Tag Archive for: allocation of parental responsibilities

Navigating Parental Responsibilities: A Q&A Guide

No one starts a family of their own thinking it will end in separation. However, parental rights and responsibilities are part of mothers’ and fathers’ role as their children’s caretakers after separation as much as it was prior. If you’ve got questions regarding parental responsibilities in Illinois, here’s what you need to know in 2023. 

Married or not, raising a child is a complex and challenging task, and the responsibility of ensuring a child’s well-being falls on the shoulders of the parents

However, in the event of a separation or divorce, the allocation of parental responsibilities can become a source of confusion and disagreement. This blog is an essential resource for parents going through separation or divorce in Illinois. Below, we will cover common questions about parental responsibilities and allocation during these events.

Here’s what you need to know.

Q: What is considerd “parental responsibility?”

A:Parental responsibility is a set of rights and duties that a parent or a legal guardian has towards their children. Usually, parental responsibility includes both ‘parenting time’ and ‘decision making’.

Q: What is Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?

A: There are three basic types of child allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois — joint allocation of parental responsibilities, sole allocation of parental responsibilities and shared allocation of parental responsibilities:

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities requires parents to cooperate in decision-making regarding education, health care and religious instruction. It does not mean that the children live with each parent for an equal amount of time. The parties will agree or the court will assign a residential parent. The non-residential parent will pay child support and exercise parenting time. The amount of time the children spends with the non-residential parent is addressed in a parenting time agreement or order.

Sole allocation of parental responsibilities is the term that describes the arrangement that gives one parent the responsibility for deciding everything related to the child’s welfare. It does not mean that the other parent is out of the picture. Parenting Time and parenting time can be the same in a sole allocation of parental responsibilities case as it is in a joint allocation of parental responsibilities case.

Shared allocation of parental responsibilities is a form of joint allocation of parental responsibilities. It is appropriate when the child spends equal time with each parent, the parents reside in the same school district and are able to joint parent.

Q: What is the process for allocating parental responsibilities in Illinois?

A: The process for allocating parental responsibilities in Illinois begins with the filing of a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities by one of the parents. The court will then conduct a hearing to gather information. From here, they will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. Both parents will have the opportunity to present evidence and testify. The court may also appoint an attorney for the child or a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests.

Q: What are the factors considered by the court in Illinois when allocating parental responsibilities?

A: In Illinois, the court will consider a number of factors when allocating parental responsibilities, including the child’s needs, the relationship between the child and each parent, and each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs. The court will also consider the following:

  • History of abuse or neglect
  • The child’s own wishes, if they are old enough to express them.

Q: What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody in Illinois?

A: In Illinois, legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as decisions about education and healthcare. Whereas physical custody is based on where the child lives and who is responsible for the child’s day-to-day care. 

In many cases, the court will award joint legal custody to both parents. Meaning both parents have equal rights and responsibilities when it comes to making decisions about the child. Physical custody can be awarded either on a joint or sole basis. The court will rule in the best interests of the child.

Q: Can a parent’s allocation of parental responsibilities be modified after the initial court order in Illinois?

A: Yes, a parent’s allocation of parental responsibilities can be modified after the initial court order in Illinois if there has been a significant change in circumstances. This could include the following:

  • A change in the child’s needs.
  • A change in one parent’s living situation or ability to care for the child.
  • A change in the child’s relationship with one of the parents. 

Q: What happens if one parent is deemed unfit to have parental responsibilities?

A: If a parent is deemed unfit to have parental responsibilities, the court may award sole custody to the other parent or to a third party, such as a grandparent. This may be the case if a parent has a history of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse, or if they are unable to provide for the child’s needs. The parent’s rights and responsibilities may be limited, but they may still have the right to visit the child.

Q: Are grandparents’ rights taken into consideration in Illinois when allocating parental responsibilities?

A: Yes, grandparents in Illinois can petition for certain rights, such as visitation rights, if they have an existing relationship with the child and the court finds that it’s in the child’s best interests.

Next Steps To Consider

Protect your children’s interests during a separation or divorce by taking these steps:

  1. Establish legal custody: Legal custody determines who has the authority to make decisions about the child’s welfare, including education, healthcare, and religion. This can be joint or sole custody. In Illinois, child custody is called parental responsibilities.
  2. Create a parenting plan: A parenting plan outlines how the child will be cared for and how much time they will spend with each parent. This should include details such as a schedule for visits, transportation arrangements, and communication protocols.
  3. Communicate with your ex-partner: It is important to maintain open lines of communication with your ex-partner. Especially when it comes to the well-being of your child.
  4. Prioritize your child’s needs: The child’s best interests should always be the top priority. Put aside personal differences and work together to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child.
  5. Seek legal advice if needed: If you have any legal questions or concerns, it is best to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.

Final Thoughts

The allocation of parental responsibilities during a divorce or separation can be a difficult and emotional process.  Working with a professional family law firm like Masters Law Group can provide a great help in navigating this often emotionally-charged process. 

We are dedicated to protecting your rights, and more importantly, the rights of your child/children. Our Senior Attorneys Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph have extensive experience working with cases involving children in family law conflicts. Ms. Masters is a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Further, Mr. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

If you’re facing a family law issue, don’t hesitate to contact Masters Law Group for the professional assistance you need here today.

