In an ideal situation, both parents will be cooperative and fully involved in all decisions and actions regarding the upbringing of their children after divorce. The reality of most divorces requires the court to step in and help when parents are unable to agree.
In Illinois, custody and visitation are now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities and the allocation of parenting time. Courts make all decisions based on the best interest of the child.
Allocation of parental responsibilities
This refers to who is responsible for making important decisions about the welfare of the child. These are decisions about important subjects including health care, education and religion. The law allows the judge to allocate decision-making for each area to a specific parent. The judge may determine that one parent makes all health care decisions and the other makes all education decisions. Alternatively, the judge may determine that both parents must jointly share decisions regarding one specific area.
Allocation of parenting time
This refers to determinations about physical time spent with the parent the child does not live with the majority of the time. The court can step in to make parenting time determinations about overnights, weekends and holidays if both parents cannot agree on relatively equal parenting time. Tasks regarding caretaking fall to whichever parent the child is with at a given moment.
How judges make determinations
Judges consider many factors when determining how to allocate responsibilities and time. A few of those factors include:
- The wishes of each parent
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- The past involvement of each parent in decision-making
- The connection of the child with their home and school
- The mental and physical health of all involved
- History of past claims of abuse
The judge may also consider the wishes of the child if they are of a certain age and mature enough to express reasoned preferences.
Decisions made regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time also affect child support. When one parent has the majority of parenting time, the other parent is often expected to help pay for necessary expenses for the child.