If you are facing a divorce and you have children, you likely have significant custody concerns. Illinois courts will make a parenting time determination when parents cannot agree with one another. 

Before your court date, learn more about how child custody works in the state. 

Physical vs. legal custody 

Physical custody means where the child lives, whether with just one parent or alternately with both parents. Legal custody is the parent’s right to contribute to important decisions on behalf of the child, including where he or she will attend school, worship and receive medical care. 

Unlike in many states, joint custody is not the legal default in Illinois. However, judges do presume that a relationship with both parents usually benefits the child. 

Factors in custody determinations 

Illinois encourages parents to make an independent decision about custody. When custody is contentious, the court will review the following factors and choose the arrangement in the child’s best interest: 

  • The child’s preference if he or she is at least 14 and can make a mature decision in the eyes of the judge 
  • Each parent’s preference about custody 
  • Whether either parent has a military family care plan in place 
  • Any history of violent or sexual offenses on behalf of either parent 
  • Whether each parent is able and willing to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent 
  • The mental and physical health of the child and both parents 
  • The child’s current adjustment to the community, including home, school and relationship with extended family members 
  • A history of mental illness or substance abuse when these factors affect the parent’s ability to care for the child 

When the child is well-adjusted, happy and healthy, the judge may be unlikely to change the status quo. Illinois courts strive to provide children with a stable, caring environment when making family law decisions. Once the judge creates a parenting plan, the parents cannot modify the plan for two years unless both agree or the child is in danger in the current situation. 

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