When you separate from a previous partner, nothing is more important than establishing the wellbeing of your child. Sometimes individuals can work out child custody among themselves. But, in cases where the separation is not amicable, this may not be a simple task.
Either way, there are a few different situations that can apply. Before you embark upon a child custody case, it is important that you understand your options. Each type of custody has its own characteristics and can have different effects upon you, your child, and your relationship. The key is finding out how to petition the court for a custody agreement that makes sense.
When a parent receives legal custody, they maintain the right to make decisions regarding the needs of the child in every area, including:
The legal parent does not have to consult with the noncustodial parent on any of these matters. This may cause conflict between the two parties if their ideals do not align.
Child Custody Does Not Formally Exist Anymore in Illinois
In 2016 the Illinois legislature rewrote the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to strike the word “custody” out of the Act.
Instead of describing a parent’s relationship with a child as “custody,” the Illinois legislature created the twin concepts of 1) parenting time and 2) parenting responsibility.
Parenting time is a schedule of each parent’s time with the children. This schedule is agreed to and approved by the family court judge. If the parents cannot agree on the schedule, the family court judge will assign the parents a schedule based on the “best interests” of the child.
Joint Child Custody in Illinois
Joint custody in Illinois is effectively sharing the decision making and the parenting time 50/50 between both parents. This “agreement to agree” will be laid out in the parties’ Agreed Allocation of Parenting Time and Parenting Responsibilities.
Joint custody presupposes that the parents can communicate and work together.
If one parent doesn’t want joint custody and can’t see the parties cooperating, that parent can point out to the Illinois family law court that joint custody is impossible because they can’t work together.
If the parents cannot cooperate, joint custody will eventually be removed. Back in 1994, when joint custody was a legal concept in Illinois, the Illinois appellate courts said this about joint custody:
Sole Custody in Illinois
Illinois divorce and parentage courts do not have a “default” custody arrangement per the statute. Even if there were a cultural standard for custody in an Illinois divorce court, it would not be 50/50 joint custody. Illinois is still very much an “every other weekend” state.
If you are dead set on limiting your child’s exposure to the other parent, you’d better have some serious allegations that you can prove and hold up to the statute. To remove a parent from a child’s life almost always takes some kind of abuse.
The question is in how much time will the non-primary parent have?
In effect, anytime you have your children with you have effective sole custody so long as the decision does not involve one of the big four factors: education, health, religion, or extracurricular activities. When your kids are with you, you are the only parent.
“A parent shall have sole responsibility for making routine decisions with respect to the child and for emergency decisions affecting the child’s health and safety during that parent’s parenting time.” 750 ILCS 5/602.5(d)
How To Get Sole Custody of Your Children in Illinois
Almost every Illinois divorce or parentage case will start the same way: one parent moves out of the house and has their parenting time reduced until a temporary and then final parenting plan is entered.
The absent parent always builds their way back up to the maximum amount of parenting time which they can sustain. The courts do a slow, wait-and-see, approach to let the absent parent build trust and build time. This is great for the absent parent but not a positive result for the parent looking to keep sole permanent custody of their children.
Supervised Parenting Time in An Illinois Divorce or Paternity Case
Supervised parenting time is usually the most common salve for a bad parent. The supervisor is usually a relative or close friend that both parents know and that can accommodate the allotted parenting time.
At this stage of a case, a guardian ad litem is usually appointed to investigate what happened. This additional cost to the case is a burden for the more reluctant parent.
If a relative or a close friend is not available for supervised parenting or the parents cannot agree on a supervisor, the supervised parent must hire a parenting supervisor.
For the supervised parent, these parenting supervisors can be a blessing in disguise as they can testify to what actually happens when the supervised parent is with his or her children.
How Child Custody Affects Child Support in Illinois
Child support in Illinois is determined based on a complicated calculation that accounts for both parents’ incomes.
The next step of the calculation is determining how many overnights each parent has. If each parent has more than 146 overnights the calculation of child support in Illinois changes dramatically.
Often, avoidance of child support can often be the root of a custody battle. However, child support awards under Illinois law are surprisingly modest if you actually crunch the numbers. It is not worth fighting for or against more parenting time for the sake of a few extra hundred dollars a year.
Parents that practice joint 50/50 custody in Illinois usually waive child support and divide the children’s expenses 50/50 or proportionately to their incomes