Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody

Serving Waukegan, Libertyville, Lake County, Gurnee & nearby areas of Illinois

To many divorcing couples, the most important issue to be resolved through the courts is custody of their children.  Illinois law recognizes two basic forms of child custody: joint custody and sole custody.  Joint custody is most common and requires the parents to consult and try to reach consensus on all major decisions affecting the lives of their children: education, medical care, religion, etc.  Sole custody eliminates or severely restricts the rights of one of the parents to be part of the decision making process. 

Successful joint custody is not easy. It takes dedication and a great deal of compromise. As children grow, their needs change and more decisions have to be made.  A parenting agreement made at the time of the divorce has to be reviewed regularly.  Changes may require additional legal proceedings.  At its best, joint custody allows for the maximum involvement of both parents in the lives of their children.  At its worst, joint custody can serve as a source of ongoing disagreement between the parties and misuse of the children as pawns in the parents’ battle.   


Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal parenting time.  One parent often has the children at their residence much more frequently than the other parent.  Decisions by one parent to relocate, possibly due to a job change, can have a dramatic effect on a joint custody arrangement. 


A court will award joint custody only when such an arrangement serves the best interest of the child. When the parties are in agreement about joint custody, they will enter into a Joint Parenting Agreement.  One parent will be designated as the "residential" parent with whom the child resides. Child support is typically paid to the residential parent.  Residential status does not confer additional rights to that parent.  It simply indicates with whom the child resides after the divorce.


Sole custody is not as common as joint custody but will be awarded when a court determines sole custody to be in the best interest of the children.  The identity of a residential parent in a sole custody situation is obvious.  A non-custodial parent can still be ordered to pay child support even if they have little or no contact with their children after the divorce.


A custody determination by a court can be one of the most important things that will happen in your life.  There are no simple rules for determining residence of the children, when joint or sole custody is best and the extent of parenting that each party will be allowed.  You should always have legal representation in a custody battle.  Feel free to contact us to see how we can help you.