What Might Put me at Risk in an Illinois Child Custody Case?
Child custody issues can arise in the following scenarios:
- When divorcing spouses have minor children
- When unmarried parents have disagreements as to their rights and obligations relating to their minor children
- When unmarried parents agree on these matters, and wish to put their agreements into writing
Major issues that typically arise with these situations can include:
- How to divide decision-making responsibilities in major areas of the children’s lives,
- How to schedule when each parent will be spending time with the children
In determining how to arrange decision-making responsibilities and parenting time schedules, the court will examine the best interests of the child. The following are common scenarios which may weaken a parent’s position in a child custody or parenting time dispute.
The following scenarios are examples only, and will not necessarily guarantee any result in a child custody, parenting time, or other family law case. Make sure to speak with an experienced family law attorney for guidance in your particular case.
Not Being Involved in the Children’s Lives
The past actions of both parents may be taken into consideration when arranging a parenting time schedule, or assigning important decision-making responsibilities. If one parent had traditionally left most of the child-rearing responsibilities for the other parent to handle, this could weigh against the lesser-involved parent in a dispute over decision-making responsibilities or parenting time. If a parent wishes to be involved in a child’s life, it must be demonstrated through action and initiative. It should also be consistent, genuine, and occur from the child’s birth, or long before any divorce or child custody case is even filed. For example, imagine that a parent rarely interacts with his or her child for several months, or years. Then, a case is filed in court and suddenly this parent shows major efforts to be involved with the child. The court could look at these recent efforts positively, but also might not give them much weight in favor of the lesser-involved parent, due to the timing of these actions. The more strongly-involved parent may raise the argument that the other parent only started to show interest in the child now that a case has been filed requesting child support, custody, or permission to relocate with the child. It is generally preferred that both parents have as much involvement as possible, but courts may take all relevant facts into consideration, including whether a parent shows a sudden interest in his or her children right after a case has been filed.
Seeing the Children Rarely or Inconsistently
If a parent has only been seeing the children occasionally, or sporadically, this can also weigh against that parent if he or she wishes to have equal decision-making responsibility, or if that parent believes the children should primarily live with him or her. This can also weigh against that parent if the other parent is requesting permission to relocate a far distance with the minor children. When a court must determine whether to allow a parent to move far away with the children, one factor which will be taken into consideration is the frequency and consistency of the other parent’s visitation with the children. Spending time with the children on a consistent, frequent basis is best for the children, and provides more stability in their lives. The court might be less inclined to allow a parent to move far away with the children if it would disrupt the regular and frequent parenting time schedule of another parent.
Moving out of the Home
A parent’s decision to move out of the home can negatively affect him or her later in the case. Even if this parent moved out to avoid tension in the home, the other parent might try to argue that the decision to move out is evidence of a lack of concern for the children, a lack of interest in being involved with the children, or abandonment of the children. Moving out will not necessarily be the determining factor in every child custody case, but the judge may take this into consideration when deciding whether the children should live primarily with one parent or the other. If there is too much tension in the home to the point where living together would not be best for the well-being of the children, or either parent, parents should speak to a family law attorney about other possible options available.
Not Having a Suitable Home Environment for the Children
When there is a dispute as to who the children should live with most of the time, or as to whether a parent has a suitable environment for the children during scheduled parenting time, a Judge or Guardian ad Litem may wish to investigate into whether each parent’s home is adequate for overnight stays, or whether it would provide stability and safety in the children’s lives. Having a home with no separate bedrooms for the children, or in a high-crime area, might in certain cases work against a parent who is arguing that the children should live with him or her most of the time. If the conditions are not safe or suitable for the children, this may even prevent a parent from being able to exercise parenting time in his or her own home. Also, any other residents of the home may be taken into consideration depending on whether they would affect the safety, health, or well-being of the children.
Not Being Reasonable or Cooperative With the Other Parent
Want to make a judge happy? Then cooperate. This goes for both parents. In the past, judges have sometimes refused to grant joint custody or shared custody when both parents were unable to cooperate or communicate effectively relating to the care of their minor child. If one parent is clearly being unreasonable in his or her behavior, and is only acting to hurt the other parent, this will not look good in the eyes of a judge. One example is when a parent will not let the other parent see the children, not because of safety concerns, but because they are angry at the other parent, or want to hurt the other parent. All parents can benefit from taking a step back, and doing a self-honest assessment as to whether they are acting in the best interests of their child, or just acting out of anger and emotion. These times require the utmost maturity and self-control. Children’s well-being are at stake, and should be given the highest priority by both parents.
If you or someone you know is seeking professional representation in a child custody or visitation rights case in Will County, Dupage County, or Kendall County, contact our family law attorneys to schedule a consultation at (815) 207-9570 or (815) 409-8858.
The information on this site is not legal advice. Retain an attorney licensed in the state which has jurisdiction over your matter before taking any action which affects your legal issues, legal marital status or custody arrangements, and follow the advice of your retained lawyer.