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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article will discuss obtaining sole custody of a child or children in Illinois. We will answer the following questions:


  • What is allocation of parenting time versus responsibilities?
  • Does the reason for filing divorce affect custody?
  • How do I prove the other parent is unfit?
  • How do I prove I'm the better parent?
  • Does having an attorney increase my chances of getting full custody?


It can be difficult to obtain full custody in Illinois because the court assumes that it is in the child's best interest to spend time with both parents unless proven otherwise. If you lack a strong argument and convincing evidence beyond a desire to see the other parent punished, expect the court to deny your request.


What Is Allocation of Parenting Time Versus Responsibilities?


While the term "child custody" continues to be used regularly, it was officially replaced by the more neutral term "allocation of parental responsibilities." Generally, when discussing if one parent should be awarded full custody, it is the same as being awarded full allocation of parental responsibilities; the child is expected to live with this parent full time, and the parent has the sole right to make decisions regarding the child. 


Being awarded allocation of parental responsibilities doesn't preclude the other parent from seeing the child. The court can give one parent full responsibility but order the other parent receive significant parenting time with the child. An order of parenting time can't be superseded by the other parent's sole right to make decisions unless the child is in danger when spending time with the non-custodial parent. Having full allocation of parental rights with no parenting time ordered for the other parent usually only happens if it's clear that the other parent puts the child in danger or represents a significant detriment to the child's best interests.


Does The Reason For Filing Divorce Affect Custody?


Unless stated otherwise, any divorce filed in Illinois will be due to "irreconcilable differences." Your spouse's behavior leading up to divorce will have little sway on how the judge allocates parental responsibilities unless that behavior threatened the child's best interests. If there is a history of negative behavior, such as abandonment, drug or alcohol abuse, mental or physical abuse, felony conviction, etc., consider filing for divorce based on that reason. It may not guarantee full parental responsibility and limited parenting time, but you will start the divorce process in a stronger position when making your argument.


How Do I Prove The Other Parent Is Unfit?


In a divorce, the judge assumes that giving both parents parental responsibility and equal parenting is in the child's best interest. For the judge to consider otherwise requires evidence suggesting that the other parent is unfit. Parental alienation is a serious matter and should not occur because of the parent's disdain for each other.


Evidence to support a claim that the other parent is unfit might exist in documentation such as medical bills, police reports, emails, texts, and other paperwork. Anything that indicates the other parent presents a danger to the child or infringes on the child's best interest can bolster the claim. Other sources of evidence include:


  • The other parent's poor employment record. A parent must provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child; lack of income or unpredictable income makes this problematic. However, a poor employment record won't affect parenting time.
  • The other parent's health. The other parent must be physically and emotionally capable of taking care of the child.
  • Unsuitable living conditions. If the other parent's living situation is unsafe or unhealthy for the child, the court may lean in your favor for greater parental responsibility. 


How Do I Prove I'm The Better Parent?


Getting full custody of your child involves more than showing that the other parent is unfit; you must also prove your exemplary behavior as a parent. Some tips for proving that you are the better parent include:


  • Objectively explain what your child's best interests are and provide a clear plan for how you will fulfill their needs; go above and beyond.
  • Provide typical day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month examples of your child's schedule. Show the court that you have a deep understanding and handle on your child's activities, allowing them to thrive.
  • Show your support for your child's psychological well being. This may mean that you approve of the other parenting receiving parenting time, especially if it supports you receiving full or majority custody.
  • Dress appropriately for court and don't provide baseless claims on the other parent's behavior. Trying to trash the other parent in court only serves to make you look petty and vindictive; let the evidence speak for itself.


Does Having An Attorney Increase My Chance of Getting Full Custody?

Yes, very much so. Trying to get through a divorce without an attorney is not recommended. If the divorce is amicable, involves no children, and there is very little division of property, then a lawyer may not be necessary. But if you are trying to get full custody, expect a fight from the other side. You'll need to collect evidence, prepare your argument, and present your case logically and convincingly. If you have any questions about divorce and child custody, give us a call at (630) 324-6666 or contact us online to learn more.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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