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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article discusses updates to Illinois Child Support for 2021 and provides a general overview of Illinois Child Custody Law. We will answer the following questions.

  • Has the terminology changed in child custody cases?
  • Do Illinois courts mandate mediation in child custody cases?
  • What are the factors a judge considers when making a child custody determination?
  • What is more likely to be dispositive in a child custody case?
  • When can you end your coparents custodial rights?
  • What are the recent changes to Illinois child custody law?

Child custody is often the most contentious part of a divorce.  Understanding the court’s decision-making process while keeping abreast of any changes in Illinois child custody law is critical in pursuing your rights as a parent.  Working with a qualified Illinois child custody attorney can make the difference.  For an overview of changes related to Illinois child support law, please check out this article on Recent Change to Illinois Child Support Law 2021.

Has the terminology changed in child custody cases?

In 2016 the language used in Illinois child custody cases underwent a change as part of a broader overhaul of Illinois divorce law.  Most importantly, the term for “Custody” is now “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.” Parental responsibilities are further broken down into “Parenting Time,” formerly referred to as “Visitation,” and “Decision Making,” which is the responsibility for making decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. “Removal,” moving the child from their current home, is now “Relocation.”  

Do Illinois courts mandate mediation in child custody cases?

Child custody mediation is a mandatory program in all Illinois court case where child custody is an issue.  The terms of the mediation, including the number of mandatory sessions and their duration, are unique to local courts.  Courts may waive the requirement for mediation if a party can demonstrate that mediation would not be possible due to a history of violence on the part of the other parent.  

You can also apply for temporary orders in custody cases. Learn more in our article Temporary Orders in Child Custody Cases.

What are the factors a judge considers when making a child custody determination?

Illinois is among the few states where joint custody is not presumed, instead the court will balance a number of factors to determine what’s in the child’s best interest.  These factors include but are not limited to; openness by the parents to work with each other in building their individual relationships with the child; the financial situation of each parent;  the desires of the child and parents; existing relationships of the child to family members and friends; the mental state of the child and parents; past substance abuse by the parents; whether the child’s current arrangement is stable and serving their wellbeing; and any history of physical abuse on the part of the parent, including threats of physical abuse.  Note that Illinois courts are highly reluctant to disturb a child’s current living situation if it is stable and productive.

What is more likely to be dispositive in a child custody case?

It is important to keep in mind that is up to the judge to apply weight to each factor when determining the best interest of the child, no one factor is necessarily determinative.  That being said the existence of certain factors that could potentially pose a threat to the child’s safety will likely impact the outcome. This includes a history of domestic violence on the part of a parent.  Note that the violence does not need to be directed at the child to be dispositive, any pattern of violence will factor heavily on the judge’s decision-making process.  This also includes if either parent is a registered sex offender, or lives with a registered sex offender.  Note that if a parent is planning on moving in with a registered sex offender, this would be a reason for the court to change a parenting plan.

When can you end your coparents custodial rights?

If you are in a situation where it has become appropriate to completely terminate your child’s biological parent’s rights, you should note that Illinois courts greatly prefer a child to have two parents, and that those parents be married to each other.  What this means is courts are far more likely to accommodate this request if your partner is willing to adopt your child and is either married to you, or willing to undergo the ceremony.  

If the parent whose rights are set to be terminated consents to the adoption, this can be a straightforward process.  However, if they do not consent you will need to demonstrate that the parent is unfit to continue in that role.  To establish a parent as unfit, you will need to show the court the parent treated their child with a high degree of neglect and disregarded their responsibilities as parent. In some cases, you can petition for Urgent and Immediate Removal if you believe the home is unsafe for the child.

Some may want to fight for full custody. Learn more about gaining full custody in our article How to Get Full Custody in Illinois.  

What are the recent changes to Illinois child custody law?

Illinois has recently undergone an overhaul of its child custody and divorce laws, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.  The changes in the act provide for a more measured and balanced approach to child custody, as opposed to the previous win or lose litigation style approach with one parent taking custody and the other receiving visitation rights.  Reflecting the reality of both parents likely working outside the home and sharing responsibility for the child’s upbringing, courts will now balance both parents’ interests in creating a shared parenting plan, which tries to maximize the involvement of each parent while promoting the best interest of the child.  Importantly, responsibilities can be bifurcated between the parents. This means that decisions regarding the child’s uprising such as, health care, school, and religion, can be split between the parents, with one parent taking sole responsibility in one area, and the other parent taking responsibility for another.  

As part of these changes, the process of relocation has become more restrictive.  Under the previous law, the parent with custody of the child could move the child to any location in Illinois without seeking the approval of the court or the child’s other parent.  This is no longer the case, and the standard for what requires approval is now different at the country level.  Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will, require court approval for relocations 25 miles and over.  All other Illinois counties require court approval for relocations 50 miles and over.  Note that the mile standard referred to here is determined by internet mapping services.

Request a consultation with an Illinois Child Support Lawyer. When asserting your parental rights in an Illinois child custody case it is critical that you be informed and well advised.  Working with a qualified Illinois child custody attorney can make the difference. Call our office at (630) 324-6666 or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers today. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.

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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