For many years, the 1984 Parentage Act controlled most divorce, child custody, and other family matters. In 2016, Illinois lawmakers passed a co-parenting law. Surface changes included some name changes. For example, “parenting time” replaced “child custody.” This law included some substantive changes, as well.
Specifically, co-parenting replaced the old joint custody model, a framework that began in California in the 1970s. The 2016 Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act presumes that, if children spend meaningful and consistent amounts of time with each parent, they benefit. So, children no longer “live with” one parent and “visit “ the other one.
In other words, the new law expects both parents to take active roles in child-rearing. Grudgingly allowing the other parent access to the children, or seeing parenting time as a chore, violates the spirit of the law, and maybe the letter of it as well.
In this environment, an effective Naperville child custody lawyer is more important than ever. An attorney must craft a settlement or order that upholds the co-parenting law without including unrealistic provisions or expectations. This skill requires lawyers to not only evaluate the current situation but also make some predictions about what the future will bring.
The co-parenting law includes not only a new presumption, but also some new child custody factors, or at least some modified factors. Some prominent factors, and how they relate to co-parenting, include:
Roughly the same factors apply to parenting time divisions. Usually, if a parent has serious issues in any area, the court will at least limit parent/child contact.
At every step, a Naperville child custody lawyer can set parents up for success, instead of failure, in a co-parenting environment.
The new Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act eliminated most fault-based grounds for divorce, like adultery and mental cruelty. This move was related to co-parenting. If spouses air their “dirty laundry” in front of everyone, it is difficult, or even impossible, to maintain a cordial co-parenting relationship.
A few fault-based grounds are still available. Frequently, a spouse wants or needs a fault-based divorce, for religious, personal, or other reasons. However, these reasons usually do not outweigh the need to get off on the right foot in terms of a successful co-parenting relationship. So, although they are available, spouses should think twice about asking for a fault-based divorce because of the way these procedures affect the children.
We mentioned the presumption in favor of informal timesharing arrangements above. Judges are likely to approve such arrangements if they are part of the temporary orders. Additionally, it is difficult for the other spouse to contest these proposals, since they have already agreed to them, at least in principle.
Furthermore, if a Naperville child custody lawyer prepares a draft agreement before the temporary hearing and negotiates with the other spouse’s lawyer, the chances of a contested temporary hearing drop even further. Frequently, agreement on initial issues translates to an agreement on final issues, especially in terms of co-parenting. Generally, agreed orders are good for everyone.
This part of a divorce case usually focuses on financial matters. These issues have little or nothing to do with co-parenting.
A social services investigation, on the other hand, directly affects co-parenting provisions. Cook County judges usually order social services investigations in contested cases. A licensed social worker investigates the case and makes a parenting time recommendation. This recommendation is technically not binding on the judge, but for practical purposes, it becomes part of the final order.
A lawyer ensures that the judge appoints a fair social worker and also helps clients put their best foot forward during these investigations.
Co-parenting is a relatively new concept that not all social workers have embraced. Worse yet, some social workers are biased in favor of mothers or fathers. Attorneys help ensure that the social worker correctly applies the law in a fair and balanced way.
Putting your best foot forward usually means setting the proper stage for in-home interviews and being completely upfront during them.
Display family pictures in prominent locations. A little bit of clutter, especially if it is mostly children’s toys, is good as well. However, do not go too far. Social workers know when someone is putting on airs. More importantly, answer the social worker’s questions narrowly but accurately. False statements do not hold up long during these investigations.
This resolution method may be the most important co-parenting tool. Mediation encourages civility.
During mediation, the parents do not need to be friends. They need to be adversaries. However, the mediation process encourages parents to compromise and reach agreements. As mentioned, this process is critical to a successful co-parenting relationship.
Mediation has other benefits as well. It decreases the financial and emotional cost of divorce. Furthermore, mediation gives the parties more control over the outcome.
Children come first in a divorce, but their parents still have important legal and financial rights. For a free consultation with an experienced Naperville child custody lawyer, contact Keller Legal Services today at 630-505-1515.