Parents often have questions about joint custody in Illinois during a divorce or separation. Joint child custody in Illinois requires planning and coordination.
What Is Joint Custody in Illinois?
In Illinois, joint custody may be awarded if both parents are able to work together effectively and make decisions in the child’s best interests. With joint custody, both parents share the responsibility of making major decisions that directly impact the child, such as those related to education, healthcare, and religious training.
In Illinois, the law no longer uses the term child custody. Instead, the law now calls child custody the “allocation of parental responsibility.” Illinois law sets forth two types of custody: parenting responsibilities and parenting time.
Illinois law now calls legal custody “parenting responsibilities.” In Illinois, parental responsibilities are the legal authority to make significant life decisions regarding the child’s medical needs, education, and religion. These decisions include deciding where the child will primarily reside.
One parent can have sole decision-making authority, or both parents can share this responsibility. Parents with shared parental responsibility must cooperate and communicate regularly to make mutually agreeable decisions about the child’s life.
Parenting time refers to each parent’s physical time with the child taking care of their day-to-day needs. While a child is with one parent, that parent has the authority to make decisions about the child’s health and safety in an emergency.
Parents with joint custody in Illinois will have relatively equal parenting time. These parents must figure out a schedule that is genuinely equal and is in the child’s best interests. The best way to coordinate schedules and share the responsibilities of raising a child is to write everything down in a parenting plan.
Both parents typically file a parenting plan, either pursuant to a divorce proceeding or in an allocation of parental responsibilities (custody) proceeding. In the plan, parents set forth the decision-making authority for the child and describe a detailed parenting time schedule. The schedule should include regular daily parenting time as well as how the parents intend to split up the holidays. Typically, the parenting plan divides major holidays into two groups and then allocates parenting time into alternating-year schedules.
A detailed parenting plan is essential for joint legal custody. Parents often find it challenging to communicate with each other after a breakup. A detailed parenting plan can help ease tensions and facilitate the transition from a breakup into a healthy co-parenting relationship. A parenting plan also gives the child a routine that fosters a sense of stability.
In a court case, parents may file their own proposed parenting plans if they cannot come to a mutual agreement. A court will then decide. An experienced family attorney can work to get the best parenting plan for you and your children.
What are the Most Common Joint Custody Schedules in Illinois?
A 50/50 joint custody schedule aims to maximize parenting time with both parents. Illinois law encourages parents to come to an agreement on the parenting schedule, but the court can intervene and allocate parenting time in the child’s best interest if necessary.
Let’s look at some examples of common joint custody schedules.
In an alternating week schedule, the child is with Parent A for one week and then with Parent B the following week. The week typically begins and ends on a Friday after school or at work.
Two Weeks Each
With a two-week schedule, each parent has the child for two weeks at a time. As with the alternating week schedule, the two weeks typically begin and end on a Friday.
The above schedules could include one mid-week overnight with the co-parent. Another option would be a mid-week dinner or lunch with the co-parent.
This would be a plan where the child lives with Parent A for two days, then with Parent B for two days, and then goes back to Parent A for three days. This rotation continues the following week. If the week begins on a Monday, this plan allows both parents the opportunity to spend alternating weekends with the child.
This is a plan where the child lives with Parent A for two days, then Parent B for two days. Then the child returns to Parent A for five days, followed by five days with Parent B. This is a two-week schedule.
In this schedule, the child lives with Parent A for three days and then Parent B for three days. Then they go back to Parent A for four days, followed by another four days with Parent B. You can also use a 3-4-4-3 schedule, where the child spends three days with Parent A, four days with Parent B, another four days with Parent A, and then three more days with Parent B.
Every Other Weekend
This is not an equal split parenting time schedule. Here, one parent has the child most of the time, but the other parent gets the child every other weekend.
In this plan, Parent A has the child for four days, and then Parent B has the child for three days. These three days can be an extended weekend.
How Does Child Support Work in Illinois Joint Custody Arrangements?
In Illinois, child support laws and joint custody are somewhat related. The amount of time each parent spends with a child impacts child support, but joint custody does not automatically eliminate child support.
Child support is also based on each parent’s proportion of a fictional household income. This fictional income is the amount of income the child would benefit from if the parents lived together. Thus, if one parent makes significantly less, a court may still order child support even if the parents share joint custody. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services website has a calculator that can help you estimate child support obligations.
Can Joint-Custody Parents Make Modifications to their Parenting Plan?
If one parent’s schedule changes significantly or the child’s needs change, you can ask the court to modify a parenting plan. However, the court will not generally permit a modification before an established parenting plan is at least two years old.
Consult with Our Experienced Attorneys on Joint Custody
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