Resolving Child Custody Matters in Chicago

Planning for your children after divorce or separation

Both parents face challenges after divorce or separation. While both may truly want what is best for their children, they may have difficulty agreeing on what that is. Child custody is one of the most sensitive and heartrending issues that separating couples in Chicago face - whether married or unmarried. At Downs Law Offices, our attorneys listen closely to your concerns during every phase of the process. We help you work with the other parent and his or her child custody lawyer to reach a workable custody arrangement that is in the best interests of your children. Nevertheless, we know that sometimes - especially in cases where abuse or neglect is an issue - a negotiated settlement may not be possible or appropriate. In such a situation, our attorneys are ready to go to court and fight for what is best for your children.

Types of child custody

While the details are usually tailored to the particular parents and children, child custody arrangements usually fall into two broad categories:

  • Joint custody - Under a joint custody arrangement, the parents share joint decision-making authority with respect to the children. Parents also share legal custody in that they are both entitled to participate in making major decisions concerning the children. Joint custody is the most common type of custody arrangement because the law presumes that it is in a child’s best interest to have time with both parents, absent concerns such as child or spousal abuse.
  • Sole custody - In sole custody arrangements, one parent is designated the decision-maker. In both situations, one parent is named the primary custodial parent, and the other parent is entitled to reasonable visitation. A court will usually order sole custody only if the other parent has no interest in joint custody or has little or no preexisting relationship with the child, or there is reason to believe that a parent has been abusive or is otherwise unable to provide a suitable living environment. Noncustodial parents must usually pay child support to the custodial parent.

How is custody determined?

Child custody may be legally established as part of a divorce or, in the case of unmarried parents, through a separate court proceeding. In the vast majority of cases, the parents are able to reach an agreement with the help of their custody attorneys. Once the court approves their agreement, it carries the force of law and is enforceable by contempt.

If the parents cannot agree, the court must create a custody arrangement for them. In doing so, the court’s primary concern is the best interest of the child rather than what is fair to the parents. Therefore, the court will look at each parent’s age and health, income, employment status and living situation to determine whether one parent is better able than the other to provide a beneficial living environment. Child custody arrangements are intended to be stable, although either party can request a modification upon a showing of a material and substantial change in circumstances, such as one of the parents suffering an illness or injury, a change in employment status or a change in living situation. A parent with joint or sole custody who wishes to relocate out of the state or a significant distance away within the state must either obtain the other parent’s consent or ask the court for approval.

At Downs Law Offices, we help you make the right decisions for your children following divorce or separation. While we are dedicated to helping parents in Chicago collaborate for the benefit of their children. We are also prepared to go to court when such collaboration is not possible.

Practical counsel and sensitivity to your needs

Call Downs Law Offices today at 312-781-1963 or contact us online to schedule a consultation about your child custody issues. Centrally located in the Loop, our office offers onsite parking and easy accessibility by public transit.