Many parents who are separated, never married or divorced are familiar with the term child custody. However, since 2016, the term child custody is no longer used in Illinois. Instead, a court now makes decisions based on “allocation of parental responsibilities.” One or both parents are chosen to be responsible for a child’s education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities. The terms sole custody or joint custody are no longer used.
The concept of “decision-making responsibilities” replaces the concept of legal custody and allocates the right to make decisions in each of the four different areas to the parents. A parent may be entitled to make decisions in all four areas of the child’s life, or the court may determine that each parent is responsible for different areas.
Determination of decision-making responsibilities is to be based on the best interests of the child and the court is required to consider relevant factors, including those outlined by the statute:
- The wishes of the child;
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- The ability of the parents to cooperate;
- Any prior agreement or conduct between the parents with regard to decision-making;
- The parents’ wishes;
- The child’s needs;
- The distance between the parents’ homes;
- The ability of each parent to support the child’s continued close relationship with the other parent;
- Physical violence against the child;
- Abuse in the home;
- Whether or not one parent is a sex offender; and
- Any other relevant factor.
Similarly, the concept of parenting time replaces the concept of physical custody or visitation. In order to make a determination with regard to parenting time, the court is tasked with considering the child’s best interests; however, the list of factors for the court to consider is slightly different. In addition to the factors used when allocating decision-making responsibility, the court must consider:
- The amount of time each parent has spent taking care of the child during the previous two years;
- The interaction and relationship of the child with his or her parents or siblings or any other person who may affect the child’s best interests; and
- Whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate.