Understanding the difference between sole and joint custody

There are many factors that impact whether parents are awarded sole or joint custody during the divorce process.

When parents in Illinois divorce, they often have concerns about how the relationship they have with their children will be affected. Parents should remember that how much time they have to spend with their children following their divorce is largely impacted by whether a sole or joint custody arrangement is solidified.

Sole custody

Parents who are awarded sole custody take care of their children the majority of the time. They also make major decisions about their children. In sole custody situations, the parent without sole custody is known as the noncustodial parent, and generally speaking, he or she will have the right to visitation, which may include spending vacation periods and overnight visits with the children.

Joint custody

In joint custody arrangements, both parents may spend a substantial amount of time with their children and they may make major decisions about their children together. These issues may include deciding where the children go to school, what kind of healthcare they receive and the type of religious training they receive. Parents may also jointly decide how to discipline their children, what extra-curricular activities they are permitted to participate in and the appropriate age for dating and driving. When parents cannot successfully make decisions about their children together, it is recommended that they seek the assistance of a mediator.

Factors considered

Courts consider a variety of factors when determining whether to award divorcing parents with sole or joint custody so the best interests of the children are maintained. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, these include some of the following:

  • What the children want based on their level of maturity as well as the preferences of the parents
  • The ability of the parents to work together to make joint decisions for their children
  • How much each parent participated in the past in terms of making decisions for their children
  • The physical and mental health of the children and the parents
  • How adjusted the children are to their home, school and community
  • How far apart the parents live from each other

In addition, how much time each parent spent taking care of the children before the divorce can play a role in whether sole or joint custody is awarded. For instance, a father who took care of his children during the day and managed their extra-curricular activities, school responsibilities and other activities may have a better chance at winning sole custody than if the mother was rarely present.

Contact an attorney

Parents who are going through a divorce in Illinois may have concerns about whether they will be awarded sole or joint custody. In this situation, parents should reach out to an attorney for legal guidance and assistance.