Illinois Divorce and Family Law Weblog

Helping You and Your Family get through DivorceSM.
Weblog of DuPage County Attorney Raiford D. Palmer, focusing on divorce and family law.
(Copyright© 2005-2008 by Raiford D. Palmer. All rights reserved.) This blog is for advertising only and the contents are not legal advice.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Illinois Child Custody -- Joint, Sole, Shared Custody...

This might help clear up some misconceptions about custody/parenting arrangements:

(As a note I want to say that the modern preference in family law is to use the terms "parenting" and "parenting time" in place of "custody" and "visitation." While I agree with the good intent of those advocating use of these terms, our clients understand the old terms and therefore I use them here).

1. Sole custody: One person has sole control over the parenting of the children. Typically visitation (now known as parenting time) is provided for the other parent. In fact the visitation schedule is frequently the same as that seen in joint parenting (joint custody) cases. In extreme cases where the non custodial parent is a hazard to the child, the court may order supervised visitation or prevent visitation entirely. Courts typically award sole custody in extreme circumstances (abuse of children, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc.), but might award it in a situation where abuse is not an issue but the parents' relationship is so poor that joint parenting is impossible and not in the best interest of the child.

2. Joint custody/joint parenting: Both parents share decisionmaking for the children (decisions regarding schooling, religious upbringing, medical care, etc.). Most common in divorce in Illinois, encouraged by the courts. However the children do live with one parent and the other has visitation...some people refer to this situation as one spouse having "residential custody" simply meaning that the kids live with that parent primarily rather than the other. The trend has been toward more liberal visitation time with the non-residential parent.

3. Shared parenting/custody: Sounds like joint custody, but this is a situation where the parents spend equal time with the children (literally one week on, one week off, or split weeks). This is fairly unusual, and requires a serious commitment and cooperation between the divorced parents obviously. They also typically must live very close together (I've heard of a case where the kids remained in the family home and each parent took "shifts" of a week in length at the house)! My perception is that courts here in Illinois are leery about implementing these plans at present. I imagine a court would be concerned with the best interests of the children, and that shifting homes week after week, never having one home is a concern to the court. But under the right circumstances this may be possible.

What about child support if you spend a lot of time with the kids? Generally unless you have a true "shared parenting" situation courts still want the non custodial parent (the one not living with the kids) to pay child support.

There are few absolutes in this area. Courts do seek to honor settlements between parties if possible and in the best interests of the children.

If you have questions or are seeking a divorce, prenup, or have other family law questions, please call attorney Raiford Palmer at 630.434.0400 Ext. 165.