Child Custody

How Is “Child Custody” Determined in Illinois?

Illinois has done away with the arcane term of “child custody” in relation to care of children by parents in divorce or paternity cases. Since 2016, Illinois law terminology regarding “child custody” was eliminated and replaced with “parental responsibilities”. Likewise, the term, “visitation” became “parenting time”.

Parents should understand that, as a starting point, there is a presumption under Illinois law that both parents are “fit” to share in responsibility for significant parenting decisions, as well as to share parenting time. This is, in part, based on research demonstrating that it is in the best interests of children when parents are allocated shared decision-making and substantial parenting time with their children. Of course, there can be situations where these may not be in the best interests of the children.

When parents disagree about these presumptions, and cannot agree upon a parenting plan, a judge will decide how parental responsibilities and parenting time are to be allocated based on the best interests of the child(ren). Often times, when a parent, or both, alleges that the other parent is not a fit parent, the issues will take months or years to be resolved, resulting in significant expense of money, time and mental energy. Parents are at war and their children are harmed in the process.

How Parenting Time and Decision-Making is Allocated in Mediation or a Collaborative Divorce

Both Mediation and Collaborative Divorce focus on helping parents to create their own parenting plan. Parents should discuss how they have shared responsibilities for their children in the past, as well as how things may need to change as they transition from one home to two.

In the Mediation or Collaborative Divorce processes, parents can be educated on how to navigate their shared parental responsibilities as well as how to make decisions about how to create a shared parenting schedule that puts the needs of the children at the forefront. It is important for the parents to come to the table and to talk about how they can best care for the children on a daily basis and make decisions concerning them together moving forward.

Rather than expending funds on litigating, parents can choose to work with a child specialist who will help educate them about the impact the divorce has on the children and how that impact can be lessened. They learn how to create the best possible family experience for the children even though the parents will no longer be a couple, nor living together. They are provided support to learn to work together as co-parents for the benefit of their children so that they can provide a healthy family system moving forward.

It is important for parents to convey to the children that they are all still family. This can be difficult when parents divorce and the children must adjust to a new home, possibly a new school, and other potential disruptions to their usual routine.

Children need to know where each parent will be living, how they will communicate with each parent, and how the change in living situation will impact them. The focus should always be on the best interests of the children.

Finally, although the term “custody” is no longer used in Illinois, the court may designate one parent as “custodian” for purposes of state and federal statutes that require such a designation, however the designation does not impact the rights and responsibilities set out in the parenting plan.

Bruckner Hernandez Legal Solutions Can Help

At Bruckner Hernandez Legal Solutions, we know that when you have children together, you are family forever, and we prioritize children in all facets of what we do. For more information about how parental responsibilities and parenting time are allocated, or answers to any divorce related question, no matter where you are in your divorce process, contact us for a free consultation. We will listen and let you know how we can help.