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Update: More States Moving Toward Equal-Time Custody Arrangements

Posted on in Child Custody

Kane County Family Law AttorneyOriginally published: May 23, 2014 ---- Updated: September 12, 2022

The way Illinois describes child custody and visitation has changed in recent years. A parent's power to make major decisions about his or her child's upbringing is called "parental responsibilities." The time a parent spends caring for his or her child is "parenting time." Illinois courts encourage parents to work out the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time in a written agreement, but if the parents cannot agree, the court will make a decision.

If the parents have a "shared parenting" arrangement, each parent has the child at least 40 percent of the time. Child support calculations reflect the relatively equal amount of parenting time in shared parenting arrangements.

Fathers’ rights advocates across the country are challenging the presumption that women make better parents. These men accuse courts of affording women preferential treatment in child custody battles and argue that "joint" custody is a joke. But family law experts counter that the so-called maternal presumption is no longer the ubiquitous standard-bearer that it was formerly.

Many states are moving toward custody outcomes that have children spending equal time with both parents. In Wisconsin, for example, state law requires courts to take this approach. Studies there show that the number of custody cases resulting in the mother as sole custodian is declining, while the number of equal-time custodians is increasing. Moreover, another study reveals that nationwide, more and more mothers are being required to pay child support.

However, equal parenting time might be on the horizon in Illinois. A bill before the General Assembly would amend the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act by adding a presumption that equal parenting time is in a child's best interests. However, if a court found that equal-time custody is not in the child's best interests, then it instead would allot a minimum of 35 percent residential time to the non-custodial parent (barring the presence of factors showing this too is not in the child's best interests). The non-custodial parent could waive this right. 

How Illinois Courts Determine Child Custody under Current Law

Current Illinois custody law does not presume that equal parenting time is in a child's best interests. But if both parents and/or the child request equal-time custody, the court will take those wishes into account. Other factors a court will consider to determine what custody arrangement suits a child's best interests include:

  • The mental and physical health of all involved parties;

  • The existence or threat of physical violence toward the child;

  • The occurrence of ongoing or repeated abuse, emotional and/or physical;

  • Whether a child is already adjusted to a particular home, school or community; and

  • The relationship the child has with his or her parents, siblings, or anyone who might significantly affect the child's well-being, such as a stepparent or boyfriend/girlfriend.

Once the court has considered these and any other pertinent factors, it will craft a custody arrangement. Typically the court will award either joint custody to both parents or sole custody to one parent. If awarded joint custody, the parents will make major decisions regarding the child together, such as medical treatment and where to send the child to school. One parent will have residential custody, meaning the child will live with that parent. The other parent will have visitation rights as well as child support obligations.

If one parent is awarded sole custody, then he or she has the legal right to make all major decisions regarding the child. While the child will live with the custodial parent, the other parent may be granted visitation rights (in addition to having child support obligations).

The main difference between joint custody and sole custody is parenting time – both time physically spent with your child and time spent making parental decisions. We understand how important child custody is to you, which is why you need to contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney who can argue that time spent with you is in your child's best interests. Call us today for a consultation. We can assist those in the St. Charles area.



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