Lake County Child Custody Lawyer

Illinois Child Custody Attorney primarily servicing Lake County, Kane County, McHenry County, and Cook County

When parents file for divorce or legal separation, the most critical issues relate to the children’s care and support. Illinois courts must consider and protect the best interests of the children in all family law situations involving children.

In such cases, the divorce decree will incorporate a binding agreement, often referred to as an Allocation Judgment, which spells out each parent’s rights and obligations regarding their children. If the parents are not married, they must establish paternity before addressing parenting issues, and entering into an Allocation Judgment. Regardless of the issues you may be facing, a dedicated  Lake County child custody lawyer at Manassa Law P.C. can help resolve all child-related issues. 

Trust Manassa Law to Handle Your Child Custody Matters

Team retouched stone wall

Our mission is to protect your legal rights and your child’s best interests while guiding you through what may be the most challenging time in your life. With more than three decades of experience, we know that parents who maintain a healthy relationship with their children—and with each other—provide the best possible environment for emotionally and physically healthy kids. 

Our experienced and accomplished family law attorneys can help you navigate the family law system and resolve your divorce and parenting issues in many ways. Whether we proceed through collaboration, mediation, arbitration, negotiation, or litigation, we can help you protect your children and preserve your parental rights.

The compassionate family lawyers on our team can provide sound legal advice and skilled representation throughout your divorce, legal separation, or parentage case. 

We can clarify and resolve the legal issues related to your unique circumstances, including residential parenting arrangements, joint decision-making responsibilities, and determining who should be responsible for the physical care of your child.

What Are the Different Types of Custody in Illinois?

Lake County Child Custody Lawyer

First, Illinois no longer uses the term “custody.” Instead, parents are encouraged to share decision-making responsibilities and physical care of their children, if possible, through a detailed parenting time schedule.

Shared parenting time does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split. However, the goal is that both parents remain involved in their children’s lives in a way that serves the best interest of children and, hopefully, both parents as well.

Courts will award a majority of parenting time to the parent that the child will live with most of the time. This parent will be considered the residential parent (previously called physical custody). Although one parent may be designated the residential parent, this designation does not  negatively affect the other parent’s rights under the law. The only legal significance of this designation is for school-code purposes to determine which district the child(ren) will attend.  

The written parenting plan in your Allocation Judgment will explain how much time each parent shall physically spend with the child, including overnights, weekends, and holidays. The parents have significant control over creating the parenting plan that works for both parties and is in the best interest of the child. However, if an agreement cannot be reached between the parties either on their own, through mediation, or the involvement of a professional appointed by the court, the court will dictate the terms of the parenting plan.  

In Illinois, significant decision-making responsibility has replaced the old term “legal custody”. Significant decision-making responsibility is defined as the decisions related to the child’s education through high school, extracurricular activities, healthcare, and religion. There are two types of decision-making responsibility in Illinois: (1) Sole decision-making responsibility; and (2) Joint decision-making responsibility.

Each parent will make the routine day-to-day decisions that occur in the normal course of a day during their designated parenting time regardless of how decision-making responsibility is allocated between the parents.

What Does It Mean to Share Parental Responsibilities?

Joint decision-making responsibility requires that both parents mutually agree on all decisions made regarding the child’s education through high school, extracurricular activities, healthcare, and religion. A joint decision-making responsibility arrangement can only occur if both parents are able to communicate and co-parent with each other for their child without significant issue with the other parent. Co-parenting means parents work together to make important decisions and consider each other’s input while raising their children.

Generally, family law courts encourage joint parenting arrangements as long as they serve the best interests of the children.

If Joint Decision Making is Not Possible, a Sole Decision Maker Will Be Named

In some cases, the parents cannot agree to work together to make joint decisions for their children, or the court may believe such an arrangement is not best for the kids, or there was domestic violence involved that would render co-parenting inappropriate. 

In these situations, the family court can award one parent sole decision-making responsibility where one parent has the sole right to make decisions for the children concerning their child’s education through high school, extracurricular activities, healthcare, and religion without input from the other parent. It is only ordered if the court determines that the child(ren) are better served having one parent making these decisions without the other parent’s input.

How Can Parental Disagreements Be Resolved?

How Can Parental Disagreements Be Resolved

In most divorce and separation situations, the parties may struggle to agree on many issues.

