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Child Custody Laws in Illinois

Child Custody Laws in Illinois


Child custody battles can be difficult and emotional processes that have long-lasting impacts on the entire family. Illinois laws regarding child custody have evolved to provide a more nuanced approach to custody disputes. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of child custody laws in Illinois.

Types of Child Custody:

In Illinois, there are two main types of child custody: legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, religious affiliation, and medical care. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where the child lives and who takes care of them on a day-to-day basis.

Joint Custody:

In Illinois, joint custody is becoming more common. Joint custody means that both parents have equal legal custody rights and share responsibility for their child’s upbringing. It may be joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both.

Sole Custody:

Sole custody is when one parent has full legal and physical custody rights over their child. This is typically awarded when one parent is deemed unfit or if the parents cannot agree on joint custody. However, sole custody is becoming less common in Illinois, as courts prefer to award joint custody when possible.

Factors Considered:

When making a custody decision, the court’s main consideration is the child’s best interests. The court will consider the parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment, the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s school and community, and each parent’s physical and mental health.

Parenting Plan:

When parents agree on custody, they will need to submit a parenting plan to the court. A parenting plan outlines the details of custody and parenting time, including where the child will live, visitation schedules, and how important decisions will be made for the child.

Modifying Custody Orders:

Child custody orders can be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order. For example, if a parent loses their job and can no longer provide care for their child, the court may revise the custody agreement.


Child custody laws in Illinois aim to provide children with stable, supportive environments, while also considering the rights of both parents. It is essential for parents to understand the different types of custody, the factors the court considers when making a decision, and the steps involved in obtaining or modifying custody orders. Seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney can be crucial in navigating the complexities of child custody disputes.



Illinois has witnessed significant developments in child custody laws and regulations over the past ten years, reflecting the state’s commitment to the best interests of children involved in custody matters. This article highlights key changes in Illinois’s child custody laws and regulations from 2013 to 2023.

2013: Child’s Best Interests Standard

   – Adoption of the child’s best interests standard as the central criterion in custody decisions.

2014: Shared Custody Promotion

   – Promotion of shared custody arrangements to encourage active involvement of both parents.

2015: Parenting Plans Requirement

   – Introduction of mandatory parenting plans outlining custody, visitation, and support arrangements.

2016: Child’s Preferences Consideration

   – Consideration of the child’s preferences in custody determinations based on age and maturity.

2017: Grandparent Visitation Recognition

   – Recognition of grandparent visitation rights in custody proceedings.

2018: Domestic Violence Protections

   – Strengthened provisions to protect children from exposure to domestic violence.

2019: Mediation Emphasis

   – Emphasis on mediation as a means to resolve custody disputes amicably.

2020: Virtual Visitation Acceptance

   – Acknowledgment of virtual visitation as a means for non-custodial parents to maintain contact.

2021: Military Deployment Consideration

   – Consideration of the impact of military deployment on custody arrangements.

2022: Child Support Alignment

   – Alignment of child custody and child support procedures for consistency.

2023: Relocation Guidelines

   – Introduction of guidelines for parents seeking to relocate with their child, emphasizing stability.

Illinois’s continuous efforts to adapt child custody laws demonstrate the state’s dedication to the well-being of children and families. Staying informed about these changes is crucial for parents and legal professionals navigating custody matters.

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 facts 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.