Parental responsibilities—formerly known as custody—consists of two parts: (1) a parenting schedule, and (2) an allocation of decision-making responsibilities in major areas of the child’s life (for example, education and medical care). All child-related issues are based on their “best interests,” a necessarily vague concept that will vary in every individual case.
The Illinois statute promotes the maximum involvement of each parent in the lives of their children, shaped by each family’s situation. Scheduling is based on a number of considerations, including a child’s age, the availability of each parent, the schedules of everyone involved, and the level of involvement of each parent in a child’s life. Parents should always strive to do what is best for the child, and not focus on their own “rights” as father or mother.
Child support is determined by a formula utilizing both parents’ incomes, and takes into account the parenting schedule. Some attorneys counsel their clients to demand more parenting time just to reduce their child support. David does not. When the parents’ income exceeds a certain level, or when there is reason to deviate from the standard child support calculation, support is based on a number of considerations. The guiding star in all of this is the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved.
When parties cannot agree about parental responsibility issues, the court will usually appoint someone to protect the child’s interests and report to the court, usually a Guardian Ad Litem, or Child’s Representative. The court can also appoint a mental health official to conduct an evaluation of the parties and the situation, and issue a report. Under these circumstances the parties are best served by jointly selecting the appointment. David declines to take any action he believes is contrary to a child’s welfare, even if it is legal to do so. This has occasionally cost him a client, but he sleeps well.