Child Custody

Parental responsibilities and parenting time

As family law attorneys who focus almost exclusively on parentage and divorce cases, we represent on a daily basis parents who are seeking a resolution to their child-custody case that is in the best interests of their children. We resolve these issues through negotiation, mediation, and, if necessary, litigation (trial).

The typical child-custody case proceeds as follows:

  • Filing of a petition for dissolution or a parentage case – According to Illinois law, the first pleading involving a child-custody case should include the “child’s present address or whereabouts, the places where the child has lived during the last five years, and the names and present addresses of the persons with whom the child has lived during that period.” (750 ILCS 36/209).
  • Parenting class – Illinois Supreme Court Rule 924 (Parenting Education Requirement) require that each parent attend a parenting education program consisting of at least four hours covering the subject of parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities and their impact on children. Attendance is mandatory except when excused by the court for good cause.
  • Mediation,
  • Appointment of children’s representative,
  • Custody evaluation,
  • Gathering of evidence to prepare for trial,
  • Trial.

As of 2016, Illinois has moved away from using the  terms terms child-custody or visitation. Instead instead of the term “custody” the statutes generally uses the term “parental responsibilities”  (both “custody” and “parental responsibilities” mean decision-making power over a child’s medical, educational, extracurricular, and religious training). Similarly, instead of using the term “visitation”  much of Illinois law uses the terms “parenting time”. The move toward the new terms was long overdue since the old term was inappropriate in the case of custody (the term “custody” means imprisonment) and outdated in the case of visitation (it’s an insult to call the time a parent and their child spend together a “visit”).

Although there is a move away from the terms “child-custody” and “visitation”, the move has not been complete in large part due to the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) which, although a state law, is a parallel law that has been passed in the Virgin Islands and all states with the exception of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The purpose of the UCCJEA is to determine which state has jurisdiction to hear a child-custody case and, thus, it is imperative that all terms in each state’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act be as similar to each other as possible. So, until all other 49 states choose to change their own statutes, Illinois will still continue to use the old fashioned terms at least some of the time.