Understanding Child Custody 2017-10-13T20:21:40+00:00

In Illinois, child custody is now referred to as “significant decision-making responsibility,” and visitation is now called “parenting time.” Significant decision-making responsibility (i.e. custody) is the right of parents to make major decisions in their child’s life. There are four areas of decision-making responsibility: (1) education, (2) health, (3) religion, and (4) extracurricular activities.

The legal standard in Illinois, as in many other states, is “the best interest of the child.” Illinois courts will use a set of “best interest” factors to determine significant decision-making responsibility. These factors include:

  • The child’s wishes considering maturity and ability to share reasoned and independent preference;
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • The parents’ ability to cooperate in decision-making, or level of conflict that may affect this ability;
  • The level of each parent’s participation in past significant decision-making with respect to the child;
  • Any prior agreement or past conduct between the parents relating to decision-making for the child;
  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The child’s needs;
  • The distance between the parents’ homes, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, the parents’ and child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
  • Whether a restriction on decision-making is appropriate due to serious endangerment Sec. 603.10;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
  • The physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child;
  • The occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household;
  • If one of the parents is a sex offender; if so, details of the offense and any treatment completed; and
  • Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.
  • See 750 ILCS 5/602.5(c) for full text of the law.

In Illinois, child custody is now referred to as “significant decision-making responsibility,” and visitation is now called “parenting time.” A parent not allotted significant decision-making responsibility is entitled to reasonable visitation unless the court deems otherwise.

As is the case in many states, the legal standard for determining parenting time is the “best interests of the child.” There are a set of best interest factors to help the court decide what is in the child’s best interest for parenting time. The factors include:

  • The wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
  • The child’s wishes considering maturity and ability to share reasoned and independent preference;
  • The amount of time each has parent spent performing caretaking functions in the 2 years preceding the filing of a petition or, if the child is under 2 years of age, since the child’s birth;
  • Any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions;
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and with any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • The child’s needs;
  • The distance between the parents’ homes, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, the parent’s and child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
  • Whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate;
  • Any physical violence or threat of physical violence by a parent directed at the child or other household member;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to place the child’s needs ahead of his or her own;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
  • The occurrence of abuse against the child or other household member;
  • If one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with one; if so, details of the offense and any treatment completed (the parties are entitled to a hearing on this issue);
  • If a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed, the terms of the parent’s military family-care plan; and
  • Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.
  • See 750 ILCS 5/602.7(b) for full text of the law.