The concept of “divorce” is much deeper than simply becoming “unmarried” from your significant other. Unfortunately, “divorce” comes with a lifestyle change, displacement and discomfort as well as dividing a family. The process typically breaks itself in two: 1) division of assets/support components and 2) the sharing of custody and/or parenting time between parents with children to the marriage.
In an instance where parents cannot agree as to the best interests of their children relative to custody and sharing parenting time, Courts often first appoint an attorney to act in some capacity on behalf of the minor child(ren) (a complicated concept in and of itself – to talk about another day). If they still cannot reach an agreement through the assistance of this individual, either party may ask the court to appoint a professional pursuant to Section 604 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to conduct an investigation to determine the best interests of the children, and submit a recommendation as to custody arrangements, a parenting time schedule and the like. These professionals are typically psychologists or psychiatrists.
604 investigations typically take the form of a variety of interviews – interviews with the parents individually, with either parent and the child(ren) and with collateral contacts. Often times, there is some aspect of psychological testing as well. Upon completion of the investigation, the 604 renders a written report with findings of fact which he/she relied upon and recommendations as to what custodial arrangements and parenting schedule is in the best interests of the child(ren).
More often than not, the 604’s recommendation is weighted heavily by a Judge in considering these concepts; however, a Judge is not required to accept the recommendation of the 604. Further, the right to the appointment of such professional is discretionary with the Judge.
Recently, a Judge addressed our group as follows: “you can’t get two yolks from one egg.” In a nutshell (pun intended), this is the divorce process – the now ‘scrambled’ family will need to make changes to their lifestyles, routines, spending habits, etc. Certainly, when dealing with children, the transition is very difficult and the 604 process is hopefully one of last resort, but with open communication and hard work, each will find their ‘sunnyside’ once again!
This post was written by Jordan D. Rosenberg, Family Law Associate