Custody involves two basic components. Physical custody refers to parenting time with the child. Legal custody refers to decision-making. Custody is of course alive and well as a concept, but the legislature has removed the term from the law. Instead, what was called custody is now called parental responsibility. It is composed of the same two items: parenting time and decision-making. For convenience and clarity, the term “custody” is still frequently used.
When two parents are no longer living and parenting together as one, the parental responsibilities must be assigned to each parent. There are myriad options going all the way up to truly equally shared parenting time and decision-making. The parents can either reach an agreement as to the allocation of parenting responsibilities for the child or they can let the Court determine it for them. After evaluating as objectively as possible what is in the best interests of the child, the parties can often reach agreements on at least some issues. This best interests determination is made by the Court through the application of the factors set forth in Sections 602.5 and 602.7 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
In determining what is in the best interests of the child, the Court will evaluate numerous factors. Some of the considerations include: wishes of the parties and child, time spent with the child previously, interactions with siblings, adjustment to school and community, daily schedule of the child, and many more. With most of the factors, it is not black and white, and each side has reasonable arguments as to why it is in the best interests of the child that he or she be awarded majority parenting time and final authority with respect to decision-making. This is why it is important to be represented when fighting for maximum time with your child and the right to make or be fully involved in the important decisions in his or her life.
Sometimes circumstances change after parental responsibility/custody Orders are entered. Section 610.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides a remedy. Generally, the modification can only occur two or more years from the time of the original Order. In order to modify parental responsibilities, a party must show a substantial change in circumstances. Once a substantial change is shown, the standard employed by the Court is the best interests of the child.
Whether you are trying to establish as much valuable time with your child as possible or seeking to modify an existing Order, we can help.