Child Related Issues

Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, effective January 1, 2016, the court will allocate "parental responsibilities" (formerly known as custody and visitation) to parents.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
"Allocation of Parental Responsibilities" includes decision-making responsibility previously know as "legal custody" and parenting time previously known as "visitation." Decision-making responsibility is broken down into four categories that can be assigned to both parents, divided between both parents or solely assigned to one parent. The four categories of significant decision-making responsibilities are as follows:
  • Education
  • Health
  • Religion
  • Extra-Curricular Activities
Parenting Time
"Parenting Time" means the time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child.  Caretaking functions are defined as tasks that address the care of a child by the parent.

Parenting Plan
"Parenting Plan" means a written agreement that allocates significant decision-making responsibilities, parenting time, or both. Except in cases of default, both parents must file with the court a separate or joint proposed parenting plan within 120 days after service or filing of a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities.

How does a court determine allocation of parental responsibility?

A court will make a determination as to the allocation of parental responsibilities based on what is in the child’s best interest.  To determine what is in the child’s best interest, the court will consider the following factors:

  • The wishes of the child’s parent or parents 
  • The wishes of the child (this factor is weighed more for older children)
  • The interaction of the child with his/her parents, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest (i.e. a parent’s spouse)
  • The child's needs
  • The level of each parent's participation in past significant decision-making
  • The distance between the parents' residences, the difficulty of transporting the child, and the daily schedule of each parent
  • The child’s adjustment to his/her home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of the parents and the child
  • The physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parents, whether directed against the child or directed against another person
  • The occurrence of ongoing or repeated abuse (i.e., physical, verbal, emotional, etc.) whether directed against the child or directed against another person
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child
  • Whether one of the parents is a sex offender

The court will not consider the conduct of a parent that does not affect his/her relationship to the child. 

Parenting Time

"Parenting time" means in-person time spent with the child and the parent during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child.

A parent's right to spend time with their child(ren) is an incredibly important right that the courts are obligated to protect.

In order for these parenting time rights to be restricted in any manner (including supervised parenting time), the parenting time must seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.  Parenting time will normally include routine time spent with the parent, including holidays and vacation time. There is no “guideline” or “standard” routine parenting time schedule in Illinois.  If the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will determine a parenting plan based on the best interest of the child.

There are serious consequences when a party has willfully and without reason denied another party court ordered parenting time. Failure to pay child support as ordered does not entitle the parent receiving support to withhold parenting time from the supporting parent.  The status of child support payments does not affect the parenting time rights of the parent obligated to pay support.  Likewise, a supporting parent cannot withhold child support payments because the parent receiving support is denying parenting time.  No matter how often a parent sees a child, that parent has an affirmative obligation to financially support the child.

While a parent’s right to see his/her child is a right which the court must protect, the court also has an obligation to protect the child from harm. Parenting time can be restricted, supervised or denied if a parent exercises parenting time in a manner that is harmful to child.  This includes, for example, exposing the child to obvious danger during parenting  time, such as driving while intoxicated with the child in the car.    

Copyright 2020 by Circuit Court of Cook County