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Reasons to Not Seek Sole Responsibility for Your Children During DivorceIn some divorces, a parent is allowed to have sole responsibility for their child, including complete control over parenting time and decision making. This most often occurs when one of the parents is physically abusive towards the child or shows a total lack of interest in being part of the child’s life. However, most parenting plans will allocate parental responsibilities between both parents. In Illinois, the presumption is that one parent will have a majority but not all of the parenting time. Still, some parents try to receive sole parental responsibility for personal reasons. You should consider whether seeking sole responsibility is a wise decision before you go down that path.

Problems with Sole Responsibility

Illinois prefers a shared parenting plan because it assumes that children of divorce are better off when both parents are active in raising them. The exception is when you can prove a reasonable belief that your children could be in danger if they are left alone with your co-parent. You cannot deny your spouse’s parental rights as a way to punish them for infidelity or because you think you are a better parent. Those factors may help you receive a majority of the parental responsibilities but do not mean that your spouse is an unfit parent. Receiving sole responsibility is usually not in your children’s best interests. Having a strong relationship with both parents is crucial to a child’s development, and they may resent you if you try to deny their relationship with their other parent.

Requesting sole parental responsibility is also impractical unless there is a compelling reason for it. Consider that:

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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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Attacking Your Co-Parent’s Character Rarely Has the Intended EffectDivorcing or separated parents in a dispute over their parenting time are often looking for something that will give them an advantage over their co-parent. Pointing out flaws in your co-parent’s character feels like a strong argument for giving you a greater share of parental responsibilities. However, character attacks are not always effective in a parenting case and may instead backfire on the accuser. You will be best served during your parenting case by demonstrating the strengths of your own character and only bringing up your co-parent’s lack of character if you can explain actual ways that it is harmful to your children.

Importance of Character

Someone’s character is relevant when a court rules on the allocation of parental responsibilities if it concerns their morality and judgment. Illinois law states that providing moral and ethical guidance is one of the roles of a parent. An immoral parent may fail in that role by demonstrating a lack of morality or not teaching their children the difference between right and wrong. Other parents show a lack of good judgment that puts their children in danger or neglects their upbringing. You can express your concerns about your co-parent’s character to the court, but the court will find your claims more credible if you present third-party evidence, such as:

  • Character witnesses testifying in court
  • Character letters submitted to the court
  • Child services professionals testifying on their observations of the children

If you are the one whose character is under attack, you can present witnesses that testify to your good character as a parent.

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