The New Rules of Illinois Child Custody

The start of 2016 brought with it a major overhaul of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. One of the biggest changes to the Act had to do with the way child custody and visitation are addressed by the courts. In order to create a less adversarial approach to the process, the legal reference to “child custody” was changed to “allocation of parental responsibilities” and the legal reference to “visitation” was changed to “parenting time.”

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Under the old rules, judges could award parents either joint custody or sole custody. Joint custody meant the parents shared not only the physical time the child spent with each of them, but also shared the responsibility for decisions when it came to the health of the child (choice of providers and medical treatments, etc.), the child's education (where the child attends school, special programs, etc.), what religion the child will practice, and what type of extracurricular activities in which the child will participate. In a sole custody situation, not only did the child spend the majority of time with the custodial parent, but that parent had the final decisions in all of those areas.

The new rules change all of that. Now, judges will determine which parent will have final authority for each of these decisions. Each area – health, education, religion, activities – may be decided separately. A judge can decide to split up the categories between parents, or can choose to have parents share the responsibility of one or more areas. No matter what the judge decides, he or she is doing so for the best interest of the child by examining such factors as how involved teach parent was with the child before the divorce, how the parents communicate with each other and consider the other's wishes, how well each parent has followed prior court orders, and if the parent has the resources necessary for complying.

Parenting Time

Under the previous version of the law, unless parents had shared custody where the child was with each parent 50 percent of the time, one parent was granted primary physical custody. The child would live with that parent – referred to as the custodial parent – and have visitation time with the non-custodial parent. Although visitation schedules varied case by case, one of the most common schedules was the child spending alternating weekends and one weeknight with the non-custodial parent.

Those rules no longer apply; there is no more parental visitation. Instead, each parent will be awarded parenting time with the child. The judge will again examine those same factors mentioned above to determine how that time should be divided, still keeping the best interest of the child as the primary concern. Besides those factors examined in determining parenting responsibilities, the judge will also consider the relationship the child has with the parents, siblings, and other people who will be around the child at either parent's' home. The distance between where each parent lives, as well as transportation costs, are also taken into consideration.

Let Us Help

Whether you have an existing custody order in place or are just starting the process, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today. Call Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC at (630) 793-6337 for a confidential consultation.


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