Illinois child custody basics from a father’s perspective

Article provided by Jeffery M. Leving

When an Illinois father like you faces divorce, your children's well being and happiness are your foremost concern. Worries about your access to them and future decision-making for your children can be overwhelming.

The good news is that Illinois custody law has been recently revised and that you and your spouse will start on a level playing field where the other parent will not have advantage because of gender. A stable relationship with both parents through all stages of childhood - from infancy through late teens - promotes emotional and mental health for children. An underlying purpose of the Illinois family law is to promote existing parent-child relationships, and secure the maximum involvement and cooperation of parents regarding the physical, mental, moral and emotional well-being of children during and after litigation.

You have the right to a custody arrangement in your children's best interest that will allow your meaningful involvement in decisions important to your children and grant you fair and generous custody and visitation.

Illinois custody update

Illinois child custody laws significantly changed in 2016. The statute now calls a child custody decision the "allocation of parental responsibilities." This term includes determinations about significant decision-making responsibilities, which can be allocated to one parent or shared by both. Illinois law mandates that the significant areas of decision that must be allocated include education, health, religion and extracurricular activities.

It can be advantageous for a divorcing couple to negotiate an agreement that settles all custody matters. This is not always possible, though, particularly if your children's other parent is letting her emotions or bitterness cloud the issues.

If you and your spouse cannot agree, the judge in the divorce proceeding must make all allocation and parenting time decisions in light of the children's best interests.

Parenting-time determinations

"Parenting time," formerly known as "visitation," is an issue the court must determine when the parents do not agree. Illinois law presumes both parents to be fit, so a judge may only restrict parenting time if spending time with that parent would seriously endanger the child's "physical, mental, moral, or emotional health."

The court must look at all relevant factors in creating a parenting schedule in the child's best interest, including:

  • The parents' wishes
  • The child's wishes, considering maturity
  • How the parents spent time performing caretaking functions in the previous two years
  • Previous parental agreement or conduct concerning caretaking
  • The child's relationships with parents, siblings and others who might "significantly affect the child's best interests"
  • The child's adjustment to "home, school and community"
  • Mental and physical health of everyone involved
  • The child's needs
  • Logistical issues like distance between the two homes, transportation, schedules and parental ability to cooperate
  • Appropriateness of restrictions on visitation
  • Physical violence or the threat of same by a parent against the child or anyone else at home
  • Parental ability to put the child first
  • Parental willingness to support the child's relationship with the other parent
  • Child abuse or other domestic abuse
  • Status of parent or someone in the parent's home as a convicted sex offender
  • Military family-care plans
  • Any other factor the court expressly finds to be relevant

Decision-making

When granting decision-making authority, the judge must evaluate all relevant evidence, including many of the above same factors used to determine parenting time.

We Are Here For You

At the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving in Chicago, we have a long history of standing up for the rights of fathers to full participation in the lives of their children after divorce. If you are an Illinois father dedicated to creating a life for your kids - despite the end of your marriage - that will be enriched by a strong, stable father-child relationship, talk to us. We are on your side.

Contact us today so we can answer your questions about custody and visitation and create a plan to fight for the best interests of your children.