How to Help Prevent International Child Abduction in 2023

Asides from extreme vigilance, there are steps you can take to help prevent International Parental Child Abduction, and there are steps to take if you or your family have fallen victim to these high-stakes legal issues. 

International child custody and parental abduction issues can be both complex and costly to resolve. Unfortunately, parents without global connections can increase the risk of the other parent removing the child to another country without their consent. This is where we come in.

Whether the child is only a few miles south or north of the border or across the globe, parents need to understand how to prevent international parental child abduction from happening. Here’s what you need to know in order to protect you and your family in 2023.

How International Child Abduction Occurs

There are several scenarios where parental abduction can happen. One of the most popular scenarios is when one parent without advance agreement, leaves for another country with their children. Regardless of the situation, you must know your rights as a parent involved within an international family.

As an international family, you may have a lot of trust in your partner. If you are part of an international family, you may believe that your partner would never remove your child to another country without your permission. Unfortunately, circumstances can change. It is important for international and multicultural families to anticipate the possibility of a child being removed or kept from their home country, and learn how to take measures to prevent it.

How To Help Prevent International Parental Child Abduction

As a parent experiencing this frightening situation, your first line of defense is to have a clearly documented parenting plan in place. This plan should clearly define the child’s home state. In Illinois, child custody laws will typically fall in favor of what’s best in the interests of the child. A parenting plan will usually recognize the following:

  • The continuity of the parent-child relationship typically is in the child’s best interest.
  • The needs of children change and grow as they mature.
  • Custodial parents make daily decisions (including emergencies) while the child is with that particular parent.
  • Both parents are to have access to a child’s official records.

By having a parenting plan in place it will give you and your child an added layer of protection should they be abducted in the future. However, it’s always best to consult an experienced family law attorney regarding effective travel consent letters and their limitations.

Hague Law and Responding to International Child Custody Issues

If you’re a parent in the U.S. who has had their child taken across border lines, it’s important to know that there are laws in place that can help you get your child back.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is the main international agreement that covers international parental child abduction. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.

A number of countries around the globe have joined a treaty called the Hague Convention. This multilateral treaty was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and concluded on October 25, 1980, entering into force on December 1, 1983.

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever it breaches custody rights attributed to a person or any other body. If, at the time of removal or retention, those rights were exercised. 

Even if a parent already has legal custody of a child, such as in an uncontested divorce case where one parent has sole legal custody and primary physical custody prior to abduction by another parent; The Hague Convention applies because it supersedes any conflicting state law.

Final Thoughts

If you have fallen victim to international child abduction, it’s important to know what resources are available. At Masters Law Group, our team of knowledgeable and highy experienced attorneys are here to help you through this process. 

Our Senior Attorneys, Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph, have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Can I Change a Child Custody Agreement?

When a child custody case is resolved, the court issues what is known as a permanent custody order. However, despite the word “permanent,” custody orders can be changed later if there’s a reason to do so.

When parents separate or divorce, you may get an initial child custody order (also known as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities order) that outlines the custody arrangement. However, if circumstances change, the court can modify the order at any point until the child turns 18.

We’ve put together a list of possible situations that could lead to a change in your child custody agreement, along with information about how to proceed.

Here’s what you need to know.

Facts on Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

There are three basic types of child allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois — joint allocation of parental responsibilities, sole allocation of parental responsibilities and shared allocation of parental responsibilities:

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities requires parents to cooperate in decision-making regarding education, health care and religious instruction. It does not mean that the children live with each parent for an equal amount of time. The parties will agree or the court will assign a residential parent. The non-residential parent will pay child support and exercise parenting time. The amount of time the children spends with the non-residential parent is addressed in a parenting time agreement or order.

Sole allocation of parental responsibilities is the term that describes the arrangement that gives one parent the responsibility for deciding everything related to the child’s welfare. It does not mean that the other parent is out of the picture. Parenting Time and parenting time can be the same in a sole allocation of parental responsibilities case as it is in a joint allocation of parental responsibilities case.

Shared allocation of parental responsibilities is a form of joint allocation of parental responsibilities. It is appropriate when the child spends equal time with each parent, the parents reside in the same school district and are able to joint parent.

Why Would a Parent Need to Modify a Custody Order?

A parent may want to obtain a change in custody or visitation if substantial changes in the other parent’s lifestyle threatens to harm the child. Examples might include if one parent starts to abuse drugs or alcohol, or leaves a young child home alone. If one parent becomes incarcerated or incapacitated in some way which leaves them unable to care for the children might be another reason for a modification.

The Two Year Rule

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage act clearly states that these parental responsibility plans may not be modified for two years following their entry in court. However, there are two exceptions to this rule. 

The first exception is if the courts determine that there is a factor present that could seriously endanger the wellbeing of the child, either physically, mentally or emotionally. This also applies to visitation plans that address grandparents, step parents and siblings. The second exception is if the parents file a joint stipulation waiving the two-year moratorium.

If you are seeking to change your existing parenting plan, it’s best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Your case might fall under one of these exceptions and you’ll want to prepare accordingly.