When parents disagree about issues involving their children, such as parenting schedules, visitation, or decision-making responsibility, these disputes can resolve through various methods:

  1. Non-litigation dispute resolution: Illinois courts recognize several options to help parents resolve disputed issues, including negotiation between the parties and their legal counsel, mediation with a trained third-party family law mediator, non-binding arbitration, and the collaborative law process. 

Through these processes, parents meet with the assistance of their respective lawyers and/or unbiased neutral facilitators to agree on child-related issues involving decision-making and parenting plans. Private negotiations offer many benefits, including saving time and reducing the cost of litigation. Mediation and arbitration offer the benefit of involving a neutral third party to help facilitate discussions that are difficult for the parents to have without some outside involvement. The collaborative law process is an amazing and underutilized tool in the family law system. In this process, the parents are not immediately put at odds with the other parent. Rather, the parties agree to create a team of professionals to help resolve all relevant issues. These professionals include attorney’s, parenting coaches, financial neutrals, and mental health professionals. The cost of the collaborative process often tends to be less expensive than litigation. 

It is important for all parents to understand that the less litigation there is, the more power, control, and flexibility they each have to ensure the arrangements made are in the best interest of the child(ren).  

  1. Litigation in the family court system: If the parents cannot reach an amicable resolution, they must litigate all disputed issues in family court, where a judge is given the power to make final decisions about the parents’ significant decision-making responsibility and parenting schedule.

The judge is required to base their decision on only the facts and evidence presented in open court during trial. The judge must then balance the facts and evidence with the child’s best interests. Rather than a mutually agreeable outcome, a judge’s decision often leaves both parents unhappy to some extent. A trial is often the last option when parents cannot reach an agreement on their own and is the most costly path to a final result.

What Factors Determine Parental Responsibility in Illinois?

Sometimes, it is complicated to determine the best interest of a child involved in a divorce or separation. Illinois law sets forth several factors a court can use to help the court determine the allocation of significant decision-making responsibility and parenting schedule. 

Several, but not all, factors considered by the court:

  • The wishes of each parent;
  • The wishes of the child, taking into consideration the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences. Illinois does not specifically state what age this may be, but experience has shown that the preferences of children between the ages of 11 and 13 are given some weight by the court, and preferences of children of age 13 and up are given significant weight by the court;
  • The amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions in the last 24 months. This includes providing meals, preparation for school, bathing and grooming, laundry, providing necessary clothes and supplies, and facilitating the children’s extracurricular activities. 
  • Prior agreements or course of conduct between the parties relating to the child;
  • The relationship between the child, parent, and other siblings;
  • The mental and physical health of the individuals involved;
  • The child’s needs;
  • The distance between the parent’s residences;
  • Physical violence or the threat of physical violence by a parent;
  • Willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of he child ahead of their own; and 
  • Willingness and ability of a parent to facilitate and encourage a close relationship with the other parent.

Since every family situation is different, some of these factors may not be relevant to your case, and some may carry more weight than others. Remember that the judge will never know your child as well as you do, so it’s usually best to work with the other parent to reach an agreement that is best for your child rather than let a judge make these critical decisions for you.

We Can Help Create Parental Arrangements to Meet Your Unique Needs

Parental Arrangements to Meet Your Unique Needs

While the court must still consider the child’s best interests before approving any parental arrangement, parents can creatively negotiate the terms that best meet the needs of all parties. To do this, both parents should maintain a calm and considerate relationship. 

At Manassa Law, we encourage and help facilitate a cooperative atmosphere when possible. However, if needed, we are also tenacious and skilled litigators who can aggressively fight for your rights at a contested hearing or trial.

When we meet for your initial free consultation, we will listen to your position, determine your needs and expectations, and explore your legal options together. We take the attorney-client relationship very seriously and respect your privacy and need for confidentiality. 

No two families are the same, and parenting solutions must reflect those differences. We are proud to help divorcing parents and separating families find creative solutions to their issues while keeping the children’s well-being as the primary focus. 

We also know that divorce or a break-up can be a highly contentious and emotional experience. We provide compassionate and skilled legal guidance during every step of your divorce.

Illinois Custody and Visitation FAQs

Although every family law case is different, we have gathered some of the most frequently asked questions about child custody and visitation to help you better understand how the law may apply to your case.

Q: Can I receive primary care of my child?

