How Child Custody Laws Work in Illinois

In Illinois, what used to be called child custody is now called parenting responsibilities. The state made this change in 2016 to better reflect that what is in the best interests of the child in allocating parenting responsibilities, not necessarily awarding one parent custody and one parent visitation hours.

Custody issues may be arranged one of two ways:

  • In a parenting plan, also called a joint parenting agreement. This arrangement is usually preferable as it involves the parents working out the terms of parenting responsibilities with the help of a mediator or their lawyers.
  • As part of an allocation judgment, which is ordered by the court when the parents are unable or unwilling to agree to parenting terms.

The allocation judgment is decided based on many factors, with the ultimate guiding factor being what is in the best interest of the child. That may involve consideration of where the child goes to school, which parent has traditionally been the primary caretaker, and the child’s preferences. These judgments are typically decided after a trial, and may include witnesses and expert testimony. These decisions are gender neutral, so a mother does not have a presumption of custody.

Parenting responsibilities in Illinois designate each parent’s time with the child, as well as each parent’s share of decision-making responsibilities, which fall into 4 categories:

  • Education
  • Religion
  • Healthcare
  • Extra-curricular and after-school activities

Decision-making responsibilities are determined in a parenting plan or allocation judgment. They do not have to be equally split among the parents. In fact, one parent may be allocated decision-making in all 4 categories. Most often, these decisions are divided between the parents based on what is best for the child.

As for time spent with the child, many factors are considered, including how much time is spent with the child currently. Another factor is where the child goes to school. Sometimes the court seeks to split time evenly or otherwise fairly between parents, but not always.

If you need help with a child custody matter, feel free to contact us at (847) 599-9101.

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