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Navigating Child Custody Agreements in DuPage County, IL

Little girl holding daddy's hand. child custody agreements

In DuPage County, IL, child custody agreements are governed by state law, prioritizing the child’s best interests. These agreements detail custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and parental responsibilities. Mediation is often encouraged to reach an amicable resolution, but court intervention may occur if parties cannot agree, prioritizing the child’s well-being above all else.

Little girl holding daddy's hand. child custody agreements

An attorney advocating for you and your child can help you navigate the process more smoothly. Call (630) 538-5331 for a consultation with a child custody lawyer at Erlich Law Office.

Types of Child Custody Arrangements in Illinois

Custody in Illinois is categorized as legal and physical. Parents often share both types of custody, but it is possible for a parent to have only one type or neither type.

However, Illinois no longer uses the term “child custody.” Rather, it uses “parental responsibilities.” These responsibilities include parenting time (formerly child placement or visitation) and decision-making power.

Child custody arrangements can take many forms. Sometimes, the parents work together to come up with customized solutions that fit their family’s needs. Other times, a judge makes the decisions. Either way, understanding the difference between legal and physical custody is necessary.

What Is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

Legal custody gives parents the authority to make major decisions on the child’s behalf. For example, parents can make educational, medical, and religious decisions. Like with physical custody, legal custody can be joint or solo.

If both parents have legal custody, they make these decisions together. If a disagreement occurs, for example, on where the child should attend school, parents can use mediation or turn to the court.

Physical custody, also called parenting time, relates to where the child lives from day to day. Physical child custody agreements can vary. Factors that influence these schedules include how old the child is, whether one parent has been the primary caregiver, and how the child gets along with each parent.

Steps Involved in Obtaining a Child Custody Agreement in Illinois

There are general steps for getting Illinois child custody agreements. You can avoid many of them if you and your co-parent work out an agreement that receives court approval. Otherwise, you will need to formally file for custody.

Preparing to File

Preparing before you file can go a long way in aiding your case. For example, if you are the child’s father and were not married to the mother when the child was born, you might need to establish paternity. You cannot get custody without doing this.

Think about the type of physical custody schedule you want. For example, are you hoping for a 50/50 split, with each parent having the child every other week? Many options are available.

For instance, the child can live with one parent four days of the week and live with the other parent three days. A 2-2-3 rotation may be feasible, too, and lets parents have weekends with the child. Under this framework, the child is with one parent for two days, the other for two days, then with the first parent for three days. These are just a few of many examples.

File With the Courts

Get the necessary documents together and file them with your county’s clerk of courts, for example, the DuPage County, IL, clerk of courts. Next, serve the other parent yourself, via a process server, or by a sheriff. If your child’s health is at immediate risk, you can file an emergency order.

Ask for Temporary Orders

The child needs to live with someone while the case is pending, and at least one parent needs to be able to make decisions for the child. Temporary orders fill this role, with a hearing determining these details. This is often a test run for permanent orders, so try to get your temporary order as close as possible to the final order you envision.

Meet Ongoing Requirements

Illinois has requirements for the parents, such as mediation. It is excused only in special cases, such as those involving abuse. Before you start this part of the process, research what not to say in child custody mediation.

For example, try to stay focused on solutions rather than putting down the other parent. Be factual, especially when discussing sensitive issues. Avoid using negatively charged terms. It is factual to say, “I believe the kids are better off with me at night because my co-parent often goes out late and drinks,” versus this more biased statement, “My co-parent is a drunk who leaves the kids to go party and shouldn’t have them.”

A court-approved parenting class is also necessary. A conference will occur a couple of months after filing. The judge or commissioner (usually a lawyer with the authority to perform some judicial functions) asks how the mediation is progressing. If you and your co-parent have an agreement, the case can end at this point. This type of resolution is fairly common.

If there are no child custody agreements, the court may ask a guardian ad litem to evaluate the child’s best interests. The court may follow the GAL’s recommendation when making decisions.

In high-conflict custody cases, you may need to participate in a custody evaluation. People such as social workers and psychologists spend time with the parents and child and make a recommendation to the court.

Prepare for Trial

At this point, your case may be headed for trial. Discovery is one pretrial process. The parties exchange information for their cases and question various witnesses under oath. Pretrial conferences are likely, so the judge can monitor progress and whether there is a way to avoid trial.

You must complete more paperwork before trial and use the information you got during discovery to prepare your arguments. At trial, each parent argues for his or her case for the Illinois parenting plan. You can use evidence and witnesses to prove the merits of your proposed plan.

It is helpful to anticipate what can be used against you in a child custody case so you are ready to face it at trial.

Finalize the Case

The court makes its decision as to child custody arrangements. The ruling may favor one parent, mix both parents’ proposals, or be something else.

Work With a Family Law Attorney

A family law attorney can be a huge help as you try to get custody in DuPage County, IL. While it is possible to modify custody orders, doing so can be tricky. It is easier to get custody orders “right” the first time around with a child custody lawyer.

Many family law attorneys have experience in child custody matters and can guide you on your path forward. They can tell you about options you might not have realized were possible.

They can also help you make decisions that prioritize your child’s best interests and aid you with mediation and negotiation. Having someone in your corner who is a skilled negotiator can do wonders.

Attorneys can advocate for you and your child at a trial, if necessary. Many also have experience with nuanced issues involving abuse, disability, and parental alienation.

Can You Modify Child Custody Agreements in DuPage County, IL?

It is possible to modify child custody agreements. Parents need valid reasons, such as relocation or concerns about the child’s safety. Being unhappy with the court’s custody decision may not be enough.

Sometimes, parents try to modify a custody order when enforcement of the existing order is what is really needed. For example, if an ex-spouse violates a parenting plan, the court may try to enforce the current plan. If the noncompliant parent continues to not follow orders, then modification could occur.

When a Custody Agreement May Need Modified

If you need to modify a custody order, you can do so through mediation and get a judge’s approval for the changes. Otherwise, you file a petition with the reasons for the modification and the changes you want. Common reasons to change child custody agreements include:

  • Relocation: You may move a considerable distance away and need the other parent’s permission to take your children. Relocation can be in your children’s best interest, especially if it improves their quality of life and expands the network of people available to care for them.
  • Changing needs: The current child custody agreements might have fit your child’s needs five years ago. However, children change, and so do their needs.
  • Safety: For example, you may worry about your co-parent having abuse or addiction issues or that the environment at the parent’s house is not safe for your child.

Other common reasons include a change in job circumstances and parental alienation.
Child custody attorney Denise Erlich has a passion for resolving custody cases with as little conflict as possible. She can be your advocate, whether your case goes to mediation or a trial. Contact us today.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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