In this article, we explain the timeline of Illinois parenting cases. We answer the question “how long does a child custody case take in Illinois?” and explain the 90 day deadline to hold case management conference and the 60 day deadline to complete parenting classes in child custody cases as well as the 18 month deadline to resolve child custody cases in Illinois.
Although commonly referred to as “child custody,” in 2016 Illinois law stopped referring to “custody,” “visitation,” and “removal of a child” and instead speaks in terms of “allocation of parenting time and responsibility” and “relocation of a child.” To learn more about the 2016 changes to Illinois parenting laws, check out our article: Recent Changes to Illinois Family Law.
For an overview of how parenting laws work in Illinois, check out our article: Illinois Parenting Laws 2019.
The court’s oversight of parenting time and responsibility is ongoing and will continue until the child becomes an adult. As the circumstances surrounding the child change throughout childhood, the parents can seek to modify their parenting plan to best serve the best interests of the child.
However, Illinois courts handle specific issues related to parenting time and responsibility on an expedited bass, whether this be the entry of an initial order allocating parenting time and responsibility or modification of the order based on changed circumstances.
The 900 Series of the Illinois Supreme Court Rules is intended to ensure that cases involving parenting time and responsibility move forward swiftly according to a strict timetable.
Within 90 days of service of the petition or complaint, an initial case management conference must be conducted. This is a court appearance during which the judge will schedule the major upcoming events in the case. If the parties have an agreement regarding the parenting arrangement, they can present the court with their parenting plan at this time.
If the parties are unable to agree on all of the issues surrounding parenting time and responsibility, the parties are required to attend a mediation to attempt to settle these issues. The court will schedule the mediation at the case management conference. For more on mediation, check out our article: Illinois Family Mediation Explained.
Parties in cases involving parenting time and responsibility are required to take 4 hours of parenting classes. These mandated parenting classes must be completed within 60 days of the initial case management conference. For more on court ordered parenting classes, check out our article: Illinois Court Ordered Parenting Classes Explained.
Courts are required to complete all parenting time and responsibility cases within 18 months from the date that the responding party was served with the document initiating the matter (known as a petition or complaint). If the parties and the court do not meet this 18 month deadline, the court is required to make written findings explaining why the court failed to complete the case within the time limit.
The 18 month deadline to complete custody cases may be extended if the parties and the guardian ad litem (if one has been appointed) agree in writing. Even if the parties agree, the court must issue an order stating that the parties showed good cause for an extension of the deadline. If the parties do not agree to an extension, the court may still allow an extension if one of the parties shows good cause.
If the allocation of parenting time and responsibility is being decided as part of a divorce, the 18 month deadline applies to the parenting issues but not to the other issues in the divorce. This means that while parenting issues must be decided within 18 months of service, other issues such as division of assets and liabilities and spousal maintenance need not be decided within this time frame.
If mediation is unsuccessful in resolving all of the parties’ disputes regarding parenting time and responsibility, the court will hold a hearing to decide any unresolved issues within this 18 month timeframe. Because of the expedited nature of custody proceedings, continuances of the hearing (i.e. moving the hearing back to a later date) are only granted when good cause is shown. For more on what to expect from the hearing, check out our article: What Happens When a Divorce Goes to Trial in Illinois?
The deadlines we discuss in this article are upper limits on the timeline of a custody case. However, it is usually in the best interests in the child to reach a more speedy resolution of parenting time and responsibility issues. Custody cases can be resolved more quickly if the parties work in good faith with their attorneys to settle any unresolved issues as early in the case as possible.
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