According to  Illinois law, family law courts must enter orders that protect the best interests of the children involved in the case. This requires the court to allocated decision-making responsibility and award parenting time. This could result in one parent having a majority of parenting time but sharing joint-decision making responsibility. In most situations, courts encourage and support both parents being involved with the children as that is often what is the best option for the child. However, even in these situations, one parent may be awarded more parenting time than the other resulting in one parent being designated as the residential parent, or put another way, designated as the parent with the majority of parenting time. This is the closest Illinois gets to the old designation of “primary physical and legal custody of a child.”

In other situations,  ordering joint decision-making responsibilities is not the best approach. Receiving sole decision-making responsibility for your children is not easy, barring some serious issues. It can happen when you have an experienced divorce attorney fighting for you and your child. 

For example, if the other parent has a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or prison time, you need to protect your child from that parent and potential future harm. The legal team at Manassa Law has fought for other clients in these situations and can provide compassionate, aggressive legal guidance when needed.

Q: Can I move to another state with my children?

Leaving the state with your children is challenging but not impossible. In recent years, the courts have become more receptive to parents moving out of state, especially when the move will improve the children’s lives. 

However, this parenting dispute can be highly contested by the other parent. The court must be convinced that the move is legitimate, that it will be in the child’s best interest to separate them from the other parent, and that you will encourage and foster the child’s relationship with their other parent. 

Even if you can prove those circumstances, the judge may not allow you to move out of state with your child. Call our legal professionals now to better understand your legal options and whether you have a strong case for taking your child out of the state.

Q: Can I modify my child custody agreement in Illinois?

As stated, Illinois courts don’t use the term child custody any longer. Most parenting agreements allocate parenting time for each parent with their children and allocate significant decision-making responsibilities. 

We understand there are times when parents need to modify their current parenting agreement, whether by agreement or by asking the court to order a change. Parenting time is always modifiable upon showing there has been a change in either parent’s circumstances since the previous arrangement was put in place that requires a modification to serve the best interest of the child. . These changes can be anything from different living arrangements to healthcare needs to the actual parenting time exercised by both parties since entering into the original agreement. Our attorneys know the law and the judges in Lake County, Kane County, McHenry County, and Cook County so we know how to build a solid case for a modification before we consider going to court.

In Illinois, modifications to decision-making responsibility are generally frowned upon with the first two years of entry of the original agreement. However, we cannot always control things that may happen in life which may require a modification of the original agreement before the expiration of the first two years. In those situations, you would have to show that the child’s present environment may seriously endanger their mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair their emotional development.  An experienced divorce attorney can explain how you can request a modification. 

Q: What does joint decision-making mean?

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act recognizes that “the maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents regarding the physical, mental, moral, and emotional well-being of their child is in the best interest of the child.” Joint decision-making is when parents share the right to make important decisions about their children.

Joint decision-making parents must work together to address important topics, including the child’s healthcare, religion, education, and extracurricular activities.  A dedicated divorce attorney at Manassa Law can explain the differences and help you decide what is best for your child.

Q: What if the parents can’t agree on a visitation schedule? 

When parents work together to create a creative parenting time schedule, everyone wins. The best-case scenario involves two parents who want to maximize their involvement in their children’s lives and minimize the chances they will have to endure a contentious court battle. When you work with a caring child custody lawyer at Manassa Law, we’ll always help you resolve parenting plan and visitation disputes amicably, if possible. 

If the other parent is unreasonable or unwilling to negotiate directly with you, we can pursue other forms of resolution or ask the court to resolve any parenting time and/or visitation disputes. 

Contact the Illinois Child Custody Lawyers at Manassa Law  to Learn More

Our law firm offers decades of experience and skills to help clients resolve the most complicated family law cases and move forward with their lives. We are ready to help you achieve a fair resolution that protects your legal rights while also meeting your children’s needs.

Lawrence S. Manassa, Child Custody Laywer
Lawrence S. Manassa, Lake County Child Custody Lawyer

Contact us online or call (847) 221-5511 to our family law attorneys in Lake County, Illinois today for your free consultation with one of our Lake, Kane, McHenry, or Cook County child custody lawyers. During a free consultation, we’ll answer all your questions about child custody and potential parental responsibility, calculation and payment of child support, whether you have a right to receive spousal support, and all other divorce issues.