child custody

Jul 14

Dealing with Your Son or Daughter’s Divorce: Part II – When a Grandchild is Involved

grandparent visitation in illinoisIn Part I of this series, we discussed general issues that may arise for parents learning to cope with the divorce of their adult son or daughter. We recognize planning a divorce when minor children are involved can be more complicated for all parties. In Part II, we discuss specific concerns that grandparents may face when coping with a son or daughter’s divorce.

Discuss Expectations for Holidays and Birthdays

If you want to plan ahead to include your child and grandchild for family gatherings for the holidays, try to make your holiday celebration coincide with your child’s parenting time. Ask your son or daughter in advance when he or she expects to be getting the child for the holidays. Be aware that depending upon the child custody agreement, you may need to schedule holiday celebrations a few days or even weeks in advance.

Request Visitation in Court

Obtaining court-ordered grandparent visitation, is possible, but still not especially common in Illinois. Under the current law, a grandparent may request legal visitation rights in the case of a pending divorce if one parent unreasonably denied visitation and the other parent does not object to the visitation request. Grandparents may have a heightened chance of being awarded court-ordered visitation if they have a history of acting as the primary guardian for the grandchild, if they have a particularly close relationship with the grandchild, or if one of the grandchild’s parents has been missing from the child’s life for a variety of reasons.

Even if a grandparent is allowed to petition for visitation, there is no guarantee visitation will be awarded. An Illinois family law court will heavily weigh one parent’s refusal to grant visitation. The policy behind this is not to interfere with a parent’s rights to govern her child’s upbringing as she sees fit. As such, it may be in the grandparent’s best interest to try to negotiate peacefully with both parents for visitation.

Talk to Your Son or Daughter and/or his/her Former Spouse About Obtaining Informal Visitation

If you do not qualify for court-ordered visitation, you may be able to work out a visitation plan with your child or child’s former spouse. Being a newly single parent may be stressful for your son or daughter or for their former spouse. If you live nearby, you can utilize the new change of schedules as an opportunity to spend more time with your grandchild and an opportunity to make peace with or show support for the divorcing spouses.

Even if the divorcing parents seem to have everything under control, they may still have to juggle childcare during divorce proceedings, work obligations or unplanned events. Both former spouses may relish an invitation for babysitting services during divorce-related events or your invitation to act as an emergency caregiver if needed. Letting your grandchild’s parents know you are there for them, and the child in an emergency can be a way to ease tension and help everyone focus on what is most important—the child’s best interest.

At Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. we try to understand the individual priorities and motivations of each of our family law clients and tailor our legal services to fit their individual needs. For more information about the individualized family law services that our firm provides, contact our DuPage County visitation lawyers today at (630) 472-9700.

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Jul 14

Protecting Sibling Relationships After Divorce

children siblings after divorceOften when we think about child custody agreements after divorce, we focus on what the court’s view will be of each parent’s relationship with the child. Sometimes the parents’ relationships with one another when family law judges try to determine whether shared physical custody will be appropriate. How often though do we think about protecting the relationship of siblings during a divorce process?

In a recent article, a Michigan law professor argued that most states do not do enough to protect the relationships of siblings during divorce and child custody battles. She emphasized the importance of sibling relationships saying:

“The tie between siblings is often the longest lasting relationship that a person ever experiences. Social science research makes clear that strong bonds between brothers and sisters can develop very early in childhood. Many children spend more time with their siblings than with anyone else, and siblings who grow up together accumulate a store of shared memories that can shape each sibling for life.”

This author then highlighted that the sibling relationship becomes even stronger for some siblings when they must rely on one another for emotional support during periods in which parents are absent, warring or contemplating a divorce. How do Illinois child custody laws treat sibling relationships?