Making Modifications at Any Time

You can change your custody agreement at any time, as long as both parties agree to the modification. The court will still have to approve these changes to ensure that the child’s interests are still served. 

The law specifies several other conditions that could lead to change at any time. Here are the following rules:

  • If there is an environment that is seriously harmful to the child.
  • If a parent either lives with or marries a sex offender.
  • If the child’s emotional development is seriously impaired due to current arrangements.

In order to make changes, a parent will have to file a petition. From there the court will make the decision on if the petition is approved or not.

Other Changes and Circumstances

If you are a parent with child custody, you know that it can be a difficult arrangement. However, the Illinois Courts point out that the parties involved in these arrangements have a continuing duty to provide information that could affect a pending arrangement. 

A court may also take into account any substantial changes that have occurred since the agreement was entered and approved. In order to have a modification approved, it will be necessary to prove that the substantial change has affected the child’s best interests. 

Some of those changes and circumstances can be the following:

  • Changes in work schedules for both parents
  • Children starting school
  • Misbehavior of either parent i.g. Criminal charges or inappropriate significant other

If you think that there has been a change in circumstances since your original agreement was approved, it is important to talk with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. As long as you can prove that there has been an impact on your child’s best interests, then you could be able to get your custody agreement modified quickly.

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, Illinois law gives parents a number of options for changing custody orders. While this is a good thing, making modifications can quickly get messy and turn into complex issues. It’s always important to consult with your family law attorney before making any decisions.   

At Masters Law Group, it’s our duty to ensure any modifications made to your child custody agreement are done in a proper and swift manner. If you’re currently navigating child custody or considering your legal options, schedule a consultation with us today to learn how we can help.

Back to School: 5 Tips for Co-Parenting

Back to school comes with a lot of nerves and excitement for children and families. For parents who are separated, in the middle of a divorce, or  already divorced, co-parenting with your ex can be a challenge.  At this time of year however, your children need you to put aside your animosity in order to make their school year a success.

After a divorce, working with your child’s other parent may be uncomfortable to say the least. But making the effort to cooperate with your co-parent and your child’s school set-up can make things easier for everyone. That’s especially true now, with emerging strains of COVID-19, and now Monkeypox concerns clouding parents’ vision of the 2022-2023 school year.

We know it can be hard to get on the same page with your ex. We also know that you want what’s best for your children—and that means being able to communicate effectively with each other in order to ensure they get the education they deserve.

Here’s what you should know about co-parenting this fall and a couple of tips to help you prepare for your child’s 2022-2023 school year.

Share Obligations for Back to School Shopping

As the school year approaches, it’s important to remember that back-to-school shopping is a shared responsibility. Shopping for materials and supplies can be costly, especially if you’re buying them for more than one child. While many parents are happy to help their children pick out new clothes and supplies, others may not be as excited about the process of buying “boring” mandatory necessities. Make a clear plan of who is buying what, and when, to ensure your child doesn’t miss out on those soccer boots or rucksack (plus you’ll avoid duplication of expenses).

Keep a Predictable Parenting Time Schedule

Stay ahead of any anticipated disputes by designing, implementing, and complying with a detailed Parenting Time plan. Creating a parenting time schedule can be an emotional law topic and should have been set during your divorce proceedings. If this is not the case, it’s important for parent-child relationships to have consistency in their schedule, and therefore you need to set one immediately.

For parents, it helps both people keep track of the child’s activities. For children, it helps give them a sense of routine, security, and certainty that is an important part of healthy child development.

Inform Your Child’s School of Your Co-Parenting Arrangements

When your kids start a new school year, it’s important to make sure that the school knows who they should talk to in case of emergencies. And even more importantly, who they should release your children to after school.

At the start of each school year, provide the principal at your children’s school with a copy of your child custody and parenting time order. This is especially true if your custody/parenting time order has been modified over the past year, or if your kids have changed schools. This includes children who are graduating from elementary to middle or from middle to high school. This will put the school on notice about who they should talk to in case of emergencies, and who to release your children to after school to avoid conflict.

Coordinate Events with Your Co-Parent 

It can be difficult to attend school functions when you’re divorced. Your co-parent may not want you to go, or they might want you to attend but won’t be there themselves. If this is the case, make sure your child knows who will be attending without making it seem like the non-attending parent didn’t want to go.

Sporting events, class plays and class graduations are all important to your child and their development. They will ultimately suffer if you end up clashing at these important milestones. For their sake, try to cooperate with one another to attend school events together as a show of unity and support. If that isn’t a possibility, make sure your child knows who will be attending so they’re not on the lookout for ultimate disappointment.

Set Expectations and Remember Your Priorities

The first few weeks of school can be a bit chaotic. It’s important to remember that it’s not just your child who is adjusting to new teachers, new classrooms, and new classmates—you are too!

When you and your co-parent are starting back-to-school planning, make sure you’re both on the same page. Back-to-school time opens a door for conflict, but conflict results in the child/children suffering.

