One the most litigated issue in a divorce is child custody. Custody disputes are often lengthy, costly and emotionally difficult. As such, every Illinois county has established an educational program which must be attended by both parents. The educational program addresses the subjects of parenting time, custody, co-parenting, communicating and the impact of these issues on children. The educational program must be completed as soon as possible.
In ascertaining what will happen with custody and visitation, the court will ascertain what is in the best interest of the children. See 750 ILCS 602. The best interest standard requires the courts to consider many factors such as the health of the parents, the physical safety and welfare of the child, the development of the child, the child’s background and ties, the child’s sense of adjustments, the least disruptive placement, and the child’s wishes and long-term goals.
The court also requires both parents attempt to mediate their custody dispute with a court approved mediator in an attempt to amicably resolve their differences with respect to their children. Mediation is an informal and non-adversarial process of discussing your parenting differences with your spouse with a court approved mediator. The role of the mediator is to assist the parties in identifying issues, explaining settlement alternatives, problem solving and reaching agreements. Parties are required to mediate in good faith; however, there is no requirement that the parties reach an agreement. Mediation is often useful in solving custody disputes and is substantially less costly than litigation.
In the event a settlement agreement is not reached after mediation, the court may appoint an evaluator or a Guardian Ad Litem to assess what is in the best interest of the minor children. Custody evaluations are typically performed by a professional counselor who will conduct a serious of interviews and tests in order to ascertain what is in the best interest of the children. The evaluation process may consist of up to 30 hours in length and the parties will be required to pay a retainer, as ordered by the court. The hourly rate of the evaluator is set by the court and the cost of the evaluation is usually in excess of $8,000.00 which does not include the time expended for testifying in court as a witness.
A parent not granted custody of a child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds that visitation would endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health. See 750 ILCS 5/607.Illinois courts rarely deny visitation rights to a parent since it has been determined that it is harmful to a child not to have contact or access with both parents.
Casey Nelson LLP's divorce and child custody attorneys work with our clients to understand Illinois child custody laws and to advocate for the interests of you and your children. Based in Wheaton, we work with clients in DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, and throughout Chicago's western suburbs. Contact us for a complimentary initial consultation — call 630-480-4280, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete our online information form.
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