It used to be called custody and visitation. Now, Illinois takes a more equitable and less adversarial approach by discussing parental responsibilities and time. Legal custody, meaning who has decision making authority over the child, has become parental responsibility. You may have all parental responsibilities or these may be shared between you and your child’s other mom or dad. Instead of sole or joint physical custody, you and your child’s other parent divide parenting time. Your child may live predominately with you or the other parent, or split his or her time between your homes. When you are divorcing or welcoming a new child while unmarried, it is crucial to understand Illinois’ new vocabulary and how a court will decide parenting time.
You Can Develop Your Own Plan
You and your child’s other parent have the right to come up with your own parenting plan, including how you will divide parental responsibilities and time. This can be faster and less costly than having your attorneys fight for what each of you want in court and attending multiple hearings for a decision. However, even when you and your child’s other parent intend to determine a plan yourselves, you should still work with an experienced Chicago family law attorney. Your lawyer will ensure you go into planning sessions fully aware of your rights as a mother or father. Additionally, your lawyer will help you prepare to arrange parenting time, including considering birthdays, holidays, school calendars, vacations, your child’s special needs, and transportation.
How a Court Decides
It can be difficult for unmarried or divorcing parents to decide on a parenting plan. Other issues can get in the way of seeing what is best for your child. In this situation, it is best to hand the decision over to the family court system and rely on your attorney to fight for your rights as a mom or dad. Under Illinois law, 750 ILCS 5/602.7, a judge will look at what is in the best interests of the child before allocating both parental responsibilities and time. The judge will consider:
- The parents’ wishes
- The child’s wishes, depending on the child’s age and maturity
- The child’s needs
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
- The amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions in the previous 2 years or since the child’s birth
- The child’s interaction and relationship with his or her parents and siblings
- Any prior agreement or conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions
- Each person’s mental and physical health
- The distance between the parents’ homes and transportation factors
- The parents’ willingness to support the child’s relationship with each parent
- The parents’ willingness to put the child’s needs ahead of his or her own
- Any physical violence or threats of physical violence directed toward the child or another member of his or her household
- Any abuse directed toward the child or another member of his or her household
- If one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender
- Whether restrictions on parenting time are appropriate
- Any other factor that the court finds is relevant
There May Be Restrictions
Whether or not you are granted significant parental responsibilities, the court should grant you a reasonable amount of parenting time. The exception to this is if the court finds that the child’s mental, emotional, physical, or moral health may be endangered by your having parenting time or unrestricted parenting time. Depending on the situation, such as if you have been accused of abuse or being an unfit parent, the court can place restrictions on your time with your child. A common limitation is that your time with your son or daughter must be supervised by another family member, social worker, or counselor.
Contact Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. Right Away
When you need help establishing a parenting plan, or if your child’s other parent is trying to limit your parenting time, contact the Chicago family law attorneys of Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. as soon as possible. We are here to help in any type of situation, from an amicable relationship to a contentious fight for custody. Call us today at 630-984-7448 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.