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How does child custody work in Illinois?

Illinois amended its child custody laws in 2016 which could affect how you and your ex-partner share parenting responsibilities for your children. 

It’s important not to listen to the stories you hear about custody cases in the past or how custody worked in the past. Instead, you need to understand how things are handled today.

What’s changed?

Previously, child custody took two primary forms: Legal and residential. 

Legal custody regarded who made the decisions regarding their children’s education, religious instruction, health care, and other activities.  Legal custody could be broken down to where only one parent made all the decisions (sole custody) or if both parents made the decisions together (joint custody).

The other type of custody was residential custody which refers to where the children live. Typically, the children would live mainly with one parent, referred to as the residential custodian. Visitation was the time that the non-custodial parent spent with their kids.

Since 2016, Illinois no longer uses the terms “custody” and “visitation” and instead uses “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” 

Under this new family law, parents can divide the decision-making process. For example, one parent can make all decisions regarding the children’s health care, while the other parent is the sole decision-maker regarding religious instruction.

Furthermore, parenting time is a separate issue from parental responsibility. It removes the idea that one parent can only “visit” with their child. Instead, parenting time refers to both parents having equal opportunity to be physically present in their children’s lives.

If you are a parent in Illinois, it is essential to understand the recent changes to the child custody laws. The new law favors shared parenting arrangements and places an increased emphasis on parental cooperation. This change ensures that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce or separation. 

If you are facing a divorce or other proceeding affecting your parental rights, it is important to speak with someone who can help guide you through these changes and protect your rights as a parent.

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