How is Child Custody Decided in Illinois?

How is Child Custody Decided in Illinois?

By: Gordon & Perlut, LLC

Whether you are just beginning the process of filing for a divorce with minor children from your marriage, or you are planning a separation from a partner with whom you share at least one minor child, you are very likely wondering: How is child custody decided in the Chicago area?

There are many things about the child custody process that every parent should know. At the same time, every case has its own set of facts and intricacies, so it is essential to work with a Chicago child custody attorney who can analyze the specific circumstances of your case and help to advocate for your rights and your child’s rights in the courtroom. In the meantime, we want to provide you with some basic knowledge about how child custody gets decided in the Chicago area. The following are some key pieces of information to remember.

Child Custody is Known as Parental Responsibilities

The first thing to know about how child custody gets decided in an Illinois court is that, technically, “child custody” is not decided. Instead, courts allocate “parental responsibilities.” The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the law that governs most matters in the Chicago area pertaining to child custody, no longer uses the terms “child custody,” or “physical custody,” or “legal custody.” Instead, those terms have been replaced with “parental responsibilities,” and “significant decision-making responsibilities,” and “parenting time.” Both significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time are considered the two major types of parental responsibilities under Illinois law. So, when a court decides how child custody will be awarded in a Chicago area case, what it will be doing is allocating those parental responsibilities to the parents.

Chicago Area Courts Will Use the “Best Interests of the Child” Standard

Even before Illinois courts shifted from the language of “child custody” to “parental responsibilities,” they used the “best interests of the child” standard to determine who custody matters would be decided. The same is true now. Courts look to many different factors in deciding what would be in the best interests of the minor children, both when deciding how to allocate significant decision-making responsibilities and when deciding how to allocate parenting time. Some of those factors will likely include the following, which are listed in the IMDMA:

  • Child’s wishes if the child is mature enough to be able to make a reasoned independent preference;
  • Child’s adjustment to his/her current home and community;
  • Physical and mental health of all parties;
  • Parents’ willingness to cooperate with one another for purposes of co-parenting;
  • Parents’ willingness to facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • Parents’ previous roles with regard to the child prior to the separation or divorce;
  • Prior agreements between the parenting concerning childrearing;
  • Parents’ wishes;
  • Child’s needs;
  • Distance between the parents’ current residences (for parenting time); and
  • Factors that would point to a need to restrict parental responsibilities, such as history of domestic violence, child abuse, or whether one of the parents is a sex offender.

Contact a Child Custody Lawyer in Chicago

If you have questions about how child custody is decided in the Chicago area or need assistance with your case, a dedicated Chicago child custody lawyer is here to help. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC today.