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How does Illinois determine child custody arrangements?

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2024 | Child Custody |

When parents separate or divorce, one of their biggest concerns is often child custody. This worry is natural because parents want to give their children every advantage.

Therefore, understanding Illinois’ guidelines around these arrangements can assist with negotiations with a co-parent or presenting a case in family court.

How courts determine child custody in divorce cases

Courts prioritize the child’s best interests when making custody arrangements. They consider various factors, such as:

  • Each parent’s relationship with the child
  • A parent’s ability to provide a stable environment
  • The desires of each parent
  • The child’s own preferences if the youth is old enough to express them
  • Any preexisting agreements between the parents

With this in mind, the court assigns legal and physical custody. Physical custody pertains to where the child will live. Legal custody deals with important decisions about the child’s upbringing.

Where possible, courts often award joint legal custody. This allows both parents to play a role in providing guidance and making key decisions for the child.

Child custody rules for unmarried parents

Like divorced couples, unmarried parents can negotiate custody agreements or seek court intervention to formalize arrangements. Generally, the mother has automatic custody rights as maternity is easy to determine.

Establishing legal paternity opens the door for the father to gain custody or parenting time. A man can do this by filing a paternity action. Then he may supply a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity that both parents signed when the child was born. Otherwise, he can request a genetic test as proof.

Child custody without a court order

If the couple does not have a court order regarding child custody, the parents typically have equal rights to any children. This applies to parenting time and decisions about childrearing. However, such circumstances are usually not ideal. Confusion and potential conflicts can easily result.

Ideally, co-parents can create a formal agreement for a parenting plan that specifies each parent’s responsibilities and a custody schedule. If the couple cannot reach an agreement, one of them may file a petition for a judge to review the situation or work with a parenting coordinator. Mediation with a third party is another alternative parents can use.

Navigating child custody issues can be daunting. However, getting a better grasp of the law and available options can provide clarity on what steps to take to protect one’s rights as a parent.