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New laws in Illinois could mean big changes for some families

A number of new laws went into effect in Illinois on Jan. 1 that relate to families and family law. One of our favorites is HB0129, the law allowing school boards all over the state to declare the first Monday of October "Take Your Parents to School Day." The objective is to foster greater parental involvement in the schools and, of course, in their children's education.

The event could pose a problem for divorced parents who are not on good terms. There are a number of ways to decide whether one or both parents will attend without losing sight of the best interest of the child. Take Your Parents to School Day is optional, though, so the issue may never come up.

A couple of new laws do require immediate attention.

The first applies to divorced parents awarded joint custody or visitation rights. The new law creates the "right of first refusal" regarding temporary child care in certain circumstances. The parents can negotiate the right as part of the custody agreement, or the court can include the right in any custody or visitation determination. At all times, the best interest of the child standard governs.

Say you are a divorced mother of two small children. You and your ex-husband have joint custody, alternating weekends with the kids. On one of your weekends, you have to go to a work function. You'd generally just ask your mom to come over and sit with the kids for the evening.

With the right of first refusal, your mom would not be your first call. First, you would call your ex-husband and ask if he would like to take care of the kids. If he says no, you can call your mom. This would be true even if you were remarried and your new husband would be at home; the other parent always has priority.

The most important exception to the rule is an emergency. If you are called to the hospital because your mother has had an accident, you are allowed to ask the neighbor to sit with the kids without first checking with your ex.

When the court grants the right of first refusal to parents, the judge will consider distance, travel time and other factors that may make it impractical for the parties to take advantage of the offer of additional parenting time.

We'll continue the discussion in our next post.

Sources: 

Elmhurst Patch, "More Than 200 New Laws Went Into Effect Wednesday," Karen Chadra, Jan. 2, 2014

Illinois General Assembly, House Bill 2992 as enrolled

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