When children are involved, divorce and separation can be extremely difficult for many reasons. The best interest of the children is always of paramount concern. Therefore, certain factors like one parent engaging in abuse or poor past behaviors, which has or could put the children at risk of harm, will definitely come into play in Court when the Judge is trying to decide which parent should have certain rights, parenting time, and decision-making authority with regards to the couple's minor children.
Child Custody in Illinois
First, it is important to take note that family law differs on a state-by-state basis. Our Attorneys are licensed to practice law in Illinois, and so while we can help immigration clients from all over the USA, we can only provide legal representation for domestic relations cases, including divorce cases, parentage cases, child support cases, and domestic violence cases, here locally in the Chicagoland area. We serve such clients in Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, and Kane County in Illinois at this time.
Second, and even more significant for purposes of this article, it is also important to take note that Illinois law actually no longer uses the phrase ‘custody’. Custody is quite a loaded word that can really trigger a lot of emotions as you may imagine. The law in Illinois was rewritten to eliminate the phrase custody entirely! Instead, Illinois law as written at present time simply says the court will enter an order allocating a division of parental responsibility. In other words, this will include a determination about who will have legal decision-making authority, as well as establishing a parenting time schedule for the parties.
However, for purposes of keeping it simple, we will refer to it as custody throughout this article, but we just want to remind you that ‘custody’ is no longer the correct legal terminology when discussing such matters in Illinois. In the end, however, no matter what phrase we use to describe the process, the concerns remain the same – the best interests of the child or children involved, and how to divvy up responsibilities and parenting time in a manner that makes the most sense for your particular family. Every family differs!
Of course, naturally, a parent's first thought is almost always, ‘what if I lose custody?’ It can be worrisome. Really, though, it’s all about the children at the end of the day. The Court is most concerned with the safety and well-being of the children no matter what. However, Courts in Illinois recognize that a child really needs both parents in his/her life whenever possible, so it’s very unlikely a parent will lose ‘custody’ entirely or never be allowed to see their child. That is not very realistic, absent a pretty extreme circumstance. However, of course such occurs when circumstances warrant such a drastic extreme. Some things that definitely may affect the outcome of such a decision are as follows.
Why Would a Parent Lose Custody of a Child?
There are many different kinds of abuse, but the most common types you hear about in domestic relations or family court cases are typically child abuse, sexual abuse, and even substance abuse. Of course, if one parent or the other is engaging in any form of abusive behavior, then the Court will want to know about it and will undoubtedly take such into consideration when making decision related to custody and the children in your case.
If abuse occurs in the home or under the care of one parent, it can have severe repercussions for custody arrangements. Obviously, it affects the safety and well-being of the children. Physical abuse such as hitting, slapping, and punching are all obvious forms of abuse, but the Court will also be equally concerned with less obvious forms of abuse, too.
Sexual abuse of minors may be more common than the average person believes. Sexual abuse may be perpetrated by a parent, a relative, or any other adult who a parent allows to have access to his or her child. For example, a romantic relationship between the parent and another consenting adult may introduce a predatory adult into the child’s life. The Court will consider the scenario and all relevant facts, but if such abuse has occurred, the court will take it very seriously and it will definitely affect the outcome of the case.
Substance abuse is another common type of abuse that comes up in divorce and parentage cases often. If one parent or the other is known to abuse substances, whether it is alcohol or illegal drugs, for example, that impairs judgment, then the Court will want to take a closer look at parenting dynamic. The Court will want to ensure they are placing the child in a safe home environment, with safe and sober parents whose judgment is not impaired while parenting the children.
Rulings on recovering addict are less clear and the laws may really vary a lot from my court to the next. The Court always has to balance the safety and well-being of the child with the rights of the parents. The circumstances for every case are unique, but a long period of sobriety and character witnesses from others can help to preserve your parenting rights.
Allegations of any kind of abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, or any other form of abuse, are a strong indicator that the Court needs to carefully assess the best allocation of parental responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the children.
Unfortunately, sometimes a hostile parent in a divorce or parentage case may make such allegations out of spite. That can backfire and is never advisable to do! Such allegations are very serious in nature, and if a Court learns that a parent is making unfounded allegations to win the Court’s favor, or delay the case and burden the Court unnecessarily, the Court will likewise take that into consideration in making any final rulings in the case.
Don't hesitate to reach out for more information on our family law services. Contact JLB Law Group to get started with our team today.
2. Non-Compliance with Court Orders
When a Judge has entered a Court Order and the Order is in effect, both parties must abide by the Court Order. In other words, both parents must follow the terms of the Court’s Order with respect to parenting the children. Failure to comply with the court’s order can have a devastating effect on the well-being of the children, and, hence on your rights as a parent in Court in front of the Judge.
The Court may even consider failure to follow terms of a Court Order such as taking the children when you are not allowed to do so, or failing to drop them off with the other parent at the end of your designated parenting time, as you having committed the crime of child abduction! Yes, this is pretty extreme, but it absolutely can happen, and, then, you will find yourself at a major disadvantage in Court.
So, while it is tempting to disregard a Court’s Order, and proceed as you wish with your children, since they are, after all, our children, it is simply never a good idea. The effects can have a very damaging impact on the children, can incite unnecessary hostility and tension between the parents, and can erode the Court’s belief that you are a good honest parent.
Non-compliance with a Court’s Order displays a complete disregard for the law and will likely have a very negative impact upon your case!
Related blog : Immigration Series Part IV - Family-Based Immigration
3. Lack of Parental Involvement
Different forms of abuse and failure to comply with Court Orders are obvious reasons that a parent may wind up being forced to lose precious and valuable parenting time with their children they may have otherwise been entitled to. However, these are not the only reasons. Suppose a parent neglects their responsibility for the children by leaving them in the care of others for extended periods of time, never spending time with the children, or by simply failing to be involved in the children’s lives with respect to things such as education and overall well-being. Such actions may demonstrate a pattern of behavior that is incompatible with parenting.
The Court will look at a parent’s past and present involvement with the children, both before the Court case was filed, and also during the duration of the Court case. Parents may act out in anger or refuse to cooperate in parenting their children, out of resentment or anger for not having the freedom to make their own choices during the divorce process, but a parent’s behavior during this time is of critical importance and how much involvement a parent chooses to have, or not have, in their child or children’s lives will be heavily scrutinized by the Court.
The Bottom Line on Custody Cases
Again, remember, Illinois law no longer calls it custody. Rather, the process is referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities to include determining who will have decision-making responsibility and establishing a parenting time schedule. If both parents are good parents, then both will likely receive fair decision-making responsibility and a fair and reasonable amount of time with the children. However, behaviors such as those described in this article, such as abuse, lack of involvement with the children's lives, and even failure to follow court orders are very likely to affect a parent's rights with respect to their children.
JLB Law Group provides services in family law for the Chicago area. With past wins in both mother’s and father’s rights cases, we know how difficult family court can be and how much is at stake for our clients and their children. Contact us today to discuss your case and see how we can help.