The term “custody” has not been used in Illinois for several years. The laws related to child custody were revised to use terms such as primary residential parent, time-sharing, and parental responsibility. An Illinois child custody attorney can help you understand the significance of these terms and how the current child custody laws impact your legal rights regarding your child.
The change in terms reflects the legislators’ beliefs that most children benefit from having both parents play an active role in the child’s life. Therefore, Illinois courts typically view parental responsibility equally. While one parent may be the primary residential parent, parents are expected to co-parent their child by sharing parenting responsibilities.
There is no assumption of preference given to either parent at the beginning of a divorce proceeding or custody action. Illinois laws related to the allocation of parenting time are gender-neutral. Mothers may receive the majority of parenting time in most cases; however, many of these cases are settled outside of court and based on the historical trend that most of the care-taking responsibilities are handled primarily by the mother. It is not an indication that Illinois courts favor the mother when allocating parenting time. Fathers have equal custody rights under Illinois laws.
What has been referred to as custody in the past is not broken into two aspects of child-rearing — allocation of parental time and allocation of parental responsibilities (decision making). Parents are awarded physical time with their child and given the responsibility to make important decisions for their child after a divorce. Decision-making powers include making decisions for the child related to residence, education, religion, healthcare, and extra-curricular activities. Typically, when a child is spending time with a parent, that parent has parental responsibility for the child or decision-making power for the child.
When a parent refuses or is incapable of sharing parental responsibility, the court may grant sole parental responsibility to one parent. Situations in which the court might grant sole decision-making power to one parent include situations involving child abuse, neglect, and substance abuse. A failure to communicate or abide by a parenting plan could be a factor in deciding to award sole parental responsibility to one parent. A parent’s physical and mental health may also be factors in determining whether to grant sole or joint parental responsibility.
The over-riding principle used to determine whether to award joint parental responsibility or sole parental responsibility is the best interest of the child. If the judge determines that a parent’s inability to co-parent is detrimental to the best interest of the child, the judge may grant sole parental responsibility to the other parent. However, proving that a parent is unfit or unable to co-parent can be a difficult challenge. You need an experienced child custody attorney on your side to fight for the best interest of your child.
If you are concerned about your child or you are experiencing problems co-parenting with your ex-partner, contact our Illinois child custody attorney to discuss options for seeking sole custody. Contact the Illinois child custody attorneys at the Goodman Law Firm today. Our attorneys can evaluate your situation and advise you whether or not a judge might be willing to grant sole parental responsibility to you based on your ex’s inability to co-parent effectively.
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