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Strategic Divorce

When you think of the word “Custody” most people probably think about which spouse the children will live with. But custody involves much more than just where children live, how much time they spend at each parent’s house, or which parent gets the kids on which holidays. Custody also applies to all the major decisions regarding a child’s health, education, religion, and extracurricular activities. Parents who are getting divorced need to build a framework for how decisions will be made about their children after the divorce, from decisions as critical as what school they attend or what doctor they see, to decisions that are more day-to-day such as whether they join an after-school club or at what age they can start wearing makeup.

In Illinois, there are laws that dictate what factors are considered in determining custody. These factors include the care given by the primary parent, the child’s community, the child’s performance in school and at home, any mental health issues with either of the parents or with the child, and the working relationship between the parents. Custody statutes also consider any history of domestic violence. These are complex issues and there is no set formula that will determine how custody is decided. While the factors evaluated are the same, each case is unique, and the courts always try to determine what is in the best interests of the children.

Is There A Certain Age Where A Child Can Choose Which Parent He or She Wants to Live With?

A child does not typically get the opportunity to decide where he or she lives. The courts determine the outcome on behalf of a child’s best interest. Often if the court appoints a guardian ad litem (GAL), the child’s input is considered. The GAL will interview the child, parents, and teachers for input. Usually, older children have more input in that process and their input may be given more weight by a GAL, but the GAL will always consider all factors and may lessen the child’s input in certain cases, such as if abuse or manipulation is suspected.

Even if a GAL gives the child’s input a certain weight, a child is never allowed to decide whether he or she will live with a particular parent. It’s not in the best interest of a child to be placed in the middle of a custody battle between the parents. It would be difficult for a child to have to make that type of decision. Ultimately, the court decides what is in the child’s best interest.

How Is the Amount of Child Support Determined in Illinois?

The amount of child support that must be paid is based on both parents’ net income, the number of overnight stays the child has with the parent, and other expenses specific for the child. Other expenses include childcare, summer camps, school tuition or fees, extracurricular fees, activities, medical insurance premiums, and medical expenses not covered by insurance. A specific formula is used to calculate the schedule of expenses and the needs of the child, which determines the amount of monetary support the child needs. The income of the parents is then added into the formula to determine which parent pays child support and how much. In general, the formula is designed to ensure that each parent pays a portion of the child’s expenses that is proportionate to how much income the parent makes. A family law attorney will use a software program that helps figure out the calculations.

Your child support order may also allow you to receive (or require you to pay) a proportionate share of other expenses that are not included at the time the child support calculation is made. For instance, the child support order may state that in addition to the set child support amount, the paying parent should pay a set percentage of all medical bills that are not covered by insurance.

What If the Parents Are Not Married or Not Together?

In Illinois, it does not matter if the parents are not married or living together. Whether you are living together or apart, divorced, or were never married, the amount of child support is determined in the same manner.

For more information on Child Custody in An Illinois Divorce Case, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (847) 234-4445 for your free consultation today.

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