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How is child custody and visitation determined in the state of Illinois?

Countless parents throughout the state of Illinois are confronted with serious family law issues and decisions every year. Child custody and visitation agreements can be especially complex and confusing for families, since many people do not fully understand the definition of some visitation and child custody terms or how they apply to real life cases.

In the state of Illinois, guidelines establishing the legal custody of a child address concerns over which parent has the authority to make important decisions for that child. For instance, parents who are awarded joint custody are expected by the court to work together to make decisions on everything from where their child will attend school to what kind and level of medical care their child will receive. As a result, joint custody is only granted if both parents demonstrate that they are capable of cooperating with each other and of acting in the best interests of the child. If a parent is granted sole custody, he or she alone has the right and responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child’s care and upbringing. Another factor that may influence the court’s decision on whether to award sole or joint custody is how each parent interacts with the child. Concerns may be raised in court if a parent is found to negatively impact the child’s relationship with their other parent.

If parents are unable to make child custody decisions on their own, an Illinois family law court will outline a plan that takes several factors into consideration. In cases involving older kids, the children themselves may be consulted on custody and visitation matters. The court will also look at how well the child transitions into his or her new living environment and lifestyle.

Awarding joint or sole custody does not speak to visitation arrangements. Once legal custody is established, the court will decide on factors such as which parent has visitation rights and how child support will be configured. Visitation rights can be extended and/or restricted by the court depending on the conduct of both parties involved. Similarly, the court will establish child support payments according to the needs of the child. As a result, the child support agreement is independent from the implementation of the visitation agreement.

Source: State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County, “Child Custody Information,” Timothy C. Evans, Accessed July 28, 2014

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