Child Custody Lawyer
in Chicago

Helping Parents Plan for Their Family’s Future

Families in Chicago Need Real Solutions.

How Can a Child Custody Lawyer Help Your Case?

Chicago child custody lawyer Denise Erlich can help divorcing parents design a fair parenting plan that allows for the most seamless transition for children. At Erlich Law Office, we want to ease the emotional distress divorce can place on children as much as possible. Our law firm will represent the best interests of your child, and fight to protect your rights as a parent.

How Is Child Custody Determined in Illinois?

If both parents can come up with an undisputed Illinois parenting plan outside of court with the help of a Chicago child custody lawyer, a judge may review and approve this plan as long as it reflects the best interests of the child. However, if disputes arise, judges will make determinations in what is considered the best interests of the child or children involved. When determining the child’s best interests, the courts consider:

Each Party’s Parenting Capacity

The courts will consider the parenting capacity of each party when making custody decisions. Factors that impact the parenting capacity of an individual include income, work obligations and employment status, conditions within the home, the parent’s physical and mental health or limitations, and the parent’s ability to foster a loving and supportive environment with the child. Additionally, the courts will look for signs of abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or sex-based crimes that create an unsafe environment for the child

Mental and Physical Needs of the Child

In addition to considering each parent’s circumstances, the courts will consider each child’s circumstances. If a child has special needs, and one parent is more qualified to provide care for those needs, the courts will likely favor that parent when making a custody determination. If the child’s special needs require specific accommodations in the living environment, and only one parent’s home can provide those accommodations, then this may also impact a parenting plan.

Familial Relationships

Each parent’s relationship with the child will be considered when making a parenting plan. If a child is estranged from one parent, or has an unstable relationship with him or her, the courts may consider this when assigning custody. Additionally, if one parent is unlikely to uphold a parenting agreement or allow the child to foster a relationship with the other parent, the courts may not make determinations in his or her favor. Other relationships within the home, such as relationships with step-parents or siblings, will be considered as well.

Disruptions to the Child’s Adjustment to Life

Divorce is a disruptive time in a child’s life. The courts will want to minimize the impact felt by the child when parents are divorcing. If a custody determination will cause significant distress to the child, or significant disruption to his or her daily life and relationships, the courts may shy away from supporting that decision. These disruptions can include relocating from the child’s only known home, changing schools, or moving far away from family and friends.

How Does Child Custody Work in Illinois?

Child custody in Illinois focuses on two primary decisions: parenting time and parenting responsibility, formerly known as physical custody and legal custody.

Parenting Time

Parenting time in Illinois may be allocated in a few different ways. First, one parent may have 100% of the parenting time. This determination is rare, however, and is only awarded when the other parent is determined to be completely unfit or unsafe for the child. In a more common allocation, parents may be given equitably split parenting time. Usually, the courts prefer if parents can define the parenting time schedule together. When this is not possible, the courts will design the parenting plan for the parents. Typically, parenting time schedules follow a 50/50, 60/40, or 70/30 division. The specific days a parent may have a child can vary based on several schedule templates. A child custody and visitation attorney can help parents design a parenting schedule that works in the family’s best interests.

Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility can be shared or solely held by one parent. Parental responsibility in a custody determination represents the allocation of a parent’s rights to decision-making power regarding the child’s life. Similar to parenting time, parental responsibility is rarely solely awarded to one parent, as the courts favor more equitable parenting styles.

Changes to Illinois Child Custody Laws

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was modified in 2016 to exclude terminology like “custody” when discussing parenting plans. Instead, the courts have now adopted terminology like “parenting time” and  “parenting responsibility.” 

  • Parenting time is representative of what was previously referred to as “physical custody.” Parenting time allocations determine where the child will live, the amount of time spent with each parent, and when the child will spend time with each parent.
  • Parental responsibility represents what was once called “legal custody.” Parental responsibility refers to the decision-making power of each parent regarding the child’s upbringing. Decisions based around health, education, religion, and extracurricular activities may fall under parental responsibility determinations. 

A DuPage County child custody attorney can help parents understand these new changes as they navigate the legal system. A divorce attorney who understands child custody issues can ensure that the courts act in a fair and just manner when determining the child’s best interests.

Child Custody Lawyer Denise Erlich Handles the Following Cases

Child custody lawyer Denise Erlich provides advice and legal representation to families in Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, and the surrounding counties. Denise handles a wide range of family law matters.

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What Our Clients Say
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Denise was everything that we were looking for in a lawyer. She was open and honest with us about how she believed the case would go and helped us work through an uphill custody battle. She was both professional and personable. She answered all of our questions, provided solid counsel, and was very timely with getting back to us. We have used her for several occasions and are extremely satisfied with her work and commitment to helping our family. If you are looking for representation, I would wholeheartedly recommend her and her team for your needs.

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FAQs About Child Custody in Illinois

Parents must wait two years from the date of the establishment of the parenting plan to make modifications to decision-making, with an exception. If a child’s environment is determined to be endangering his or her mental, emotional, or physical well-being, parents can file for modification at any time. Otherwise, a parenting plan can be modified after two years upon the demonstration of changed circumstances that affect the best interests of the child.

Minors are prohibited from making legal decisions on their own behalf in Illinois. In other words, a child cannot determine who he or she should reside with in regard to custody arrangements. However, the courts may consider an older child’s wishes when making a custody determination. They may also assign a guardian ad litem to interview the child and represent him or her during custody hearings.

The courts will rarely award sole custody. It is generally the position of the state that fostering a healthy, consistent relationship with both parents is in the best interests of the child. However, when a parent is determined to be unfit, he or she may not be given custody rights. For a parent to be considered unfit in Illinois, he or she may have an addiction or otherwise debilitating mental health ailment, threatened or caused harm to the child, or demonstrated neglect or other behaviors that fail to foster a nurturing environment for the child. Parents convicted of sex crimes will also be determined unfit.