In 2016, the Illinois Legislature made a number of significant changes to the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. One of these changes involved family law courts now thinking of custody matters in terms of a division of parenting time and allocation of decision-making responsibilities between a child’s parents. Generally, courts presume it is in the best interest of the child to divide parenting time and decision-making responsibilities equally between parents are in a child’s best interests. However, this is not always true and a court may need to come up with an alternate schedule. Resolving these types of issues can be complicated and emotionally taxing, so if you and your spouse have children and have decided to file for divorce, it is important to contact an experienced Glenview child custody lawyer who can ensure that your child’s interests are protected.
Parenting time is defined as the period of time when a child’s parent is responsible for performing certain parental functions and exercising minor decision-making powers. Many parents are able to create their own time-sharing schedules through negotiation in an out-of-court setting. In these cases, judges need only approve the plan for it to be considered legally binding. If an agreement cannot be reached the court will step in and allocate parenting time based on what the judge determines is in the child’s best interests.
Unlike many states, Illinois does not have a standard parenting time schedule in place. Instead, judges come up with plans that address the specific needs of each family by assessing a number of factors, including:
It is also possible for parents to create their own time-sharing schedule, although before it can be implemented, it must be approved by the court and deemed to be in the child’s best interests.
The second half of the child custody analysis involves allocating parental decision-making responsibilities between both of a child’s parents. Generally, courts presume that an equal say in parental decision making is in a child’s best interests, especially if both parties request such an arrangement. Parents may also choose to divide the decision-making by topic. For example, one parent may make decisions regarding education and extracurricular activities, while the other decides issues regarding medical care and religion.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement about how to allocate these decisions a judge could step in and name one parent as the child’s sole legal custodian, which would give him or her the right to make decisions about the child’s education, religion, healthcare, and extracurricular activities. This arrangement is relatively rare and usually only applies in cases where a parent has a mental or physical disability, where there is a history of domestic violence in the family or other instances where a parent has proven unable to make sound decisions about the child. Otherwise, courts typically prefer to allow both of a child’s parents to share responsibility for making major child-related decisions.