Chicago Child Custody & Visitation Lawyer
Supporting the Best Interests of Children in the South Suburbs
The future of the children can be one of the most important and emotional issues in a divorce settlement. Parents want to be there for their children and know that they will be properly cared for. The state of Illinois strongly prefers that custody and visitation issues be worked out between spouses — so much so that mediation is required if it can’t be resolved through negotiation. But sometimes, going to litigation is necessary. A parent needs a strong lawyer in their corner to fight for their interests and the protection of their children.
NMS Family Law Firm serves Chicago’s south suburbs. Call (708) 742-7334 or contact us online to set up a consultation. Payment plans are available.
Types of Child Custody in an Illinois Divorce
Custody is a term that can be used in different ways. There is physical custody and legal custody, which can be handled with joint custody and sole custody.
Physical Custody & Legal Custody
Physical custody refers to where the children will live. Legal custody refers to the decision-making power in their lives.
A physical custody decision might involve whether the parents will split time equally with the kids — for example, the children stay at one parent’s house for two weeks, followed by two weeks with the next parent. This would be joint physical custody. The settlement might instead have the kids living primarily with one parent, while the other has visitation rights. This would be sole physical custody.
Legal custody may be more complicated. There are an array of important decisions that have to be made when raising children. Where will they go to school? If there’s a question about whether a serious medical procedure is needed, who makes that call? Are the children going to have a religious upbringing? If so, what kind?
Those are big-picture issues, but legal custody is also a factor in any number of day-to-day issues that arise in a child’s life. There’s a field trip at school and a permission slip needs to be signed. Do both parents have the authority to do that (joint legal custody) or is that responsibility restricted to a single parent (sole legal custody)?
All of these are decisions that parents have the right to make on behalf of their kids. The custody agreement must spell out who holds that authority.
Sole Custody, Joint Custody, & the Best Interests of the Child
The state of Illinois uses one overriding principle in all custody decisions, and it is the best interests of the child. Furthermore, if a case goes to litigation, a family law judge will start with the premise that the best interest of the child is served by having both parents equally involved in their life. If one parent contests that belief and wants sole custody in one or both areas, the burden of proof lies with that parent and their Chicago child custody and visitation attorney.
To illustrate the potential challenges, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario in which one parent will be keeping the family home, while the other will be moving. Both parents are upstanding, responsible people and both want to be in their children’s lives.
But if the children are continuing to go to school in their original district, a judge may conclude that their best interests are served by the parent who will still be living there having sole physical custody. The parent who is moving may get generous visitation terms, but not the joint physical custody they were looking for and might otherwise have gotten.
However, under this same scenario, a judge could also reasonably conclude that there is no reason the parents can’t still share joint legal custody. The other parent may be only a 15-minute drive away. A distance that seems like a lot when it comes to getting kids to school in the morning doesn’t look like very much when it comes to sufficient involvement for making important decisions. The parent who had to settle for visitation rights on physical custody might get an equal say in matters like religion, healthcare, education, and other important affairs in their children’s life.
The scenario above presumed both parents were responsible. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. There are parents who may be unfit to raise children for a wide range of reasons. A parent who believes that to be the case with their spouse should communicate with their lawyer, so steps can be taken to gather evidence and make the case to the judge. Or, if a parent believes they are falsely accused of being unfit, they need to know that their attorney will be in the trenches and ready to fight for their relationship with their children.
Attorney Nicole M. Scott knows that parents dealing with a divorce are going through a lot. They’re worried about their children and their future. NMS Family Law Firm brings an approach that is soft in compassion and empathy for our clients, but sharp in our knowledge of the law and vigorous in advocacy. Attorney Scott knows how to negotiate, mediate, and — when necessary — litigate. She’s who a parent wants in their corner when it’s time to fight for their children.
Call (708) 742-7334 or contact us online today.