Child custody cases are some of the most emotionally stressful legal matters to proceed through the Bloomington, IL, family court system. If you are preparing to divorce your spouse and the two of you have children together, or if you are an unmarried parent who needs a legally enforceable child custody order, it’s vital to prepare for the challenges your case is likely to present.

The following are some of the most common questions parents have about the child custody determination process in Bloomington, IL. Review these questions and answers to learn more about some of the most important legal concepts likely to arise in a child custody dispute.

Q: Can Child Custody Be Resolved Privately?

A: It’s possible to resolve many civil cases and family law disputes through private alternative dispute resolution, but this does not apply to child custody. Illinois has a legal duty to ensure any ruling delivered by the Bloomington, IL, family court suits the best interests of the children affected by the ruling. While you may be able to settle many aspects of a divorce and some other family law matters through private alternative dispute resolution, this does not apply to custody. A judge must review the details of your situation and determine the best custody arrangements for your child, regardless of whether you are involved in an expansive divorce case or a standalone child custody dispute.

Q: How Does a Judge Decide Custody?

A: Family court judges refer to many factors in deciding how to arrange custody rights over a child, including:

  • Each parent’s overall availability to handle their child’s day-to-day needs.
  • Each parent’s income and work schedule.
  • The unique needs of the child.
  • Any criminal history of either parent. Parents who have past convictions for drug offenses, violent crimes, domestic abuse, and crimes involving minor victims are unlikely to qualify for custody.
  • The child’s preferences, if they are old enough to convey them.

Many other possible factors can come into play in a child custody dispute. Your attorney can assist you in gathering whatever evidence and documentation you may need to make a strong custody case.

Q: How Long Do Child Custody Cases Usually Take to Complete?

A: The timetable for a child custody dispute can fluctuate based on several factors. First, if a child custody dispute is part of a more significant divorce case, it will inherently take longer to resolve than a standalone child custody case. Depending on how willing the parents are to negotiate, it’s possible to resolve some custody cases relatively quickly. In contrast, more complex and contentious cases can potentially carry on for several months, even more than a year in some cases.

Q: What Happens If a Parent Violates a Custody Order?

A: Some unpredictable issues may prevent a parent from adhering to a custody order 100% of the time. However, if an issue beyond a parent’s control presents a temporary problem, such as being unable to pick a child up for scheduled visitation time, one-off situations like this can typically be resolved privately between the parents. However, if a parent displays a pattern of violations of their custody order or if they engage in any severe violation of the custody order, this issue requires the court’s attention. Intentional, repeated, or severe violations of a custody order can lead to contempt proceedings against the parent in violation. In addition, it’s possible for the parent in violation to face fines, incarceration, or even loss of custody rights, depending on the scope of their actions.

Q: Is It Possible to Renegotiate Child Custody?

A: Family law is a unique area of civil law for many reasons, especially the modification system. Unlike other cases that would require appealing and seeking to overturn a court’s prior ruling, modification allows for the revision of standing family court orders in light of recent events. For example, if you need a good change to your custody order or believe a change to your custody terms would better suit your child’s needs, you can file a petition for modification with the Bloomington, IL, family court. A hearing will be scheduled, and you will have the opportunity to make your case for modification in front of a judge. If the judge grants your request for modification, it’s possible to have the requested change implemented immediately.

Q: Can a Parent Give Up Their Custody Rights?

A: It is possible for a parent to voluntarily terminate their parental rights, granting sole legal and physical custody to the child’s other parent. However, doing so would not terminate the child support obligation. The parent who relinquished their parental rights would still be responsible for paying child support unless a stepparent adopts the child. It is also possible for a parent to involuntarily lose their custody rights if they commit certain crimes, harm their child, or otherwise prove to the Bloomington, IL, family court that they are an unfit parent who poses a potential danger to the child.

Q: Do I Need a Lawyer for a Custody Dispute?

A: Child custody cases are inherently difficult legal situations that impose significant emotional stress on the parents involved. It can be very challenging for any parent to maintain objectivity in this type of case. Hiring an experienced attorney can help you approach your custody case with peace of mind, and you will have accessible support and guidance during the most challenging phases of your case. While it is technically possible to handle a custody dispute without legal representation, this is not recommended.

Any family law matter is likely to pose severe emotional stress on the parties involved. It can be very difficult for anyone to make practical, forward-thinking decisions in the face of unprecedented emotional distress. However, if you are preparing for a custody case in Bloomington, IL, the right attorney can assist you in making the most robust possible case for custody and provide support when you need it the most. Contact an experienced Bloomington, IL, child custody lawyer to learn more about the benefits of legal representation for your case.