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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ’s About Child Custody in Illinois

When you are going through a child custody case in Illinois or anticipating a complex child custody matter, our Illinois child custody lawyers know how many questions and concerns you have. We routinely answer important questions about child custody law in Illinois, and we want to provide you with some of the information you are seeking. For most child custody cases in Illinois, any legal issues or questions will be governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). The following are examples of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about child custody, with responses from our dedicated family lawyers.

What is Child Custody?

Under Illinois law, courts no longer use the terminology of “child custody,” which means that courts also do not use the terminology of “legal custody” and “physical custody” or “visitation.” Instead, that language has been replaced in the IMDMA with the term “parental responsibilities,” which includes both significant decision-making responsibilities (similar to legal custody) and parenting time (similar to physical custody and visitation).

How Do Courts Decide on Child Custody?

Courts make decisions about child custody, or the allocation of parental responsibilities, based on what is in the best interests of the child. There is a wide range of “best interests” factors that are listed explicitly in the IMDMA, and courts can also rely on other factors that may be relevant to a family’s specific circumstances.

What Are the Best Interests of the Child?

The “best interests” factors are generally the same for determining significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time, but there are some minor distinctions between them. The following are examples of “best interests” factors listed in the IMDMA:

  • Wishes of the child when the child is mature enough to voice a separate opinion;
  • Child’s adjustment to the current parenting arrangements;
  • Mental and physical health of the parents and the child;
  • Parents’ willingness to cooperate with one another;
  • Each parent’s previous participation or involvement in making significant decisions about the child’s upbringing or in providing caretaking functions for the child;
  • Parents’ wishes;
  • Reasons to restrict parenting time, such as child abuse or domestic violence.
What is Included in Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities Versus Parenting Time?

Significant decision-making responsibilities include making decisions about major issues affecting the child’s upbringing, including health care and education, and in some cases, religion. Parenting time involves day-to-day caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities.

What is the Difference Between a Parenting Plan and an Allocation Judgment?

Parental responsibilities can be allocated in two different ways: through a parenting plan or an allocation judgment. With a parenting plan, the parents work together to allocate parental responsibilities based on the best interests of the child. The parents can allocate significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time, or just one of the two (if they cannot agree on the other). When the parents cannot agree fully on the allocation of parental responsibilities through a parenting plan, the court will make a decision based on the best interests factors and will allocate parental responsibilities through an allocation judgment.

Contact a Child Custody Lawyer in Illinois

Whether you have questions before a child custody case or while you are involved in a legal issue concerning parental rights and responsibilities, you should seek advice from an Illinois child custody attorney who can help. Contact Reifman Law Offices today for more information.

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