The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and, unfortunately, millions of children may have parents that are in jail or prison at some time in their childhood. Because there are potentially negative consequences for a child of an incarcerated parent, considering a child’s best interest with regard to child custody and visitation is key.
Modifications to Parenting Time and Responsibility Allocation Agreements
When a parent of a child is incarcerated, many different scenarios can play out. If the incarcerated parent is the primary custodial parent (allocated parenting time and responsibility) then the most immediate issue is to determine who will take care of the child in the parent’s absence. If the child’s other parent is involved in caring for the child, they will most likely be able to assume the primary parenting role, but in cases where no other parent is involved a relative or guardian may be the only option. Any changes in custody arrangements may require modifying the existing parenting time and responsibility allocation agreement.
To make a determination regarding child custody, the court may enlist the help of a Guardian Ad Litem, child representative, or an attorney for the child, who can all make recommendations to the court. GALs and child representatives will advocate for the child’s best interests after meeting with the child and other parties involved in the case, while the child’s attorney will advocate for what the child wants. Of course, many families of someone who is incarcerated who is a parent want to keep the bonds between family members strong, but struggle with whether visiting an incarcerated parent is in the child’s best interests and, if so, how to manage it to benefit the child. Certainly there are times when a child cannot visit an incarcerated parent simply because the distance is too great, but other times the court may again rely on recommendations from the GAL, child representative, or child’s attorney, working in concert with other parties to decide what arrangements are in the child’s best interests.
Child Support When a Parent is Incarcerated
Just because a parent is incarcerated, they are not relieved of their child support obligation. The obligation will continue to accrue with interest and the parent will be required to resume payments, including arrears, upon release. This can leave a child at a disadvantage in the meantime, but there are a number of programs that can help children when their parent is incarcerated. When the incarcerated parent is released, there are also programs that can help families transition to a new normal and other organizations that can offer ongoing support to families as they move forward.
When You Have Questions About Child Custody When a Parent is Facing Incarceration
Contact Experienced Illinois Family Law Attorneys Answers
If you are facing the prospect of a family member being incarcerated and there are children involved, it is helpful to discuss your concerns with an experienced family law attorney. The Libertyville Illinois child custody attorneys of Schlesinger & Strauss LLC understand the challenges families face when children are subject to extraordinary circumstances, including a parent’s incarceration. Contact our offices today at 847-680-4970.