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Who Gets Jurisdiction When Divorced Parents Live in Different States?The term “homecourt advantage” extends beyond the sports world. There is an advantage to having your divorce in a court that is close to where you live. Having to travel to another state for your divorce would be more costly, especially if you need to use litigation to settle your case. Choosing a court for your divorce should not be an issue if you both live near each other. If more than one state can claim jurisdiction for your divorce, the state that hears your case may depend on who files first and the practicality for both sides. Illinois has rules concerning jurisdiction in a parenting case when the two parents live in different states.

Determining Jurisdiction

The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act says that the home state of the children should have jurisdiction over a parenting case but Illinois can claim jurisdiction if:

  • The children lived in Illinois in the past six months
  • The court of the other state declines jurisdiction
  • The Illinois court determines that it would be most appropriate for the case to be heard in this state

Once you complete a parenting case in Illinois, the state continues to have jurisdiction over future cases as long as at least one of the parents maintains a strong connection to the state. If neither of you lives in Illinois anymore, jurisdiction will transfer to the children’s home state.

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Creating a Parenting Plan for a Child with Special NeedsFiguring out a parenting plan during your divorce is complicated, but there are additional difficulties if one of your children has special needs. Raising a child with special needs may require dedicating additional resources to accommodate their physical and/or mental disabilities. A parenting plan needs to account for these in its allocation of parental responsibilities and child support. Children with special needs can be more vulnerable when dealing with the changes that come with their parents divorcing.

Parenting Time

There are several factors that you need to consider when creating a parenting time schedule for your special needs child:

  • If your child has physical disabilities, will both parents have a home that can accommodate them?
  • Are both you and your co-parent capable of caring for your special needs child on your own?
  • How difficult will it be to transport your special needs child between homes?
  • How might your special needs child react to changing homes?

You need to divide your parenting time in a way that is best for your child, which sometimes requires them to spend the majority of their time with one parent. Your marital home may have special equipment that helps with your child’s physical needs, and replicating that in a second home may be expensive. If your co-parent is more experienced with caring for your child’s special needs, you have to learn how to be an independent caregiver if you want a schedule that is close to equal parenting time. However, you still might not be able to dedicate as much time to your child if you have longer work hours than your co-parent.

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Posted on in Child Custody

What DCFS Involvement Means for Your DivorceThe Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is tasked with protecting children who may be victims of abuse or neglect. Thus, it must take any credible accusations seriously. As a parent, receiving a notification from the DCFS is frightening because you do not know whether you will lose the right to see your child. The stakes may seem even higher if you are accused of child abuse during your divorce. If the DCFS indicates you for child abuse or neglect, it will negatively affect your allocation of parental responsibilities.

How DCFS Cases Start

Do not assume that your spouse is the one accusing you of child abuse just because the accusation comes during your divorce. The DCFS allows anyone to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, and people such as teachers and doctors are required to report their suspicions. However, the DCFS requires the reporter to provide details that will make the accusation credible, such as a description of the child’s injuries, the child’s explanation for the injuries, and observations of the alleged abuser’s interactions with the child.

Initial Investigation

When the DCFS receives a credible report accusing you of child abuse, it will start by visiting your home to inform you of the accusation and determine whether the child is in immediate danger. It will not take your child away from you unless it believes your child is not safe. The DCFS will determine whether the child abuse accusation is founded by interviewing witnesses. It has 60 days to complete the investigation and report its findings.

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Posted on in Child Custody

How Divorce Has Improved for Men in the Past DecadeDivorce in the U.S. has changed in many ways during the last decade. The divorce rate has settled down from the boom the country experienced in the 1970s. Millennials, who were the children of many of those divorces, are waiting longer to get married and start a family. Divorce has also become more amicable because of the rising use of conflict resolution methods such as mediation and collaborative divorce. Women have increasing power during the process and are less likely to be financially dependent upon men. However, men have also seen increased benefits from divorce, thanks to that same trend towards gender equality.

Father’s Rights

The presumption used to be that the mother would have most of the control over the children after a divorce because the mother was the primary caretaker in the family. Fathers would typically have less decision-making power, and equal parenting time was practically unheard of. Now, courts see the importance of both divorced parents having a major role in raising their children. This means that courts:

  • Are more likely to consider a father’s request for equal parenting time
  • May give a majority of the parenting time to a father if it is in the children’s best interest
  • May give more weight to a father’s desire for shared parenting, even if they were less active as a parent during the marriage

It is difficult to obtain equal parenting time in Illinois because courts presume that it is better for the children if one parent has more parenting time. Still, a proactive father is more likely to be rewarded, instead of getting the children every other weekend.

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Withholding Parenting Time Can Violate Civil and Criminal LawsWhen one spouse believes that the other spouse wronged them during their marriage, they may want their divorce agreement to be a way to punish their spouse. Illinois divorce laws do not assign blame to either party for actions such as infidelity, but the court may favor the “victim” spouse when dividing marital properties if the cheating spouse used marital assets to pay for the affair. Parenting time is not a commodity that you withhold from your spouse to punish them. You must base all of your parenting decisions on what is best for your children, and obstructing parenting time without court approval can have civil and criminal consequences.

Allocating Parental Responsibilities

When you try to punish your co-parent by limiting or denying their access to your children, you are also punishing your children by hurting their relationship with their other parent. Denying parenting time is appropriate only when you can prove that your co-parent is a danger to your children. Abusive behavior by your co-parent is the most obvious example of proof, but your co-parent’s infidelity is not evidence by itself that they are a bad parent. 

Violation of Parenting Time

When a parent is dissatisfied with the outcome of their parenting agreement, they may try to get back at their co-parent through parental alienation or obstructing parenting time. Attempting to alienate your children from your co-parent will cause them pain and likely damage your own relationship with them. Withholding your children during your co-parent’s parenting time is a violation of a court order that can result in:

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