You and your co-parent need to know what is expected of each other. Who is going to help with homework? Who will take your child to football practice? Maybe mom helps one child and dad is responsible for helping the other. Maybe you take it in weekly or biweekly turns. There is no right answer, but whatever arrangement you and your co-parent decide upon should be detailed in your parenting plan to eliminate confusion in the future.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

If you STILL cannot come to a civil agreement on parenting time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities is an actionable step to set a new plan in place.

There are three basic types of child allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois — joint allocation of parental responsibilities, sole allocation of parental responsibilities and shared allocation of parental responsibilities:

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities requires parents to cooperate in decision-making regarding your child’s education and schooling matters, (amongst other decisions such as health care and religious instruction). It does not mean that the children live with each parent for an equal amount of time. The parties will agree or the court will assign a residential parent. The non-residential parent will pay child support and exercise parenting time. The amount of time the children spends with the non-residential parent is addressed in a parenting time agreement or order.

Sole allocation of parental responsibilities is the term that describes the arrangement that gives one parent the responsibility for deciding everything related to the child’s welfare. It does not mean that the other parent is out of the picture.

Shared allocation of parental responsibilities is a form of joint allocation of parental responsibilities. It is appropriate when the child spends equal time with each parent, the parents reside in the same school district and are able to joint parent.

How Masters Law Group Can Help

Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. Attorney Erin E. Masters is a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Attorney Anthony G. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

We offer a variety of services to help parents, children, and families through difficult times like Divorce, Parenting Time and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. If you are in need of legal assistance, contact a member of our team today. Our attorneys will work with you to develop an action plan that is fair and fits your unique needs and goals. 

We will work diligently on your behalf and provide regular updates throughout the process. You can count on us when it matters most—and we hope that means now! Contact us today to speak to a qualified Chicago family law attorney to set up a free consultation with us.

 

Help Prevent International Parental Abduction with Supervised Visitation

If you are concerned your ex partner is at flight risk overseas with your child, supervised supervision could be beneficial. Here’s what you need to know…

Following a separation or divorce, particularly when relations are acrimonious, parental child abduction cases are an important factor to consider. Child abduction cases—particularly those involving international borders—are complex and extremely time-sensitive and require immediate action.

International child abduction often occurs for several reasons. It is a very frightening experience for parents and children alike, and it can have a profound effect on the lives of everyone involved.

Here is how supervised visitation and the help of the Hague Convention could help reduce international abduction.

What is Supervised Visitation?

When a parent’s fitness is in question, a judge may order supervised visitation. This is generally done when there have been allegations of alcohol or substance abuse or domestic violence. The purpose of supervised visitation is to ensure that the parent maintains contact with the child in a safe and comfortable environment.

Supervised visitation allows a parent to visit with their child only after the child has been taken away from the other parent. The visit may take place at the parent’s home or in a designated facility, such as a child care center. In most cases, the parent who has custody of the child will report to a designated visitation center for visits. In other cases, the judge may arrange for the child to be delivered to the parent’s home. In all cases, the judge will specify who is to supervise these sessions.

These orders are meant to protect the child and may include any of the following requirements:

  • A modification or elimination of the parent’s decision-making responsibilities and/or parenting time
  • Supervision by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
  • Having an intermediary present during the exchange between parent and child, or taking place in a protected setting
  • Restricting the presence of specified persons while a parent is exercising parenting time with the child
  • Ordering a parent to refrain from possessing or consuming alcohol or drugs during (or right before) parenting time with the child
  • Restricting the presence of certain persons when a parent is spending time with the child
  • Posting a bond to secure the return of the child following the parent’s visit
  • Completing a treatment program for abuse or for any other behavior that is detrimental to the child
  • Any other constraints or conditions that the court deems necessary to provide for the child’s safety or welfare.

The biggest takeaway parents should understand is that supervised visitation is a common tool used to protect children. Parents can still maintain contact with their children, but it also forces them to prove their ability to provide adequate care. Supervised visitation, when combined with the protections provided by the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, makes it more difficult for parents to abduct internationally.

With the help from your attorney, require supervised visitation of the parent by a visitation center or independent organization until the court finds under Section 153.501 that supervised visitation is no longer necessary.

Hague Convention and What You Should Know

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international agreement that aims to prevent children from being abducted from their home country. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.

Several countries around the world have joined an international treaty called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Conference on Private International Law drafted and concluded this multilateral treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 1983. In accordance with Article 3 of the Treaty, removal or retention of a child is considered wrongful “where it breaches rights of custody attributed to a person, judicial authority or other body at the time of removal or retention.”

Under the Convention, countries can help one another find solutions for difficult cases of international child abduction. This does not rely on a child’s immigration status or nationality; in certain situations, a child may be wrongfully detained in another country and therefore not a resident there. The Central Authority has the ability to do the following:

  • Be the point of contact for parents and children in international child custody cases.
  • Help locate abducted children.
  • Encourage solutions that work for both parents.
  • Submit documents as part of the application are admissible in courts in partner countries.

It is important to remember that immigration status or nationality does not determine whether a child will be returned to his or her habitual residence.

Final Thoughts

If you and your spouse are having a hard time with child custody, supervised visitation may be the best option for you. Ensuring a child’s safety should always be a number one priority for all parties involved. Especially when faced with international borders as part of a custody dispute, the court system can be very involved in resolving custody rights. 

