Guide to Child Custody Laws in Illinois
There are a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding child custody laws in Illinois. If you are involved in child custody proceedings, you may have heard a number of these already. Every state has its own child custody laws, and if you have heard how child custody “works” from someone in another state, you may be in for a surprise. This guide can help you sort fact from fiction and understand how the child custody laws in Illinois will impact your custody hearing.
Myths About Child Custody Laws in Illinois
Many people believe that mothers will always win sole custody of a very young child. This is not true according to child custody laws in Illinois. Mothers and fathers are equally considered in custody disputes for children of all ages. You may have also heard that joint custody is preferred by the courts. While this is true in some states, child custody laws in Illinois do not presume that either joint or sole custody is better for children. Your case will be decided solely on the facts as they are presented.
Another myth about child custody laws in Illinois is that children can decide for themselves which parent to live with. In fact, courts do take children's wishes into account, but only as a small portion of the overall child custody picture. Child custody laws in Illinois do not allow any minors to have decision-making authority about physical or legal custody.
Facts About Joint Custody
When parents think about joint custody, they may think of a 50/50 split in where their children live. This, however, is not what is generally awarded when a judge awards joint custody. Instead, one parent is usually given primary physical custody, meaning that the child will spend a majority of his or her time with that parent.
However, joint custody means that parents will have to share decision-making authority about their child, including decisions about religious instruction, medical and dental care, and schooling. Joint custody is usually awarded when the parents are willing to cooperate and have given the court a plan that includes plans for resolving disagreements.
Facts About Sole Custody
Because Illinois does not automatically prefer joint custody, many parents in Illinois end up with sole custody of their children. Sole custody means that only one parent has decision-making authority, and can decide where a child lives, goes to school, or goes to the doctor.
Sole custody is commonly awarded in cases where one parent is ruled to be unfit, or in cases where parents have so many disagreements that it appears unlikely they could work together to make decisions about their child's well-being. Sole custody may be awarded to mothers or fathers.
Facts About Visitation
The court will almost always grant visitation rights to a non-custodial parent. In some cases, these visitation rights may extend only to granting supervised visitation, especially if there is concern about abuse or neglect. Supervised visitation gives parents an opportunity to connect with their children without the custodial parent needing to worry that their child's well-being will be compromised.