Blended Family: Balancing Natural and Stepparents’ Visitation And Custody

custody, visitation, Illinois Family Lawyer Child custody and visitation plans can be some of the most challenging and potentially contentious aspects of a dissolution of marriage proceeding. Additionally, the composition of the modern, blended family can present additional challenges when there are stepparents involved in or impacted by custody agreements.

Visitation and Custody Agreements in Illinois for Natural Parents

In Illinois divorce cases involving children, it is typical that one parent is designated as the primary or residential parent of the child(ren). This is to ensure continuity for administration of a legal mailing address and school district qualifications.

The residential or custodial parent is most often the parent with whom the children spend the majority of their time. It is important for parents to understand that joint custody agreements do not automatically equate to an even split of the parenting time between both parents. The non-custodial parent will receive, unless there is a reason to deny the request, visitation rights to foster their relationship with the child(ren) and provide him or her with parenting time.

In shared custody agreements the children reside with each parent nearly half of the time while split custody agreements may be set up when there are multiple children who will be living with both parents, at different times.

In terms of the natural parents as a co-parenting entity, Illinois courts do not take a favorable view of a parent who, of their own accord, attempt to restrict the other parent’s time with the children. Without special circumstances that justify such restrictions, the court prefers a custody agreement that supports both parents’ access to parenting time with the children. In fact, beginning in 2016, the law regarding child custody arrangements will be changed to reflect a more direct allocation of parenting responsibilities with less emphasis on custodial and non-custodial designations.

Changing Needs When Families Are Blended

Some aspects of a divorce settlement, like child custody plans and arrangements, must be reevaluated periodically due to the ever-evolving nature of their circumstances. As families grow and change, so too do their needs and abilities to meet certain requirements and schedules. For example, consider the case of divorced co-parents where the mother of the children is the custodial parent and the father has a schedule of visitation with the children. If one of the co-parents is remarried, this could result in a need to modify the custody agreement in some regard. The addition of a stepparent does not negate any of a natural parent’s rights or responsibilities related to child custody and visitation. However, there could be logistical and scheduling issues that arise due to the addition of the new family member that necessitate a change of the agreement.

In all child custody and visitation matters heard before the court, it will always strive to  serve the best interests of the child or children involved. A skilled DuPage County family law attorney is a valuable resource for advising you on best practices in co-parenting during the divorce process and helping you achieve the child custody plan that you desire. Contact the Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C. to schedule your free consultation today.

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