhere to a higher standard of cooperation and to remain invested in serving the child’s best interests, no matter what the relationship between the adults may be.

Allocated Parental Responsibilities

Whether we like to admit it or not, language is very powerful and the words we use can impact not only our message, but our psychological approach to the subject as well. Consider the idea of child custody. Under the existing law, legal custody is awarded as sole or joint custody, making each parent either a custodial parent or non-custodial parent. These titles can be extremely divisive, as a non-custodial parent, for example, may feel like he or she has been relegated to a second-class level of parenting.

pets, divorce, Geneva property division attorneyFor many people, pets are as much a part of the family as a child. When a marriage breaks up, it can be tough to decide which spouse the pet is going to live with. There are many emotional and practical factors that go into making such a decision, and courts are not always the best places to decide pet issues.

How the Law Views Pets

Even though pets are an important part of our lives, the law views pets as a type of personal property. Your beloved family dog or cat is the same as the family television or couch as far as the law is concerned. Technically, the pet can be assigned a dollar value and put into one spouse’s column on the property division worksheet. There are no explicit pet custody provisions in the law.

parenting time, child support, kane county family law attorneyIn a large number of Illinois divorce cases involving parents, one is designated the primary residential parent for the purposes of school enrollment and child support. Most such situations result in the other parent being ordered to make child support payments. An arrangement like this may be fairly equitable for parents with drastically uneven amounts of parenting time, including cases in which a non-primary residential parent who only gets parenting time once or twice per month.  However, many other co-parenting arrangements are much more even, and in some cases, may be 50/50. For a non-primary residential parent in such a situation, he or she may try to negotiate lower child support payments.

Under the Law

According to the letter of the state law regarding child support, a court’s decision regarding support does not include explicit consideration for parenting time. Instead, the supporting parent’s income and the number of children are the primary considerations, while the needs of the child, the needs of each parent, and their available resources may be subjectively taken into account as well. When strictly applied, it may seem nearly impossible for a parent to show that parenting time should impact his or her child support payments.

visitation, restricted, Illinois family law attorneyBeing a parent is not easy. It can be infinitely more difficult to be a parent when you are divorced, separated, or were never married to the child’s other parent and he or she has been granted primary residential custody. Under ideal circumstances, you should be entitled to reasonable rights of visitation with the child, but the real world is rarely ideal. For example, you may be dealing with personal problems of your own, and as a result, the court may have restricted your rights of visitation. While such a situation may be incredibly challenging, it does not need to last forever, and there are some things you can do to work toward the reinstatement of your full visitation rights.

Be Totally Compliant

Even as you work on your own issues, it is vital that you comply with your visitation restrictions, no matter how emotionally difficult it may be. If you are permitted just an hour per week with your child, make the most of it. Make every effort to demonstrate your commitment to being a better person and a better parent. Any attempts to circumvent the court’s decision will not be seen favorably, and could result in full termination of your parental rights.

non-minor support, educational expenses, Kane County family law attorneyIf you currently pay child support, you are probably operating under the assumption that your obligation will be complete when your child turns 18 and graduates from high school. In most cases, you would be correct. The child support laws in Illinois generally require a parent—usually the one without primary residential custody—to pay support until the child is no longer a minor and has earned a high school diploma. You may be surprised to learn, however, that your obligation may continue, depending on your family’s specific circumstances, as your child pursues an undergraduate degree. Illinois, for some time, has recognized the right of a child to seek support from either or both parents for help with educational expenses, and, earlier this year, some cleanup language was added to the law that will take effect in January.

Not Usually Part of the Divorce

Although divorcing parents may be able to reach an agreement on paying for college during the course of the marital dissolution, many do not even think of it. With so many issues of more currently-pressing importance, it is easy to understand why that may be the case. The law in Illinois, however, leaves the door open for any party—either spouse or the child—to revisit the subject later, even after the child has already turned 18 and started college.

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