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Everything You Need to Know About Child Custody Laws in Illinois

Illinois Child Custody Lawyers

Child custody disputes can bring a great deal of stress and uncertainty to both parents and children. Although these issues are never easy, with the assistance of a child custody lawyer, you can navigate the process in the most painless way possible while protecting the best interests of your child(ren). In Illinois, multiple laws and factors exist to help ensure that the custodial decision made is the right one.

At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, our team of accomplished and compassionate Illinois child custody lawyers is here to help you move through this process and make the best financial, practical, and emotional decisions possible. For years, we have families through these troubling times, and we always put the best interests of your child first and foremost. Count on us to do the same for you. For a confidential consultation about your case, call us today.

Child Custody Laws in Illinois: The Fine Print

Divorcing parents in Illinois have to consider who will have the authority to make decisions about their child’s welfare and where the child will live. In the past, these decisions were known as “legal custody” and “visitation”. However, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which came into effect on January 1st, 2016, replaced these terms with “allocation of parental responsibilities.” The main elements in the new model are:

  • Significant decision-making responsibilities: This is what used to be called legal custody. It refers to the authority to make important decisions that affect the child’s health and welfare in the spheres of health, education, religion, and extra-curricular activities.
  • Primary parenting time: Formerly called physical custody, this refers to the time a child spends in the parent’s residence where that parent acts as the primary caretaker.
  • Parenting time: Formerly called visitation, this refers to the time a child spends with the parent who is not the primary caretaker of the child.

In most cases, the parents will share decision-making authority. The child will typically have one home base, while the other parent has regular overnight visits.

In the past, the parent without primary parenting time would typically have overnight visits on alternate weekends and holidays, plus an extended visit during the summer. However, many different arrangements are possible today, courtesy of the recent changes to the Illinois custody laws. The goal of your parenting plan should be to provide quality time with both parents, unless there is a strong reason (such as abuse) why one parent should have limited access.

How is Child Custody Determined in Illinois?

In Illinois, courts determine child custody arrangements based on what would be in the best interests of the child. In order to determine this, the judge may consider the following factors:

  • The parents’ wishes
  • The child’s preference
  • The child’s relationship with his or her parent(s) and sibling(s)
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  • The parents’ and child’s physical and mental health
  • The willingness of each parent to facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Whether there has been physical violence or a threat of physical violence by either, (whether against the child or another person)
  • Whether either parent is a sex offender

Siblings are typically kept together and in the same household. However, if a child’s special needs or family dynamics require separation, it is possible for the judge to split the child between the parents.

Illinois custody laws also mandate that the court should not consider a parent’s marital conduct when determining child custody unless it affects the parent’s relationship with the child.

How to Get Full Custody in Illinois: The Process Explained

In Illinois, the term most closely related to “full custody” is being the “primary parent.” If you want to be the primary parent, talk with your attorney about the process and how to qualify. They will be able to work with you to petition the court. In addition, your attorney will consult you on the forms and procedures required to request to become the primary parent and if need be, represent you in court.

Illinois Child Custody Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to get sole custody in Illinois?

Sole custody is another term used to describe full custody. To get sole custody in Illinois, you need to prove to the court that the other parent is unfit to be awarded any custody. You can submit documentation, including bills, exchanged emails, police reports, and other relevant paperwork to help build your case for sole custody. However, your case must be built in good faith.

How do I give full custody to the other parent in Illinois?

If you already have a custody order from the court, the only ways to relinquish custody are to either:

  • Put an agreement in writing with the other parent, or
  • Ask the court to modify your custody order

If you’re in the process of divorce and you have been the child’s primary parent (primary caregiver), you and the other parent can agree on an informal custody arrangement until your court hearing. If you disagree or are unmarried and do not have a custody order, you may need to request a temporary custody order while waiting for the court to finalize your case.

What is a parenting plan, and do I need one?

A parenting plan, often referred to as a “Joint Parenting Agreement,” is a document outlining parental responsibilities for parties in a divorce case. This document is typically required when the parties are awarded joint custody of children.

In reality, a parenting plan may include everything the parents wish to include regarding the child and responsibility for any aspect concerning the child. A standard plan must include:

  • Where the child lives
  • The amount of time the child spends with each parent
  • How each parent receives information and records about the child (healthcare, education, etc.)
  • How the child will be transported between parents for parenting time
  • Each parent’s rights when making significant decisions for the child
  • Restrictions on how far a parent can move with the children

It’s also important for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan.

What if my ex-spouse and I can’t agree on 50/50 joint custody?

If parents can’t agree on how to split parenting time and responsibilities, they go to mediation. If mediation doesn’t solve the issues, then the court will decide. The court’s process can have many steps, such as involving a Guardian ad litem (an attorney with special training appointed by the court in a hotly contested child custody, child support, or divorce case). Ultimately, the court’s ruling is based on what is best for the child.

In these cases, having an experienced Illinois child custody attorney such as one from Petrelli Previtera, LLC becomes even more important. Family court can be extremely complicated, so having someone who knows exactly what to do and how to advocate for you can make the difference.

When can I modify custody in Illinois?

A parenting plan, including a parenting schedule, can be modified at any point as long as it’s agreed upon by both parties. However, if it’s only one parent who wants to modify the existing parenting plan, they cannot make a motion earlier than 2 years after it was entered. The only exception to this requirement is if the child is in an environment that may seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.

Can I get an emergency ex parte custody order when I file my custody petition?

Illinois law allows either parent to file a request for an emergency ex parte custody order if they fear for their child’s safety and health. An order that is issued ex parte means that it is issued without prior notice to the other parent, based solely on your affidavit/testimony.

If the judge issues an ex parte order, the judge will schedule a hearing within 14 days, and the respondent must be served at least 5 days before the hearing. At the hearing, the other party can object to the ex parte order continuing, and it will be up to the judge to decide whether or not to continue the order.

Solutions for Custody and Co-Parenting Issues in IL

Resolving a child custody dispute through litigation can carry a very high emotional and financial cost. The two sides tend to dig into their positions, making it harder to find a compromise that meets the needs of both parents and children.

As both award-winning family law mediators and skilled advocates, our child custody lawyers in Illinois are adept at helping parents prioritize their child’s best interests and find common ground. We believe parents are more likely to abide by a child custody agreement when they have a role in creating it. However, if litigation is necessary to protect your children, we have the experience to take your case to court.

In addition to crafting a comprehensive parenting plan, we handle issues such as child support and modifications of support or custody.

Contact Our Award-Winning Illinois Child Custody Lawyers Today

At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, our dedicated Illinois family law attorneys have extensive experience handling child custody disputes. Nothing should come before your relationship with your child. To find out more about what we can do for you, please contact our law firm today at 866-465-5395 or to set up a confidential legal consultation.

Client Testimonials

Here's what our clients have to say about working with us. Please note, results may vary based on individual circumstances.

Melinda Previtera, Esq. came highly recommended to our family. Her knowledge base, professionalism, and compassion paved the way for a successful outcome. Melinda is efficient, detailed, and informative. She helps manage expectations, and postures her client for a fair and equitable result. We are happy to recommend Melinda!

Jennifer A.

My experience was very good. Everyone was professional and attentive to my needs, keeping me updated every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better result, highly recommended.

David R.

My marriage life has been a hell for me for the past four years until I decided to put an end to what has to be ended. Choosing a lawyer was another additional stressful part of the long process. I’m so glad that I’ve found the right one for me at Petrelli Previtera. Life isn’t always fair, but at least having her in my corner, felt even better. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough!

Caitlin B.

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