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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.

Basic information and definitions

back to topWhat is the difference between "allocation of parental responsibilities" and "parenting time"?

In 2016, there was a change in Illinois law regarding the use of the words custody and visitation.  The term "allocation of parental responsibilities" or "significant decision-making responsibility" has replaced "custody" and the term "parenting time" has replaced "visitation."  

Illinois law defines parenting time as the time during which a parent is taking care of the child and has "non-significant decision-making responsibilities" for the child while the child is in his/her care.*   When explaining allocation of parental responsibilities, the law refers to which parent will have significant decision-making responsibility, which addresses which parent makes important decisions for the child in the areas of education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and religion.** 

* 750 ILCS 5/801
** See 750 ILCS 5/602.5(b)

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back to topShould I start a court case to ask for supervised visits?

If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).

However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.

In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.

In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to IL Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.

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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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Who can get custody and visitation

back to topCan a parent who committed domestic violence or sexual abuse of a child get parental responsibilities or parenting time?

Domestic violence:
Possibly.  When considering whether or not to award parenting time (visitation) and significant decision-making responsibilities (custody), a judge will consider any physical violence or threat of physical violence and any acts of "abuse" by the parent against the child or a member of the child's household.*  Abuse, for these purposes, is defined as physical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation.**  However, there are also many other factors that a judge will consider when making a decision.  Therefore, it is possible that a parent who has committed violence or abuse will get parenting time (visitation) and significant decision-making responsibilities.

Sexual abuse:
When considering whether or not to award parenting time (visitation) and significant decision-making responsibilities (custody), the judge will consider if a parent is a sex offender.  The judge will also consider the exact nature of the offense and what, if any, treatment the parent has completed.***  However, again, this is just one factor among many that will be considered.   Note: If a parent was convicted of any offense involving an illegal sex act committed against a minor, s/he cannot get parenting time while incarcerated or while on parole, probation, conditional discharge, periodic imprisonment, or mandatory supervised release for a felony offense until the parent complies with whatever terms and conditions the judge may order.  The judge will take into account the exact nature of the offense and what, if any, treatment in which the parent successfully participated.****

* 750 ILCS 5/602.7(c)(11),(14); 750 ILCS 5/602.5(c)(12),(13)
** 750 ILCS 5/600(a); 750 ILCS 60/103(1)
*** 750 ILCS 5/602.7(c)(15); 750 ILCS 5/602.5(c)(14)
**** 750 ILCS 5/603.10(e)

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After an order is in place

back to topIf I want to relocate with my child, how does the law define "relocate"?

Under the law, “relocation” has a different meaning depending on which county you live in and whether you are moving within Illinois or to another state.  

  • If the child's primary residence is Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will county, relocation would be any move:
    • within Illinois that is more than 25 miles from the child's current residence (as measured by an Internet mapping service); or
    • to another state that is more than 25 miles from the current primary residence (as measured by an Internet mapping service);*
  • If the child's primary residence is in any other county (aside from those listed above), relocation would be any move:
    • within Illinois that is more than 50 miles from the child's current residence (as measured by an Internet mapping service); or
    • to another state that is more than 25 miles from the current primary residence (as measured by an Internet mapping service).**

To see what steps you need to take if you want to relocate, go to If I want to relocate with my child, what steps do I need to take?

* 750 ILCS 5/600(g)(1),(3)
** 750 ILCS 5/600(g)(2),(3)

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back to topIf I want to relocate with my child, what steps do I need to take?

If a parent who has been allocated a majority of parenting time or equal parenting time in court wants to relocate with his/her child, there are certain steps s/he must follow:*

  1. s/he must provide at least 60 days' written notice before the relocation to the other parent (unless such notice is not possible - in that case, written notice shall be given at the earliest date possible).  The notice must include the following:
    • the intended date of the parent's relocation;
    • the address of the parent's intended new residence, if known; and
    • the length of time the relocation will last, if the relocation is not for an indefinite or permanent period.*1 Note: The judge may excuse you from giving all or some of this information (or may seal the information) if there is a history of domestic violence.*2
  2. s/he must file a copy of the required notice with the clerk of the circuit court.*2

If the non-relocating parent consents to the relocation, the law says that s/he can "sign" the notice and you can file it with the court and relocate.*3  Be sure to check with the clerk of court whether or not the signature needs to be notarized or if there are any additional requirements that must be met.  The court will then modify the parenting plan or allocation judgment accordingly (as long as the agreed modification is in the child's best interests).*3

If the non-relocating parent does not consent to the relocation, you must file a petition in court seeking permission to relocate.*4   Then a hearing would be held where the judge would decide whether or not to allow the relocation.  You can read about the factors that a judge will consider when deciding whether or not to allow you to relocate in section (g) of the law, 750 ILCS 5/609.2 on our IL Statutes page.

* 750 ILCS 5/609.2(b)
*1 750 ILCS 5/609.2(d)
*2 750 ILCS 5/609.2(c)
*3 750 ILCS 5/609.2(e)
*4 750 ILCS 5/609.2(f)

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