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Illinois Supreme Court expands child custody mediation


Child custody decisions can become heated, especially when both parents want to spend as much time with their child as possible. These decisions can become even more complex if one parent wishes to move out-of-state with their child. However, a new rule promulgated by the Illinois Supreme Court will affect how these custody decisions are made.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently announced new rules to ensure that child custody proceedings are handled correctly. The new rules expand mediation programs that are a requirement for child custody and visitation cases. The amended rules now require mediation in cases in which a custodial parent is requesting to move a minor child to another state.

The Supreme Court committee on Child Custody Issues has been establishing rules since 2002 to ensure that child custody proceedings are handled promptly, competently and in the best interest of the child. In addition to the expansion of child custody mediation, the rules require that child custody proceedings be expedited and that continuances only be granted for good cause. In addition, judges are required to render a decision within 60 days of completion of the trial or hearing.

The rules have also been expanded to require courts to make a good faith effort to provide an interpreter when one party's primary language is something other than English. The rules also require courts to make a good faith effort to provide a pro bono attorney when needed.

Another section added to the rules requires every judicial circuit to file a quarterly report with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts. The report should indicate the number of custody and visitation cases that were referred to mediation. The report should also indicate the outcome of each referral to mediation, the number of cases referred for pro bono services and the parties' satisfaction with the process. The information in the report will be collected for statistical purposes. It will also be used in the evaluation of the mediation program as a whole, but the data will remain confidential.

Mediation is one way a satisfactory child custody decision can be reached. When both parties agree to the outcome of the mediation process, it causes less stress on the child during what is an emotionally trying time.

Source: Washington Times Reporter, "Illinois Supreme Court amends select child custody rules," July 2, 2013

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