If you have been divorced or separated from your child’s other parent for any real length of time, you are more than likely subject to a child custody agreement. You may share legal custody of your child through a joint custody arrangement, the details of which may be outlined in your joint parenting agreement. Alternatively, you may be the custodial or non-custodial parent in a sole custody situation, in which only one parent is granted primary legal authority over the child’s upbringing.
As time goes on and your family’s resources and needs change, the law permits you to seek a modification of your custody order so that you and the other parent can continue to provide for your child’s best interests. In the past, many such modifications were relatively minor, addressing concerns such as schooling, medical care or insurance, and each parent’s time with the child. Transforming an order from sole to joint custody or vice versa was a major undertaking, and one typically reserved for cases with the most significant changes in circumstances.
Changes for 2016
With the recently-enacted changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act taking effect this month, custody orders will be very different going forward, as previous post discussed in detail. The new law, however, will also have a dramatic impact on modifications of existing custody orders, as the modified arrangements will need to reflect the state’s updated approach to child custody.
If your family has experienced a significant change in circumstances and you petition the court for an order of modification, it is important to understand that your new order will be very different than the one currently in place. Whether you have sole custody, share joint custody, or you are the non-custodial parent now, your modified order will completely eliminate these distinctions. Instead, you and the other parent will be expected to cooperate in raising your child by proposing a parenting plan that outlines each of your respective parenting responsibilities.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
One of you will probably be granted a majority of the parenting time with the child for the purposes of school enrollment and primary day-to-day responsibilities. Beyond that, all of the significant decision-making responsibilities are to be divided between you and the other parent, with the child’s best interest remaining the top priority. Neither will be considered the custodial parent nor the non-custodial parent, and, absent serious danger to the child, you each will be entitled to parenting time—formerly known as visitation—with your son or daughter.
The changes to the law were based on the principle of reducing contentiousness and disputes between parents regarding their children. By refocusing the parents’ efforts on the child rather than on a parent's perceived status and title, the state hopes to increase cooperation and allow the child to benefit more.
If you have questions about the new law and how it may affect your existing custody order, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Our knowledgeable team will take the time to meet with you and explain your options under the law. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free, confidential consultation today.