How Is Joint Child Custody Handled in Illinois Family Law Cases?
Addressing matters related to child custody is often one of the most difficult aspects of getting a divorce. Unmarried parents may also need to address this issue, and both parents may be looking to determine how they can share custody of their children. In Illinois, joint child custody is generally presumed to be in the child's best interests unless there is evidence showing that it would not be. However, understanding exactly what joint custody entails is not always easy, and parents will need to be aware of how legal and physical custody are addressed in Illinois law.
Understanding Joint Child Custody
When matters involving child custody are addressed in family courts, the decisions made will usually be separated into two distinct categories, commonly referred to as legal and physical custody. Legal custody, which Illinois law refers to as the "allocation of parental responsibilities," refers to decision-making power for things like education and medical care. Physical custody is known as "parenting time" in Illinois, and it includes any time that children spend in the care of a parent. Physical custody will address where children will primarily live and when they will stay in each parent's home.
In cases where parents have joint legal custody, each parent will have a say in making decisions about how their children will be raised. Depending on a family's unique circumstances, different areas of responsibility, such as decisions related to medical care or education, may be the primary or sole responsibility of one parent. However, regardless of how parental responsibilities are allocated, each parent will be able to have reasonable amounts of parenting time. A parent's rights to parenting time may only be restricted if there is compelling evidence showing that this is necessary to protect the children's best interests.
Most of the time, parents will be able to reach agreements on how matters related to joint custody will be handled, and they will create a parenting plan that fully details their decision-making responsibilities, the rules that will apply to parents, and the parenting time schedules that will be followed going forward. If parents cannot agree on some or all of these issues, a family court judge may review their case and make decisions about how to allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time. The judge will consider many factors when making a decision about child custody, including:
The desires of the child's parents
The desires of the child, if he or she is old enough to express a preference
The child's relationship with each parent and other important people in his or her life, such as siblings and grandparents
Each parent's ability to ensure that the child will have a stable home environment
Each parent's work schedule and ability to care for the child during those times
The distance between the homes of each parent
Any history of domestic violence or abuse by either parent
Any other issues that would affect the child's best interests
Contact Our Oakbrook Terrace Child Custody Attorneys
Joint child custody is a common arrangement in Illinois family law cases, but it can look different in different families. When addressing these matters in family court, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that your parental rights and the best interests of your children will be protected. If you need to determine how to handle joint child custody or other aspects of your divorce, please contact our DuPage County child custody lawyers at 630-909-9114 and set up a consultation.