Parental Responsibility

The New “Custody” Law in Illinois

Beginning in 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act underwent sweeping changes. One of the most contentious areas in any divorce or parentage case, was the custody of the children. Custody related to the major decisions to be made for the parties’ children. There were 4 major areas as it related to custody: religion, medical, school and extracurricular activities. In a nutshell, if parents communicated effectively and it was in the children’s best interests, then they could share “joint custody” of their children. If the parents did not communicate effectively, then one parent would be awarded “sole custody” of the children.

Parental Responsibility

Illinois’ new law, which is found at 750 ILCS 5/600 et seq., now refers to the term “custody” as “parental responsibility.” As with the term “custody”, parental responsibility deals with the major decisions parents must make for their children. Under the new statute, judges are still required to award decision making responsibilities to one or both parents based on what’s in the children’s best interests. As with the former law, under the new law, there is no requirement that both parents be awarded the right to make major decisions. In other words, one parent can be allocated sole decision-making responsibilities.

Areas Covered

The major, or significant, decisions include, but are not limited to:

  • Education (including where the kids go to school and if they need tutors);
  • Health care (this includes medical, dental and psychological issues);
  • Religion (the court shall consider, among other factors, evidence of the parent’s previous religious training for their children); and
  • Extracurricular activities.

In today’s world, parents are allocated either “sole parental responsibilities” or “joint parental responsibilities.” Parents, or the judge, can decide that the major decisions should be divided between the parties. Maybe mom makes the health care decisions and dad makes the extracurricular activities decisions and the other areas are made jointly between mom and dad. If the parents are not able to agree on how to allocate the different responsibilities, then the court will make that determination.

Far too often, in hotly contested divorce cases, the parents are not able to agree on the financial aspects of their case. They fight over money, property and debt. This acrimony, however, should not stand in the way of the parents sharing parental responsibilities. Parents who are going through a divorce will find this period of time the most difficult to cooperate with each other. Emotions are running high and they might not be thinking clearly. Once they are divorced, however, and things have settled down, the parents can then usually set aside their differences and focus on what is in the best interests of their children. It is always best, if the parents are willing, in the early stages of a divorce or parentage case, to try and steer them towards sharing parental responsibilities. If mom and dad are able to communicate effectively and it’s in the best interests of the children, then having 2 involved parents is best for the kids.

Have Questions or Concerns Regarding the New Law?

If you are going through a divorce or parentage case and you need some guidance with the new law, call Taradash Given, P.C. We have the knowledge and experience to confidently guide you through the new law and what it means for you and your children. To learn more about the new law, call us at (312) 775-1020 or click here to schedule a free consultation today.

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