PARENTING – Formerly CHILD CUSTODY

The commonly known words “custody” and “visitation” have been replaced with the terms “parental responsibility” and “allocation of parental responsibility,” respectively.  The goal behind these changes is to protect children from experiencing additional and unnecessary conflict between parents which often reveal themselves during the divorce process.  The legislative intent behind removing the words custody and visitation from divorce language it to expeditiously resolve issues involving children.
The court shall allocate decision-making responsibilities according to the child’s best interests.  The court shall allocate to one or both of the parents the significant decision-making responsibility for each significant issue affecting the child, including the following: education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities. Under the new Act, parental decision-making may be allocated between the two parents without regard to which parent has more parenting time.  However, the allocation of parenting time will still impact which parent is obligated to pay child support.
It is important that all parents who are filing for divorce are aware that, within 120 days after service or filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities, he or she will be required to file a proposed parenting plan.  The proposed parenting plan can be filed either jointly or separately, depending on the wishes of the parents.  The only exception to extending this 120-day time period will be for good cause shown.  If the parents fail to file a parenting plan, then the court must conduct an evidentiary hearing to allocate parental responsibilities.   The court may excuse the parents from filing a parenting plan if the parents are attending mediation for the purpose of formulating a parenting plan.
There is nothing more valuable to come out of a relationship than children. Custody disputes, whether as part of a divorce or a parentage action, can be overwhelming to both parents and children. As with any dispute, there are many options and alternatives available to you if you are faced with a contested custody case. At Dussias Skallas Wittenberg, our philosophy is that we will always consider the best interests of the children in helping you to decide the strategy best for you and your family. Our first approach is to try to resolve custody matters outside of contested litigation recognizing the destructive potential on families and children when custody is litigated through the courts. Custody litigation can be extremely costly and it can take a considerable amount of time to navigate through the court system.