The family law attorneys at Masters Law Group have experience with international child custody (Parenting Time) disputes. If you believe your child is in the process of being abducted by a parent, legal guardian, or someone acting on their behalf, contact us today for a consultation.

For more information on our Hague Decisions, see here:

Third-Party Custody Rights in Illinois

There are times when a parent or both parents can’t take care of their child anymore. That’s when a third-party custody arrangement is often sought. Read on if you’re involved in a third-party child custody battle or you think one may be happening soon. 

When a couple divorces, it is not uncommon for one parent to try to keep the child away from the other parent and his or her family. This can occur when a mother or father refuses to allow the child’s relatives to see the child.

Child custody – which is now known as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities – disputes are often resolved through mediation or negotiation, but if these attempts fail, then litigation may be necessary. The court will make a decision regarding custody based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Third-party custody is when a court gives legal and physical custody of a child to someone who is not a biological parent. This person is sometimes called the custodian. Here’s what you need to know about third-party custody rights in Illinois and how Masters Law Group can help.

What is Third Party Custody?

While many child custody disputes occur between the parents of a child, some circumstances exist where a third party non-parent, such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, may seek custody.

Often, a situation arises in which neither of the child’s biological parents is able to care for him or her. It then becomes necessary for a non-parent to take legal steps to be appointed guardian or custodian of the child. This could be due to a single parent being incarcerated, suffers from mental health issues or are physically unable to look after their child.

Illinois family law allows for a third party relative to petition the court for custody under special circumstances if it’s in the best interest of the child. There are special circumstances and times when the court awards permanent custody of the child to a third party like a child’s grandparents.

Illinois Third Party Non-parent Child Custody

Under Illinois law, the court prefers for a child to remain in the custody of one or both of the child’s parents. However, if the parent is unfit to care for the child pursuant to 750 ILCS 50, then the court may regard awarding third party non-parent custody as in the best interests of the child. 

If the child is removed from his or her parents’ custody and/or if his or her parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to him or her, then there are several other situations in which third party non-parent custody may be considered for that child. These include:

  • One or both of the children’s parents are in jail for over three months
  • The court declares one or both of the parents unfit
  • The parents agree to the visitation
  • One or both of the parents are deceased or have been absent for over three months

Illinois Third Party Non-Parent Child Visitation

When a child custody lies with a fit parent, the chances of a third party non-parent seeking custody may not be as successful. To show a parent is unfit, they must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Abandonment
  • Habitual substance abuse problems
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Mental illness or instability
  • Placing the children in an unsafe living environment
  • Being incarcerated
  • Uninterested in the children’s welfare
  • Neglect

The court will almost always give preference to the parents’ wishes concerning visitation with the child. There are certain cumstances that will warrant a third party non-parent seeking visitation rights from the court. A third party non-parent who seeks to obtain visitation privileges must show that he/she has a significant relationship with the child. If that is the case, then they would have a better chance of warranting such an order.

Gray Areas with Grandparents & Child Custody Rights

In all but the most extreme cases, parents have full discretion over how to raise their children. If a parent decides they do not want their child to have a relationship with their grandparents, that is legally within their right unless it would cause physical, emotional, or mental damage to the child. 

In Illinois, legal custody is considered parental responsibility which automatically defaults to parents making a decision. Grandparents can only receive custody if they meet the following criteria:

  • The parents willingly give up the child due to extreme financial hardship or other circumstances
  • The court declares the parents unfit because of criminal activity or substance abuse

Grandparents must be able to back up the following with evidence such as police reports, medical records, photos, and other documentation. It is always important to consult with an experienced family law attorney before you proceed with pressing any legal charges against the parents.

Is Third Party Custody Permanent? 

An order granting a third-party custody is permanent. However, parties can ask the court to change the custody order after it has been in effect for a year and they meet certain requirements. It’s called a custody modification. But getting the court to change custody is not easy. The process for doing a third-party custody modification is the same as custody modifications between biological parents.

Final Thoughts

Oftentimes, child custody and visitation topics can be highly emotional issues. Disputes over third party non-parent visitation can be difficult. Because of this, the experienced attorneys at Masters Law group can assist you with third-party custody litigation.

Protecting the child and their best interests should be your number one priority regardless of which side you are on in this situation. If you or a loved one would like to know more about third party custody in Illinois, contact Masters Law Group here today.

Father’s Rights in Illinois

Father’s Day is a special time to celebrate the men who have given so much to their families. But it’s also the perfect opportunity to reflect on fatherhood in America. Here at Masters Law Group, we want to take this opportunity to remind fathers their rights are equally important; to you, to your child/children, and to the law. 

If you are the father, you may worry about what your parental rights are under Illinois law. Unmarried or divorcing fathers are often especially concerned about their parental rights and responsibilities.  According to the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015, the state recognizes “the right of every child to the physical, mental, emotional, and financial support of his or her parents. The parent-child relationship, including support obligations, extends equally to every child and to his or her parent or to each of his or her 2 parents, regardless of the legal relationship of the parents, and regardless of whether a parent is a minor.” (Source: P.A. 99-85, eff. 1-1-16.)

