Northern Illinois Child Custody Attorneys

Sorting out child custody can be the worst part of dealing with a divorce. Understanding child custody laws in Illinois can help make the process much easier, but without consulting an attorney to protect your interests you are putting your children at risk.

How Child Custody Works in Illinois

First of all, Illinois has not used the term “custody” for legal purposes since 2016. Instead, it has been split into two areas. These areas are:

  1. Allocation of Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities – this covers important decisions that need to be made on your child’s behalf, such as what school they will attend, what religion they will practice, what doctor they will see, etc. This is referred to in other states as legal custody.
  2. Parenting Time – this used to be referred to as “visitation,” and covers the amount of time the child spends with each parent.

In most cases, judges prefer to have parents work this out themselves. If you can, then the court will enter a Parenting Plan, which governs all parenting decisions except for child support and expenses. A Parenting Plan will include things like who gets the children on which holidays, when visitation is required to be supervised, etc. 

If you can’t agree, the court will appoint an advocate for your child(ren) to make sure that their best interests are being maintained.

What Else do you Need to Know?

It is a popular misconception that courts in Illinois generally allow a child who is 14 or older to choose which parent they want to live with, unless it’s against their best interests. However, the court will only take into consideration “the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time.” This is one of 17 enumerated factors the court is to consider in determining the child’s best interest as for parenting time, the last factor allowing the court to “consider any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.” There is no age in which a minor child can decide where they want to live.

In some cases, Illinois recognizes non-parent visitation rights, which is generally applied to grandparents. Unless it’s against the child’s interest, grandparents who have cared for a child may have a right to parenting time.

If you are getting divorced and want to make sure you get enough time with your child(ren), you should seek the help of an attorney. This is particularly true if you are not on good terms with your ex. An experienced attorney can help create a parenting plan that takes into account everyone’s needs, and if necessary, fight to get you the time you deserve with your child. 

Woman and her young daughter sit on an outside bench in winter

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