Divorce and child custody are tough legal issues to go through for you and your family. Our attorneys at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet can discuss the important questions and answers about child custody in Illinois and help you through the legal process.
Here are some commonly asked questions about child custody.
What happens if the parents live in different states or a parent has recently moved in/out of state?
To prevent conflicting child custody opinions from courts in different states, jurisdiction and the child’s home state for custody matters will be decided by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
The Illinois divorce court has jurisdiction to hear a child custody case under these circumstances:
- The child has lived in the state of Illinois for the last six months or more.
- If the child is younger than six months old but the child has lived in Illinois since birth.
- The child lives in another state but lived in Illinois within the past six months and one of their parents still lives in the state.
- If no other state is the child’s home state or the child’s home state has declined to take jurisdiction in deference to Illinois, and either the child and at least one of their parents has significant connections with Illinois, and there’s substantial evidence in Illinois concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.
What factors are considered when awarding child custody in Illinois?
The court does not focus on who is the best parent, but instead makes a decision in the child’s best interest, considering all relevant factors, including these and other considerations:
- The wishes of the child’s parent parents about custody of the child
- The wishes of the child about which parent will get custody
- The interaction and relationship of the child with their parent(s), sibling(s), and others who affect the child’s best interest
- The child’s adjustment to their school, home, and community
- The mental and physical health of the people involved
- Whether there has been physical violence or a threat of physical violence by the one of the child’s custodian, either against the child or another person
- Whether there has been domestic violence, either directed against the child or another person
- The willingness and ability of the parent to encourage a close relationship between the other parent and the child
- Whether either of the parents is a sex offender, and
- If the parents have a military family care plan that must be completed before deployment or if the parent is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who is being deployed.
These factors and others go into the court’s decision for custody. One thing the court cannot consider is a parent’s conduct unless it affects that parent’s relationship with the child.
What types of custody arrangements are there?
Like other states, there is a difference between legal and physical child custody in Illinois. Physical custody is where the child lives.
Legal custody gives the parent the right to make important decisions about raising the child, like the child’s school, health care, and religious training. The noncustodial parent can ask the court to specifically limit the custodian’s authority if it’s in the best interest of the child.
Do parents have equal rights in a child custody decision?
Yes. Parents have equal rights to child custody in Illinois. A parent’s fitness is only one element to be considered in determining what is in a child’s best interest.
How important is stability and continuity in a court’s custody decision?
If the children are well-adjusted and the custody situation is working, a court will not want to disrupt it. The court takes into consideration the importance of maintaining stability and continuity in a young child’s environment. On the other hand, courts will remove a child from an unstable environment if it believes the child is not thriving.
Do parent’s psychological problems affect the decision regarding child custody in Illinois?
Just because a parent has a mental illness, psychological problem, or substance abuse issue does not make them unfit for custody, but it may be a factor to be considered by the court in deciding the best interest of the child if it affects their ability to parent. Despite positive steps toward treatment, the court must consider what impact the parent’s problems will have on the child.
Are joint custody arrangements preferred?
A court can give joint custody to both parents or sole custody to either. Unless there has been domestic violence, Illinois courts presume that the maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents in their child’s physical and emotional well-being will be in a child’s best interest.
How does a parent’s new spouse, live-in companion, or other person sharing the home impact a custody decision?
Another person living in the home may be a factor in the decision if there is concern that they negatively affect the stability of the child’s environment, or there are concerns with the mental condition and character of that person. If that person is a sex offender, the other parent must be notified.
Will siblings be kept together?
It is usually considered to be in the best interest to keep siblings together. Sometimes there are exceptions.
Can children voice an opinion in custody decisions?
Yes, but it is just one factor to consider. The court may put more weight on the choice of older children when it is based on sound reasoning, and relates to their best interests, like wanting to remain with friends, attend their school, and remain in the same place.
What if the child decides he or she wants to live with the other parent?
Even if the child’s preference of who they want to live with changes, it still needs to be shown that the welfare of the child is adversely affected by the present custodial arrangements.
Does spousal abuse affect the child custody decision?
In Illinois, if there has been ongoing abuse, the court does not need to presume that the involvement and cooperation of both parents in raising the child is in the child’s best interest. On the other hand, the court doesn’t have to deny a parent’s custody based on spousal abuse.
What happens if the custodial parent dies or is incarceration?
If the custodial parent dies, usually the other parent gains legal custody of the child. If the custodial parent is incarcerated, the noncustodial parent has a right to petition for a change of custody.
Can you get a custody modification based on a custodial parent’s misconduct?
Yes, if the parent’s behavior affects the child and seriously endangers the mental or emotional health of the child.
Can a custodial parent move the child within the state?
A custodial parent may remove the children to another part of the state without a court order unless there is written agreement not to. This may, however, be grounds to petition for custody modification.
Can a parent take a child out of Illinois temporarily?
Yes, but the parent responsible must tell the other parent, or the other parent’s attorney, and give the telephone number and address where they can be reached while they are out of state, and the date when the child will return to Illinois.
Can a custodial parent move out of state with the child?
A child can’t be removed permanently from the state without a court order. The custodial parent must prove that the move is in the best interest of the child.
If you are considering a divorce and are worried about child custody issues, please contact our attorneys at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet. We can discuss the important questions and answers about child custody in Illinois during a free initial consultation.