In 2016, Illinois lawmakers made a number of changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) and, in so doing, redefined child custody laws in the state. Under the terms of this statute, family law courts are directed to avoid referring to ‘custody’ and ‘visitation’ and to instead use the terms ‘parenting time’ and ‘decision-making responsibility.’ While this change has largely achieved its purpose of reducing the intensity of disputes between parents, resolving parenting time-related matters can still be a complex process, so if you and your former partner have questions about your legal access to your own children following a separation, it is important to contact an experienced child custody attorney in Cook County who can advise you.
While Illinois courts are directed to presume that shared parenting time (or access to the child) is in most children’s best interests, they are primarily led by the best interests of the child when creating a parenting time schedule. This, in turn, requires the assessment of a number of factors, including:
Although each custody determination will vary depending on the unique circumstances of the case, courts often create a parenting time schedule in which both parents get equal time with their child during school evenings, on alternating weekends, holidays, and school breaks.
The second part of any custody arrangement is the determination of which parent will be responsible for:
The former covers decisions about day-to-day activities, while the latter includes determinations regarding education, religion, medical care, and extracurricular activities. Responsibility for making these decisions can be shared by parents or granted exclusively to only one of the parties. It is not uncommon, however, for sole responsibility for making non-significant decisions, to be awarded to the parent with physical custody of the child, while more important decisions must be made by the parents together.
In Illinois, parents are encouraged to negotiate with each other and so come to an out-of-court agreement regarding parenting time and decision-making responsibility. In the event that a couple is able to come to an arrangement, they will need to put that agreement in writing in what is referred to as a parenting plan. These plans include details about:
Once reduced to writing, these agreements must be validated by a judge before they will be considered official court orders. When coming to an agreement is not possible, however, a court will be required to step in and create a parenting plan on the parties’ behalf.
If you live in or near Cook County and need help with a child custody-related legal matter, please call Demetrios N. Dalmares & Associates, Ltd. and schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced child custody attorneys in Cook County. You can also reach a member of our legal team by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org today.