Before paternity is established, the current system has mothers as primary caregivers by default, even though we know that most dads want equal time with their kids. If you’re one of those dads, or know someone who hasn’t been treated fairly, here’s what you should know to help ensure that your rights as a father are protected.

The Importance of a Father in a Child’s Life

It is no secret that mothers and children share a special bond. Mothers are viewed as the most important person in a child’s life, being their capable caregivers, caring supporters, and strong providers. While there is no doubt that mothers play a vital role in children’s lives, it is also important to know about the importance of fathers or father figures in children’s lives. 

Studies have shown that children who have involved and supportive fathers tend to do better academically while also having an easier time with their language and social development. Fathers can also act as capable caregivers, loving nurturers, and effective disciplinarians for children.

Because of these findings, it is essential for both parents to be involved in their child’s life. It is important for both parents to spend quality time together with their children so they can share experiences together as well as develop meaningful relationships with one another.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

If you are a father who wants to establish your parental rights, one of the first steps you need to take is to establish paternity, also known as “parentage”.

In Illinois, all children have a right to the mental, physical, monetary, and emotional support of their parents. Additionally, Illinois law states that both children and parents have a right to a relationship with one another—whether or not they are married. Married parents have an easier time establishing paternity than unmarried ones do: married couples can simply marry after the child is born in order to establish paternity, while unmarried couples must take additional steps.

There are four processes parents can follow in order to establish paternity: 

  • Marrying after the child is born
  • Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity 
  • Paternity action brought before the court
  • Paternity order issued by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Child Support Services.

The easiest way to establish paternity is by signing a VAP form. When families go to the hospital or medical facility to have their baby, the staff provides them with this form if the couple is unmarried. Both parents should read the form, ensure they understand it, and then sign and date it before a witness (someone 18 years or older). Once this form is completed, the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate before the family leaves the hospital.

When both parents sign a VAP form, they are agreeing that the male listed on the form is the child’s legal and biological father. This form also waives both couples’ right to genetic testing for themselves and the child. Both parents are acknowledging that they will provide financial support and medical care for the child. While signing this document provides all of these rights, it does not give either parent any right to custody or visitation – parents need to take any custody issues they have through the family court system in Illinois.

Father’s Rights to Custody and Visitation

In Illinois, child custody and visitation are called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that all parents have a right to enjoy “reasonable” parenting time unless there is a good reason for the parent to be denied access to his or her child. If the court holds a hearing and finds that granting parenting time “would seriously endanger the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development,” the parent may not be allowed to spend time with his or her child unsupervised. Unless you have a history of domestic violence or previous convictions for violent crime, or if there is another reason for the court to restrict your parenting time, you have a legal right to spend time with your child.

In cases where parents have gone to court to determine Illinois child custody and visitation, the judge overseeing the case uses the “best interests of the child” standard in order to guide his or her decision making. This means the judge only considers a decision that benefits the child involved regardless of the parents’ other group’s wishes.

The judge deciding the case looks at a number of different factors when choosing the best possible custody decision for the child. Some of those factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between each parent and their children
  • How well each parent is able to care for their children
  • The age of each child involved in this case
  • The mental health status of each parent involved in this case (if either party is suffering from some sort of mental illness or addiction)

Should fathers be granted primary custody, they have the same right to seek child support as mothers would in the same situation. Should fathers have difficulty collecting the ordered child support, there are a number of resources to use in order to collect those payments. For the state of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is solely dedicated to providing child support services based on both state and federal laws.

Final Thoughts

Fathers often feel as though they are at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody and support. This can make it difficult for fathers who want to fight for their rights in a paternity case, child custody case or child support case. As attorneys experienced in father’s rights, we can help guide you through this process by explaining your options and help you understand what steps you need to take to ensure your rights are protected under the law. 

We can also assist you in gaining the time with your children that you deserve while providing valuable assistance when it comes to paying child support and other expenses associated with raising a child. 

For more information on Father’s Rights, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. 

Parenting Time & Visitation Tips for Visit your Relatives Day

National Visit Your Relatives Day is recognized on May 18. It is a day dedicated to spending time with your loved ones and cherishing family time. Parenting Time of your child can be an emotional law topic. Parenting Time rights may be determined by the agreement of the parties or by a court order.

Masters Law Group represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. Here are a couple parenting time and visitation tips you can follow in honor or visit your relatives day.

Create a Parenting Plan

This is by far one of the most important steps you can take when you’re divorced and co-parenting. A parenting plan is a legally-binding agreement and should be respectfully treated as such. You can develop one informally if you are communicating well or you can have your attorney or mediator help create one for you. 

It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan. 

The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children. Once you have it in place, you’ll be a little more at ease. If you don’t already have one, it can make your life a little easier.

Be Reasonable when Establishing a Parenting Arrangement

A divorce is difficult to go through. At times you may need to take a step back and try to be reasonable when it comes to your children. Start by looking at the relationship your children have with each parent, and remember that children do best when they are allowed to continue to have a strong relationship with both parents. 

While you may have some disdain for the other person, your children love them. Pointing out every flaw the other parent has is not going to help your children when it comes down to establishing custody. 

