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Why Parenting Time Is Different from VisitationThe terms “parenting time” and “visitation” are sometimes loosely interchanged with each other when discussing the allocation of parental responsibilities after a divorce or separation. When the children spend the majority of their time with one parent, the other parent may feel like they are seeing the children only during weekend visits. However, visitation is different from parenting time, both in legal definition and concept. Saying that your children visit you is demeaning to your relationship with them.

Legal Meaning

Illinois revised its Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to replace the words “child custody” with “the allocation of parental responsibilities.” Parental responsibilities are made up of:

  • Decision-making, which is the right to decide important issues regarding the children; and 
  • Parenting time, which is the regularly scheduled time in which a parent is responsible for caring for the children.

The written agreement that divides these parental responsibilities is called the parenting plan. There is a separate section in the law for visitation, which is defined as the time spent between a child and a nonparent, such as a grandparent, stepparent, sibling, or other designated parties. Nonparents can petition for visitation with a child if they can prove that it is in the best interest of the child or the parent has unreasonably denied them visits.

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Illinois child custody attorney, Illinois family law attorneyWhen the court determines appropriate parenting time and parenting responsibility arrangements for divorcing couples, it considers multiple factors. These factors are outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Examples of these factors include the child's personal needs, each parent's income and assets, the other individuals present in each parent's household, and the quality of the child's relationship with each parent.

As you can see, one of these factors is not like the others. The court can quantify each parent's annual income and expenses and determine the child's personal needs in concrete terms, but qualifying the child's relationship with each of his or her parents is much more difficult. What makes a quality relationship? How can the court find one relationship to be stronger than another, when every relationship that exists is unique?

Attachment and Bonding

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Posted on in Child Custody

child-custodyAs our society progresses, our laws need to change to reflect these changes. Decades ago, Illinois' divorce and child custody laws included a provision known as the tender years doctrine, which awarded custody of young children primarily to their mothers on the basis that a mother could care for a young child better than a father could. This was done away with as gender roles changed and the court recognized that fathers can be as capable of caring for their children as mothers. Similar changes are coming to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act come January 1st, 2016 through Senate Bill 57.

These changes include many new developments to Illinois' child custody laws. In fact, one of these changes is the deletion of the term “custody.” To learn more about the changes that are coming and what they could mean for you and your family law case, contact an experienced Illinois family attorney for guidance.

New Terms Replace Old Terms

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Posted on in Child Custody

custody-modificationWhen the court determines an appropriate custody arrangement for your child, it does so with your child's best interest in mind. However, your child's best interests do not necessarily remain static over the years. In fact, as he or she matures, it is most likely that the right custody arrangement will change along with your child. If this is the case, consider modifying your child's custody arrangement. Seeking a modification of the custody schedule does not mean that you or your former spouse is a bad parent or a better parent than the other. It means that your child's needs have changed and you are working together to create a custody arrangement that best meets those needs.

If you feel a modified child custody arrangement is in your child's best interest, the first person to speak to about a potential change is your former spouse. After all, this modification will involve him or her and his or her relationship with your child. The next party to speak with is your attorney to discuss the legal process of altering a child custody arrangement. Do not be casual about changing your arrangement – even if you and your partner agree to a modified schedule and can follow it now without a problem, following a custody schedule that deviates from your court order is technically contempt of court. Do not put yourself in this position by failing to take the correct steps to alter your child custody arrangement.

Issues to Consider

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b2ap3_thumbnail_child-and-domestic-violence.jpgIf your child is not currently in your care, call 911 and report the abuse allegation to police right away. If your child is currently in your care, bring him or her to the hospital for an examination by a doctor. A doctor can note the signs of physical or sexual abuse. Determining if emotional or psychological abuse has occurred can be more difficult, but this type of abuse is as damaging to a child as physical or sexual harm.

Keeping your child beyond your allotted parenting time with him or her because you suspect he or she is being abused in your former partner's home is one of the only ways you can legally violate your custody or visitation schedule. If you need to do this, contact your attorney to record the date, time, and reason why you did not allow your former partner to spend time with your child. If your former partner takes legal action against you, you will need this record to prove that you did not violate your child custody agreement without a valid reason.

Never, under any circumstance, make a false report of child abuse in an attempt to slander your former partner. This can only complicate your child custody order and ultimately, reflect negatively on you and your parenting ability. Child abuse is a serious allegation – regardless of your relationship with your former spouse and feelings about him or her, it is never acceptable to falsely accuse an individual of abuse if you know that abuse has not occurred.

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