How Illinois Fathers Can Prepare for Child Custody Hearings
By: M. Scott Gordon
For any parent, going through a child custody case can be emotionally draining and frustrating. Yet given the social norms and assumptions that exist about childrearing, many fathers feel anxieties when preparing for child custody hearings. It is important for fathers in Chicago to know Illinois no longer uses the term “child custody,” but instead uses the terms “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the changes to the law are designed to be more flexible for families and they can help fathers who want to be involved in making significant decisions about their child’s upbringing, in addition to spending time with their child and providing caretaking functions.
Even though Illinois laws have changed to reflect variations in family structures and situations, it is still important for fathers to prepare for child custody hearings. There are numerous steps and actions fathers can take. We have some advice below regarding preparing for your child custody hearing.
1. Work with an Experienced Chicago Child Custody Lawyer
When it comes to child custody or the allocation of parental responsibilities, you do not want to take a chance handling the case on your own. When it comes to child custody, it is more important than ever to hire an experienced family lawyer who can work with you to make the best case for sharing both significant decision-making responsibilities, as well as parenting time.
2. Prepare Your Home for Your Child
If you have been living separate and apart from the child’s other parent, you probably already have prepared your home for your child, making it another space in which your child feels at home with you. This means, if possible, having a separate bedroom for your child or children and ensuring the house has everything to allow you to meet all responsibilities associated with parenting time and providing caretaking functions.
3. Ensure That You Meet Your Child Support Obligations
Illinois law recently switched to a model of child support known as the “income shares” model. With the new model, both parents contribute to the child support obligation. It is extremely important to ensure you contribute your portion of the child support obligation as specified by the court. While the current child support obligation will only be temporary – until your divorce is finalized, you should make sure you abide by any current terms.
4. Create a Proposed Schedule
While your parenting time schedule will be developed either in conjunction with the child’s other parent in a “Parenting Plan” or will be determined in an allocation judgment issued by the court, it is a good idea to show you are thinking carefully about your obligations as a parent and have a schedule in mind that will allow you to share parenting time or, depending upon the circumstances, to have your child for more than 50 percent of the overnights during the year.
5. Do Your Best to Work with the Other Parent
While it may seem difficult or even impossible to work with your soon-to-be ex and the child’s other parent, most parents who are able to work collaboratively with their attorneys to develop a “Parenting Plan” ultimately feel in greater control of child custody issues. If you absolutely cannot come to an agreement with the other parent about the allocation of parental responsibilities, then the court will allocate parental responsibilities.
Contact a Child Custody Lawyer in Chicago
Do you have questions about preparing for your child custody hearing? An experienced Chicago child custody attorney can assist you. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates today for more information.