If you are facing divorce, or if you are having issues with your child’s other parent, you may be wondering how – and whether – you can win sole custody of your child.

Can I Get Sole Custody in Illinois?

Sole custody is rarely granted in Illinois. The state’s preference is for children to have ongoing relationships with both parents. To obtain sole custody you must demonstrate with clear evidence that joint custody would not serve the best interests of the child. This approach aligns with Illinois custody law, which prioritizes the child’s welfare in custody decisions.

You ought to consider carefully what your child custody goals are. Perhaps you’d like to be the sole person to make all significant decisions about your child, and you’d like the child to be in your sole physical possession.

Or, maybe you would like to be the primary custodial and decision-making parent, but you have no problem with the child’s other parent sharing physical custody somewhat.

You should discuss your custody goals with an experienced child custody attorney to identify the best strategy.

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How to File for Full Custody in Illinois

The practical steps on how to get full custody in Illinois begins with filing a petition in the circuit court in the county where the child lives.

If you are married to the other parent and filing for a divorce, you can include the request for sole custody in your divorce papers.

Although you can file these papers alone, an experienced attorney can help you prepare a custody petition that will put your best foot forward in your fight for sole custody.

What is the Legal Definition of Child Custody in Illinois?

The first step in understanding how to win sole custody in Illinois is learning how Illinois law defines child custody. Child custody is a legal term that describes the authority to make decisions about a child and the physical possession of the child.

Illinois law uses the term “allocation of parental responsibilities” rather than child custody. Generally, a court issues an order regarding child custody or the allocation of parental responsibility.

RELATED: A Plain English Guide to Illinois Child Custody Laws

Illinois law designates two types of parental responsibility: parenting responsibilities and parenting time. Parenting responsibilities include the authority to make significant life decisions for the child, such as health, medical needs, education, and religion. Parenting time is defined as the physical possession of the child.

What Are the Best Interests of the Child?

A critical step in how to win sole custody in Illinois is to prove that sole custody is in the best interests of the child. A court looks at factors to decide the child’s best interests, including:

  • The child’s wishes;
  • The child’s stability in their home and community;
  • The child’s and parents’ physical and mental health;
  • Whether the parents can cooperate;
  • Each parent’s past participation in decisions about the child’s life;
  • Each parent’s wishes;
  • The child’s specific needs;
  • Whether a parent has been violent or threatened the child, or someone else from their household has abused the child;
  • Whether a parent is a sex offender;
  • The distance between the parents’ residences; and
  • Any other factor that the court thinks is relevant.

How a court decides a child’s best interests is different depending on the child’s age. For example, an infant is not as capable of expressing their wishes as a teenager.

Disrupting the Child’s Routine

If the child is currently living with you, is enrolled in school, and has otherwise established a routine, courts are unlikely to disrupt the child’s routine. However, you may face an uphill battle if you are not the primary caretaker and want sole custody. You will have to show the court why dramatically changing the child’s routine would be in their best interests. 

The only way to dramatically alter the child’s status quo or seriously restrict or eliminate the other parent’s parenting time is to show that the other parent’s behaviors or actions seriously endanger the child. A court might find that substance abuse, addiction, domestic violence, or untreated mental illness, for example, endanger the child. 

In cases where the other parent has abandoned the child or is incarcerated, you’ll be able to get sole custody relatively easily. You’d still need to prove these things in court.

Can I Prove that I am the Better Parent?

Through documents and witnesses, you must prove to a judge that you are the best person to be primarily responsible for your child. To do this, you should document everything regarding your child’s relationship with you and with the other parent.

For example, you should write down each time the other parent misses essential events and appointments and when they show up to meetings or events under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Get a calendar and write it all down, so you don’t forget when it happened. Also, write down on the calendar if your child exhibits unusual behavior after spending time with the other parent. 

You should also gather witnesses to the other parent’s behaviors, especially if they have anger issues or engage in substance use or domestic abuse. It’s also helpful to have witnesses for your good character and parenting abilities. 

Proving in court that sole custody is in your child’s best interest can be challenging. A court will likely grant some parenting time to the other parent, even if you have evidence that the other parent is not a stellar influence on the child. An experienced family law attorney can help you gather the best evidence to build the most compelling case for sole custody.

Consult with an Experienced Child Custody Attorney Today

Illinois law and the judicial process for child custody are complicated and can overwhelm someone in an already stressful situation. That’s why we are here to help.

Contact Vantage Group Legal Services for a free consultation and to learn more about the affordable legal services we offer when you enroll in a subscription. You don’t have to face this matter alone.

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