Respect the Needs of Your Children

Children do not need to be put in the middle of your divorce. They need to know that both parents love them, and that both parents want to be part of their lives. Telling your children how horrible the other parent is will only confuse them. Respect the needs of your child by enjoying them when they are with you, doing your best to parent them. Unfortunately when it comes to younger children they aren’t able to verbalize what they want out of a custody arrangement, but older children can. For example, they may verbalize that they want to stay in the same home during the week while they are at school. 

Perhaps you were an absent parent, always on the road working. While it may be hard to agree that the child should spend more time with the other parent, your sacrifice will make the divorce easier on your children.

Think About Your Support Network

Having children is hard, and raising them without a support network is nearly impossible. Think about your new life, and how being divorced is going to impact your support network. Look at the people around you, and those you believe will still be around even during the aftermath of your divorce. While you can’t create a custody schedule based on support alone, it’s important that you have the help you need if an emergency arises.

Communication is Key

If the two of you struggle to communicate in a civil manner, it’s important to establish one form of communication right away. Many couples use different methods of communication but it’s ultimately what works for the both of them.  Nowadays there are various online software programs, where both parties can send messages, a calendar can be created, and all communication between the two of you can be recorded in one place. 

The court will look at this communication when there are issues brought forth to the court, and both parties will be held responsible for what they are communicating with the other person.

Final Thoughts

We hope with the help of these tips mentioned above, it can make way for you to navigate through parenting time and visitation in an appropriate and enjoyable manner. Shared legal and shared physical custody entitles you to regular visitation, and decision-making in all aspects of their lives. While the other parent may try to prohibit you from making decisions, you need to know that you have the legal right and obligation to help make these decisions. 

For more information on Divorce, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. With their in-depth knowledge and experience in Family Law, we’re sure to help you get through parenting time and visitation together.

What is Parent Alienation?

Parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to foster a child’s rejection of the other parent. If your former partner is constantly, and severely, making false statements about you to your child, can this lead to alienation and an accompanying syndrome? Let’s take a closer look.

In divorce and child custody cases, a syndrome often develops called parental alienation. Parental alienation is a strategy where one parent intentionally displays to the child unjustified negativity aimed at the other parent. The purpose of this strategy is to damage the child’s relationship with the other parent and to turn the child’s emotions against that other parent. Parental alienators are adept manipulators and you should look out for signs of this behavior immediately.

Here is everything you need to know about emotional abuse and how you can take action to protect yourself and your children.

Traits of an Alienator

Parental alienation syndrome, was a term coined back in the 1980s by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner. As mentioned above, the sole purpose of parental alienation behavior is to keep the children with the alienating parent as much as possible, away from the targeted parent. A parent who is angry at the spouse accomplishes this goal by painting a negative narrative of the other parent by making deprecating comments, throwing blame, and making false accusations which are shared with the children.

Clinical psychologists have noted this type of behavior shown by the alienating parent has narcissistic or borderline tendencies. A narcissist is a person who has an excessive interest and admiration in themselves – essentially they think the world revolves around them. While those with borderline personality disorders have emotional hyper-reactivity often expressed as anger and a tendency to see themselves as victims. A parent with an antisocial personality is an accomplished liar who has the ability to harm others without any guilt. 

Alienation by one parent interferes with the rights of the child and the other parent involved to have a healthy relationship.  It also interferes with the other parent being able to exercise their right to care for the child.

Signs and Symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome

When Gardner talked about PAS, he identified eight “symptoms” (or criteria) for it:

  1. The child constantly and unfairly criticizes the alienated parent (sometimes called a “campaign of denigration”).
  2. The child doesn’t have any strong evidence, specific examples, or justifications for the criticisms — or only has false reasoning.
  3. The child’s feelings about the alienated parent aren’t mixed — they’re all negative, with no redeeming qualities to be found. This is sometimes called “lack of ambivalence.”
  4. The child claims the criticisms are all their own conclusions and based on their own independent thinking. (In reality, in PA, the alienating parent is said to “program” the child with these ideas.)
  5. The child has unwavering support for the alienator.
  6. The child doesn’t feel guilty about mistreating or hating the alienated parent.
  7. The child uses terms and phrases that seem borrowed from adult language when referring to situations that never happened or happened before the child’s memory.
  8. The child’s feelings of hatred toward the alienated parent expand to include other family members related to that parent (for example, grandparents or cousins on that side of the family).

Impact of Alienation on Parenting Time

Parental alienation and parenting time go hand in hand when trying to determine an appropriate parenting plan that lays out with which parent the child will mainly live. Parenting Time of your child can become a very emotional law topic. The division of parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilites to make decisions for the child. 

To determine the child’s best interests, the court must look at anything relevant to the question, including specific factors listed in state statute. Of those, some are particularly relevant when parental alienation may be involved:

  • The child’s needs.
  • The mental health of all parties involved.
  • Restricted or modified parenting time.
  • Parental ability to put the child’s needs first.
  • Abuse against the child, including emotional or psychological abuse to try to alienate the child against the other parent.
  • The ability of each parent to facilitate a close relationship between the other parent and the child.
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with each parent.

