No More Sole or Joint Custody in Illinois

child custody, parental responsibilities, Rolling Meadows family law attorneyBeginning in 2016, divorced, separated, and unmarried parents in Illinois will witness the dawning of a new era regarding the legal responsibilities they will be expected to assume for their children. Thanks to a major overhaul of the state’s family law provisions, families will no long be defined by terms such as sole or joint custody, which have proven to be rather divisive over the last several decades. Instead, parents will be expected to develop a plan for a more fluid allocation of parental responsibilities, allowing the process to remain focused on the best interests of the child.

Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities

For many years, the concept of child custody—especially legal custody—has referred to the authority of each parent to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Sole custody meant that one parent was fully responsible for such decisions, while joint custody required the parents to work together. The new law essentially creates a new “default” position of the court, which presumes the parents will cooperate in making decisions about education, religious training, medical care, and extracurricular activities for their child.

Parenting Plan

A major component of the new statute is the expectation for parents seeking parental responsibilities to submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. Such a plan may be developed separately by each parent, or cooperatively by the parents together. A jointly-created plan is obviously preferable, as it will be the basis for the court’s subsequent order. Failure by one or both parents to submit a parenting plan could be potentially seen by the court as a demonstrated lack of concern regarding the child. If an agreeable parenting plan cannot be developed, the court will allocate parental responsibilities in accordance with guidelines provided in the law.

Parenting Time

In most cases, the court—or the parents—will determine that a child should reside primarily with one parent or the other for the purposes of establishing a permanent address and for school attendance. This determination also helps establish which parent is most likely to be ordered to pay child support as appropriate. Under the current law, the parent without primary residential responsibilities is entitled to reasonable rights of visitation with the child, but the new law is redefining the concept of visitation as it pertains to parents as well.

Periods during which a parent is responsible for the daily or normal functions of the child will be called parenting time, even for parents without significant decision-making responsibilities. A parenting time schedule is expected to be part of any proposed parenting plan. By using the term “parenting time,” the new law helps to remind parents that they are more than visitors in their child’s life. They are an important part of the child’s support system and should take such responsibilities very seriously.

If you have questions about the upcoming family law changes, contact an experienced Rolling Meadows family law attorney. Our team is prepared to answer your questions and to help you understand how the new laws could potentially impact your family. Call 847-253-3100 today to schedule a free consultation at Cosley Law Office.



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