New Child Custody Laws in Illinois

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was significantly changed effective January 1, 2016.  One major change relates to the treatment of minor children arising from the marriage.   The terms “custody” and “visitation” will no longer be used.  Instead, the statute refers to “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.”

Under the new law, decision-making authority regarding major subjects such as education, health care, religion and extracurricular activities will not necessarily be granted to one parent or both parents.  Rather, a judge will determine which parent should be responsible for each subject.  For example, a judge may decide that the mother be responsible for making decisions on education and extracurricular activities, and that the father be responsible for making decisions with regards to healthcare.  Or, a judge may decide that both parents be responsible for the decisions in one, two, or all major subject areas.  The judge will decide separately for each area.  The assignment of parental responsibilities will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. 

If both parents agree on how to split and share the different responsibilities, they can enter into a written parenting agreement subject to approval by the court.  If the parents do not agree, the judge will examine the facts of the case and must reach a decision based upon the best interests of the child.  There are many factors the court must consider, including but not limited to:

  • The wishes of the child if they are mature enough to express a preference
  • The mental and physical abilities of both parents and the child
  • The ability of the parents to get along
  • Past conduct and history 

Under the new statute, the term “visitation time” has been be replaced by “parenting time.”  Since there will be no more “residential custody,” the way that parenting time schedules will be determined will be different than in the past.  The court must again look towards certain “best interests of the child” factors in reaching a decision on a parenting schedule.  The new law also provides that a parent who has not been granted significant decision making activities (under the assignment of “parental responsibilities”) will be entitled to a reasonable parenting time schedule with the child. 

Our attorneys are well versed in the new laws and highly experienced dealing with family law matters.  If you need legal representation with a Lake County, Illinois child custody or divorce matter, feel free to contact us to see if we might be of assistance.

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