Illinois Child Custody Law Regarding Siblings

In Illinois, parents may receive joint or sole custody of the children. Of the types of joint custody arrangements available, shared custody is the most common. In most shared custody arrangements, both parents share equal parental rights and obligations regarding child care and making important legal decisions for the child. Also, in many shared custody arrangements, children live at both parental residences and siblings transfer together between parental households. However, it is also possible for a court to award what is sometimes called “split” child custody. In a split custody arrangement, one parent takes primary physical custody of one child or children, and the other parent takes physical custody of the remaining child(ren).

Under Illinois law, child custody arrangements are to be determined by looking at the best interests of the child. The Illinois Dissolution of Marriage Statute (750 ILCS 5/602) defines the best interest of the child by expressly requiring the court to consider “the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parent or parents, his siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.”

Thus, perhaps unlike the some of the states mentioned in the article above, Illinois law expressly requires courts to take sibling relationships into account. In practice, split custody arrangements in which siblings live apart are not common in Illinois and are usually only assigned if parents can make a convincing case for why it is in the child’s best interest to be separated from siblings.

Attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. advocate for parents seeking both traditional and nontraditional child custody arrangements. If you would like to get more information on how our law firm can help you through child custody and visitation proceedings, contact our DuPage County child custody lawyers at (630) 472-9700 to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys in Illinois.

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Jun 14

Child’s Legal Representatives in Illinois Family Court

illinois child custody attorneyMany divorcing parents understandably feel concerned about the effect the legal divorce proceedings and the surrounding circumstances will have on the children. One way children could become directly involved in a divorce proceeding is if mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods fail and the court appoints a person to represent the child’s (or children’s) interests in child custody proceedings. For any parent involved in a divorce litigation in which a child’s legal representative has been appointed, it may be helpful to understand the role these types of child advocates may play in the proceedings.

Three Types of Child Legal Representatives in Illinois

In Illinois, a child’s interests could be represented in divorce proceedings by a professional in one of three roles: Guardian ad Litem (GAL), an attorney for the child, or a child’s representative.  According to Section 506 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, any party to a divorce proceeding or the family law judge may appoint an attorney acting in any of the three capacities mentioned above to represent the bests interests of the child. Though similar in many ways, there are significant differences to each of the three possible roles.

Guardian Ad Litem: a Guardian ad Litem is an attorney or a layperson who has been appointed by a court to represent the legal interests of the child. Sometimes a non-attorney relative who knows the child well is appointed. Other times, such as when a non-biased relative is not available, an attorney who is trained in acting as a GAL is appointed to represent the child or children’s best interests.

Once a GAL is appointed, she meets, observes and interviews the child or children she represents and reviews facts of the case. Then the GAL composes a written report about which actions would be in the best interests of the child, and presents her findings to the court and both parties. During divorce litigation hearings, either party may call the GAL as a witness for the purpose of cross examining the GAL’s report.

Child’s Attorney: a traditional attorney may be appointed to provide independent legal counsel to the child. Just as with adult clients, this attorney is bound by duties of confidentiality, loyalty and competent representation towards her client, the child. An attorney may be best used to represent an older child who is able to articulate her preferences.

Child Representative: a child representative is also an attorney for the child but acts primarily to facilitate dispute resolution between the spouses. The child representative investigates facts of the case, meets with parents and encourages divorce settlement between the parties through alternative forms of dispute resolution. Unlike a GAL, the child representative cannot be called as a witness during divorce litigation hearings.

Payment to each of these professionals is ordered at the family law judge’s discretion. The payment may be split between parents, ordered from the divorcing couple’s marital estate or paid out of the child’s personal estate, if applicable. If the parties cannot afford to pay, the county court that has jurisdiction over the matter may agree to fund all or a portion of the child’s attorney’s fees.

Our legal team at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. is accustomed to working with GALs and children’s attorneys or representatives during divorce proceedings in northern Illinois.  If you are seeking guidance from experienced Illinois divorce and family law attorneys, we encourage you to call our office at (630) 472-9700 to begin discussions about your case.

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