Any parent who believes their spouse is trying to alienate their child against them should seek immediate assistance from an experienced Family law attorney. It’s important to have someone who can assist with reporting emotional abuse or protection for themselves or loved ones.

The safety of the child or children involved should always be your number one priority. If your child is being emotionally abused, there are several steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of the situation at hand prior to legal help. Masters Law Group is here to help you with divorce consultation or litigation involving parental alienation.

Final Thoughts

While all forms of abuse can feel like a never-ending hopeless situation, Masters Law Group is here to help you see a light at the end of the tunnel. We provide an array of family law services including Orders of Protection and divorce services for our clients. Our highly experienced family law attorneys offer skillful legal representation that will guide you through to safety for your children and yourself.

Get in touch with us here today to discuss and execute the best plan of action for you and your family.

Determination of Parentage Under Illinois Law

What is parentage? Why is establishing parentage important? What is the process of establishing parentage or paternity? Find the answers to all your Illinois-paternity questions here. 

In parentage cases, also known as “paternity cases,” the court makes orders that say who the child’s legal parents are. If parents are married when a child is born, the law assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother, so paternity is automatically established in most cases. But for unmarried parents, the parentage of their children needs to be established legally.

Only after paternity is established, allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time and child support can then be set forth via a Final Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Judgment. While this topic can be very emotional to deal with, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about  Determination of Parentage in the state of Illinois.

Causes of Action Related to Paternity in Illinois

There are several causes of action in Illinois related to paternity, including establishing paternity by consent of the parents, contested paternity suits and suits to establish the non-existence of a father-child relationship. ‍All of these causes are governed by the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 which deals with issues revolving around children born out of wedlock. In Illinois, certain forms must be presented to non-married parents at the hospital upon the birth of a child, which allow the parents to establish paternity by mutual consent. The forms look like the following:

  • An agreed order to establish paternity by consent, and reserve issues of child support until a later date.
  • A verified petition to declare paternity.

‍If the parents are in agreement regarding paternity, they can deliver these forms to the clerk of court, whereupon the judge will enter the agreed order establishing paternity. ‍If there’s a presumed father other than the father signing these forms, the parents must obtain his signature as well. The Illinois Parentage Act states that a man is the presumed father of the child if any of the following statements are true:

  • He is married to the mother, or in a civil union or substantially similar relationship when the child is born.
  • He was married or in a civil union with the mother, but the marriage was terminated within 300 days prior to the birth of the child.
  • He married or entered into a civil union with the mother after the child’s birth, and he is listed as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate. 
  • The child was born during or within 300 days of an invalid marriage or civil union into which he and the mother entered in apparent compliance with the law.

Presumptions of Paternity Explained

The petitioner in a paternity action unfortunately bears the burden of proving paternity or absence of paternity by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the allegations in the petition are more than likely not to be true. When there is a “presumed father,” the presumption must be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, a higher standard of proof than preponderance of the evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is also required if paternity is sought after the death of a parent in order to determine heirship. 

‍A presumption of paternity arising from a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity becomes conclusive if the acknowledgment is not rescinded either within 60 days from signing the voluntary acknowledgement or the date that the paternity suit is initiated, whichever occurs first.  If the presumption becomes conclusive, paternity can only be challenged by the presumed father in the case of fraud, duress, or a mistake of material fact. 

DNA Tests in Illinois Paternity Cases

The court as well as any party involved in a paternity action can request a DNA test. If the party from whom DNA testing is requested refuses to submit to the test, the court will likely decide the case against them.‍ The court will appoint an expert to perform the DNA test. It’s important to note that each party involved has the option to hire an independent expert in addition to the court-appointed expert to perform tests or to testify regarding the court-appointed expert’s credentials.  

If the experts agree that the alleged father is not the natural father the case will be dismissed.  If the experts disagree, the court will weigh the experts’ separate testimony along with other evidence.  

Illinois Paternity Situations & Cases

In a paternity action, child support is treated as in a divorce case with two exceptions. Unlike child support in a dissolution case, if the suit was brought within two years of the birth of the child, the court has discretion to award reasonable expenses related to the mother’s pregnancy. Retroactive child support is also treated differently in a paternity case. 

In a dissolution case, child support may be awarded in certain limited circumstances.  However, in a paternity case, the court may award child support retroactive to the child’s birth, based on the following factors:

  1. The father’s knowledge of the circumstances of the child’s birth.
  2. The father’s previous willingness to help support the child.
  3. The extent to which the father was previously informed of the child’s needs and to which his help was sought in supporting or raising the child.
  4. The reasons that the mother did not file the parentage action sooner. 
  5. The extent to which the father was prejudiced by the mother’s delay in bringing suit.  

The difference between child support in a paternity case versus a dissolution case is, in a dissolution case, the couple was previously married and the father was contributing to the care of the child during the marriage. 

Final Thoughts 

If you find yourself in a paternity battle, and are in need of legal counsel, Masters Law Group can help. Hiring an attorney highly experienced in family law will help you understand your legal options and create a plan for what comes next. 

Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. We help clients put aside their grief and educate them about their options in Parentage as well as Child Support modifications. If you need help with a parentage  case in Illinois, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.