When a couple with children decides to get a divorce or separation in Illinois, one of the most pressing issues that must be addressed is child custody. Custody is a legal term that refers to the right and responsibility to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. There are different types of custody arrangements that Illinois law recognizes, and the family court takes various factors into account to determine which parent should get custody. In Illinois, there are several types of custody that the family court recognizes, including sole custody, joint custody, and split custody. The court will take into account a range of factors when deciding which parent should have custody, with the overriding concern being the best interests of the child.
Types of Custody in Illinois
Illinois recognizes two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing. These decisions include healthcare, education, religion, and other significant aspects of the child’s life. In Illinois, legal custody can be joint or sole.
Joint legal custody means that both parents have an equal say in making major decisions about the child’s upbringing. In joint legal custody, the parents must work together and communicate effectively to make decisions in the child’s best interests.
Sole legal custody means that one parent has the sole right to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing. The other parent may still have the right to receive information and be consulted about important decisions, but the final decision-making power rests with the parent with sole legal custody.
Physical custody refers to where the child lives and with whom the child spends the majority of their time. In Illinois, physical custody can be joint or sole.
Joint physical custody means that the child spends an equal amount of time with both parents. The parents may alternate weeks, months, or even days to ensure that the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent.
Sole physical custody means that the child primarily resides with one parent, and the other parent may have visitation rights. The non-custodial parent may have the right to visit with the child on weekends, holidays, or other specific times.
Split custody is a rare form of custody that occurs when there are multiple children involved in a custody case. Each parent is awarded physical custody of one or more of the children. Split custody is not typically favored by the court because it can disrupt sibling relationships.
Factors Considered by the Family Court
When deciding who should get custody of a child, the family court considers various factors. The court’s main goal is to ensure that the child’s best interests are served, and the custody arrangement should be in the child’s best interests. Here are some of the factors that the family court considers when deciding who gets custody of a child in Illinois.
- The Child’s Wishes
The court considers the child’s wishes if the child is old enough to express their preference. The court will consider the child’s age, level of maturity, and the reasons for their preference. However, the child’s wishes are not the only factor the court considers and are not determinative of custody decisions.
- The Child’s Relationship with Each Parent
The court considers the relationship between the child and each parent. The court will look at each parent’s history of caring for the child, including their involvement in the child’s education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities. When assessing the child’s relationship with each parent, the court may also consider factors such as the child’s age and developmental needs. Younger children may require more frequent and consistent contact with both parents, while older children may have a greater need for stability and routine. Additionally, if the child has special needs or requires significant medical or educational support, the court will consider which parent is better equipped to provide that support.
- Each Parent’s Ability to Care for the Child
The court considers each parent’s ability to care for the child. The court looks at each parent’s living situation, including the child’s living arrangements, access to food, clothing, and medical care, and the parent’s ability to provide for the child’s basic needs. Also, the court will assess each parent’s financial resources and work history to determine their ability to provide for the child’s needs. If one parent has a history of unstable employment or financial instability, the court may question their ability to provide a stable home environment for the child.
- Each Parent’s Mental and Physical Health
The court considers each parent’s mental and physical health including any history of drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, or physical disabilities that may impact their ability to care for the child. The court may order a psychological evaluation of each parent to determine their mental health and their ability to care for the child. If a parent has a history of substance abuse, the court may require them to undergo drug testing, participate in a substance abuse treatment program, or take other steps to demonstrate their ability to provide a stable and safe home environment for the child.
- The Child’s Educational Needs
The court considers the child’s educational needs. The court looks at each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s educational needs, including their involvement in the child’s education and their ability to provide a stable environment for the child’s academic success.
- Each Parent’s Work Schedule
The court considers each parent’s work schedule. The court looks at the parent’s work hours, their ability to provide care for the child during their work schedule, and whether their work schedule would interfere with the child’s daily routine.
- Each Parent’s History of Domestic Violence
The court considers each parent’s history of domestic violence. The court may order a domestic violence evaluation to determine whether either parent has a history of domestic violence, which can impact the child’s safety and well-being. The court will evaluate any evidence of domestic violence or abuse, including police reports, restraining orders, and testimony from witnesses or experts. If the court finds that a parent has a history of domestic violence or abuse, they may limit or terminate that parent’s parental rights or order supervised visitation to ensure the safety of the child.
- Each Parent’s Willingness to Co-Parent
The court considers each parent’s willingness to co-parent. The court looks at each parent’s ability to communicate and cooperate with the other parent to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing. The court may also consider each parent’s willingness to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.
- Any Other Relevant Factors
The court may consider any other relevant factors that may impact the child’s well-being, including the child’s relationship with siblings, grandparents, or other family members. Additionally, the court may consider any special needs of the child, such as educational or medical needs, and which parent is best equipped to meet those needs.
It is important to note that the court’s custody determination is not set in stone and may be modified in the future if circumstances change. For example, if a parent’s circumstances change, such as they move to a different state or have a change in employment, they may seek a modification of the custody order. Additionally, if there is evidence of abuse or neglect, the other parent may seek a modification of the custody order to protect the child.
In conclusion, determining who gets custody of a child in Illinois is a complex and emotional process. The family court takes various factors into account, including the child’s wishes, the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to care for the child, their mental and physical health, the child’s educational needs, each parent’s work schedule, and each parent’s willingness to co-parent. The court’s main goal is to ensure that the custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests and promotes the child’s safety, well-being, and happiness. If you are facing a custody dispute in Illinois, it is essential to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process and protect your rights and the best interests of your child.