Are you concerned about your current child custody agreement? Do you believe your child’s custodial parent has failed to provide for their basic needs or presents a danger to your child’s safety and wellbeing? If you have any concerns about your current custody agreement and believe you need to take legal action to secure greater custody rights in Springfield, IL, it’s vital to know your options, the potential grounds you could cite to obtain a modification to your custody agreement, and the value of legal representation as you navigate this process.
Child custody is a very contentious issue in Illinois and throughout the United States. Unfortunately, some parents attempt to weaponize their children against one another during their divorce proceedings, irreparably damaging their relationships with their kids. In other cases, parents do not know how to make sound arguments to establish their custody rights or do not obtain legal counsel to guide them through their proceedings more confidently. If you believe you need to return to court to fight for greater custody rights over your children, you should know your options and what to expect from the process.
Do I Need an Attorney?
The Illinois family court system has a legal duty to ensure that any ruling the court delivers suits the best interests of the child the ruling will affect. If you want to adjust your custody determination, you must be able to make a very convincing argument backed by solid evidence. It’s a very good idea to have a Springfield, IL family law attorney assist you with this process.
Your attorney can help you identify the challenges and opportunities your situation presents if you intend to pursue greater custody rights than what the court has already awarded to you. They will also help you handle all of the procedural issues your case entails so you can proceed as smoothly as possible through the proceedings you face.
One of the most commonly used methods for adjusting a child custody agreement is the post-judgment modification process. Family law is unique in that if you need to contest the terms of an existing family court order, you do not need to undergo a complex appeals process as you would in civil or criminal court. The modification process is more streamlined, consisting of the initial petition, a hearing, and a resolution from the court once a judge has heard arguments from the petitioner and the respondent.
If you wish to file a post-judgment modification to your child custody order, you need to prove that the current custody terms do not suit your child’s best interests. There are many potential grounds to cite in this situation, depending on your circumstances. For example, if your coparent recently developed a medical condition or a disability, you could cite this as a reason for the court to grant you greater custody rights due to their diminished capacity. If your ex has been abusing your children or neglecting their basic needs, you could also cite these issues to expand your parental rights and prevent them from harming your children any further. Your attorney can advise you concerning the best approach to your unique situation.
Proving Your Coparent’s Unfitness
Typically, if parents share custody of their children in any measure and one parent wants to obtain sole custody of their children, they must prove that the other parent is unfit for parental rights. This is a serious matter, and the family court judge overseeing the matter will want to see clear evidence that proves the other parent’s unfitness. Some examples of evidence that a parent in this situation may potentially cite include:
- Unsafe living conditions. If a custodial parent cannot provide their children with a safe place to live, they may lose custody. “Unsafe living conditions” does not only apply to physical living conditions, such as whether a home is sanitary or if the children have clean places to sleep. It can also pertain to the people the parent allows into the home, posing a danger to the children.
- Failure to provide for basic living needs. Parents must ensure their children have food, clothing, and shelter. If a custodial parent has failed to provide these necessities for any length of time, this could form the justification for the other parent to assume sole custody.
- Neglect. The willful failure to provide for a child’s basic living needs may not only lead to a termination of parental rights but also criminal prosecution under Illinois state laws.
- Drug abuse. If you have evidence that your child’s other parent has developed a substance abuse problem, this could be more than enough for you to receive sole custody, especially if the other parent has exposed the child to any drug-related activity.
- Child abuse of any kind. If a custodial parent has physically, sexually, or emotionally abused their child, this will likely lead to criminal prosecution as well as a loss of their custody rights.
- Failure to maintain employment. If your child’s other parent cannot hold a job and provide for your children’s basic living needs, this may be enough to convince a judge to grant you sole legal custody. However, unless the other parent has engaged in dangerous or willfully neglectful behavior, they will likely maintain some measure of visitation rights.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the things a parent could potentially cite to prove their coparent is unfit. However, in most cases, it is not only important to prove that the other parent is unfit but also that the petitioning parent can provide a more suitable environment and better parenting.
Start Building Your Case
If you believe you need to fight for greater custody rights in Springfield, IL, it’s vital to start working on your case immediately. Your Springfield, IL family law attorney can help you determine the best way to obtain the evidence you need. This may include testimony from your children, other family members, and other eyewitnesses, physical evidence, and official records such as police reports that pertain to the situation in question.
Your attorney can help you determine the best approach to your unique case. Fighting for sole custody is very difficult, but if you simply want greater custody rights than what your original child custody order allows, this is a more straightforward process. Your attorney can help you prepare for the difficult legal proceedings you face, so be sure to speak with an experienced Springfield, IL family law attorney as soon as possible about your concerns if you intend to fight for greater custody rights over your child.