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Know the Laws: Illinois

UPDATED September 19, 2017

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This page has Illinois-specific information on allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time.  There is also a general custody information page, which may be helpful.

The custody process

back to topWhat factors will a judge consider when allocating decision-making responsibilities (custody)?

A judge will make a decision about allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities (custody) based on what s/he thinks is in your child’s best interest.*  The judge will look at any factor that s/he thinks is important to make this decision, including:

  • the wishes of the parents;
  • the child’s wishes, taking into account the child's maturity and ability to express his/her own preference as to decision-making responsibilities;
  • the child’s adjustment to his/her home, school and community;
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • the ability of the parents to cooperate to make decisions, or the level of conflict between the parties that may affect their ability to share decision-making;
  • the level of each parent's participation in past significant decision-making with respect to the child;
  • any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to decision-making with respect to the child;
  • the child's needs;
  • the ability of the parents to cooperate in an arrangement made, taking into account the distance between the parents' homes, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child between homes, and the daily schedule of each parent and the child;  
  • whether a "restriction" (as defined by law) on decision-making responsibilities is appropriate; 
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • any physical violence or threat of physical violence by either parent against the child;
  • any acts of abuse against the child or a member of the child's household;
  • whether or not either of the parents is a convicted sex offender, considering the exact nature of the offense and what treatment the offender has successfully participated in; and
  • any other factor that the judge finds to be relevant.** 

The judge cannot consider conduct of a parent that does not affect that parent's relationship to the child.*** 

* 750 ILCS 5/602.5(a)
** 750 ILCS 5/602.5(c)
*** 750 ILCS 5/602.5(e)

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back to topWhen a judge allocates decision-making responsibilities, what areas of the child's life does that cover?

Unless the parents agree in writing on an allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities, the judge will grant (allocate) to one or both of the parents the significant decision-making responsibility for each significant issue affecting the child.  Those significant issues include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. education, including the choice of schools and tutors;
  2. health, including all decisions relating to the medical, dental, and psychological needs of the child and to the treatments arising or resulting from those needs;
  3. religion, taking into account any agreement between the parents.  If there is no agreement, the judge will consider evidence of the parents' past conduct as to the child's religious upbringing and allocate decision-making responsibilities accordingly; and
  4. extracurricular activities.*

* 750 ILCS 5/602.5(b)

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back to topHow will a judge make a decision about parenting time (visitation)?

A judge will make a decision about parenting time based on what s/he thinks is in your child’s best interest.*  The judge will assume that both parents are fit and will not place any restrictions on parenting time unless you can prove to the judge that parenting time would seriously endanger the child's physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.**  The judge will look at any factor that s/he thinks is important to make this decision, including: 

  • the parents' wishes as to parenting time;
  • the child’s preference for parenting time, taking into account the child's maturity and ability to express his/her own preference;
  • the amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child in 2 years before the petition was filed for allocation of parental responsibilities/parenting time;
  • any prior agreement or behavior pattern ("course of conduct") between the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect to the child;
  • the relationship the child has with his/her parent(s), his/her siblings and any other person that might significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  • the child’s adjustment to his/her home, school and community;
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • the child's needs;
  • the ability of the parents to cooperate in a parenting time arrangement, taking into account the distance between the parents' homes, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child between homes, and the daily schedule of each parent and the child;
  • whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate;
  • any physical violence or threat of physical violence by either parent against the child or a member of the child's household;
  • any acts of abuse against the child or a member of the child's household;
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • whether or not either of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with one; the judge will consider the exact nature of the offense and what treatment the offender has successfully participated in;
  • the terms of a parent's military family-care plan if a parent is member of the United Stated Armed Forces who is being deployed; and
  • any other factor that the judge finds to be relevant.**

The judge cannot consider conduct of a parent that does not affect that parent's relationship to the child.***

Note: A parent shall have sole responsibility for making routine decisions with respect to the child and for emergency decisions affecting the child's health and safety during that parent's parenting time.****

*  750 ILCS 5/602.7(a)
** 750 ILCS 5/602.7(b)
*** 750 ILCS 5/602.7(c)
**** 750 ILCS 5/602.5(d)

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