Two years ago, and for the first time in nearly four decades, the Illinois legislature passed a series of major amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). While the changes covered a wide range of issues and topics, one of the most important revisions involved a direction to state courts to refrain from using the terms custody and visitation and to instead refer to the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, respectively.
Recognizing that parents are often in the best position to decide what type of custody arrangement would be in a child’s best interests, courts strongly encourage divorcing couples to negotiate their own parenting plans, which, when properly completed, divide parenting time and responsibility for parental decision making between the parties. When coming to this type of agreement is not possible, a family law court will be required to step in and create a parenting plan that it deems to be in the best interest of the couple’s children. It is especially important in these situations to speak with an experienced Chicago child custody attorney who can work to ensure that your child’s best interests are protected.
Unlike many states, which have standard parenting time schedules that courts must enforce, Illinois requires courts to create plans that address the specific needs of the family in question. This is achieved through the application and evaluation of the following factors, all of which are intended to help determine the course of action that would best serve the needs of the child:
After assessing these factors, courts will draft a parenting time schedule that takes into consideration not only school days and weekends, but also spring, summer, and winter breaks, as well as holidays, and family vacations.
In addition to parenting time, divorcing couples with children must divide responsibility for decision making. In most cases, courts are in favor of granting both parents equal decision-making authority over important issues related to child-rearing, such as education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. This is true even if one parent is named the primary custodian of the child, as courts usually deem it in the best interests of children to receive input from both parents when it comes to childcare-related decisions. However, if the parties would like (or if the court determines it is necessary) one parent can be solely responsible for any or all of these decisions.
To speak with one of the experienced Chicago child custody attorneys at The Law Offices of George M. Sanders P.C. about your own custody-related questions and concerns, please call 312-624-7645 for a free consultation.