Parental Responsibilities in Illinois Child Custody Law

Experienced Illinois Child Custody Lawyer

During divorce proceedings, parents often express concerns about their children and the impact on their relationships. While coping with the end of a marriage and the loss of a spouse is challenging for adults, the prospect of reduced time with their children can be even more distressing. This situation can also pose emotional challenges for the children themselves.

Determining residential custody arrangements for a child can be the most emotionally taxing aspect of the divorce process. If you’re a parent contemplating divorce, you likely worry about how you and your ex-spouse will share responsibility for your child/children. While some couples can reach a custody agreement amicably, many require legal intervention and court involvement.

At Wolfe & Stec, we understand that navigating the complexities of child custody laws can be emotionally challenging for parents. Our experienced family law attorneys are here to guide you through the intricate legal landscape of parental responsibilities vs. child custody in Illinois, ensuring your child’s best interests are protected. Contact us at 630-305-0222 for a consultation.

Contact Wolfe & Stec at 630-305-0222 to book a free phone, video, or in-person consultation.

What Is Parental Responsibility in Illinois?

To understand the impact of the Illinois parental responsibility law on child custody, it is crucial to delve into the definitions outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). According to the act, parental responsibilities include both parenting time and important decision-making responsibilities regarding a child.

Significant decision-making involves determining matters of enduring importance in a child’s life. On the other hand, parenting time refers to when a parent is accountable for caregiving tasks and non-significant decision-making responsibilities for the child.

Regarding significant decision-making responsibilities, Illinois courts generally acknowledge the following areas that parents allocated with such responsibilities must address:

  • Education: This involves decisions about the child’s school attendance, selection of tutors for specific subjects, and the type of education the child receives.
  • Health Care: This includes choices related to the child’s health care providers (e.g., pediatrician, psychologist, dentist), the nature of health care the child receives, and other aspects concerning the physical and mental well-being of the child.
  • Religious Upbringing: Parents with significant decision-making responsibilities decide whether the child undergoes any form of religious upbringing, the kind of religious schooling or education the child receives, attendance at worship services, and participation in other religious activities.

Caretaking Roles

Caretaking functions differ significantly from the aforementioned significant decision-making responsibilities. As defined by the IMDMA, caretaking functions involve interacting with a child, directing, organizing, and overseeing the care provided by others, or securing the resources for these functions. In simple terms, the IMDMA explains that caretaking functions include, but are not confined to, the following responsibilities:

  • Addressing a child’s nutritional requirements; overseeing bedtime and morning routines; tending to a child during sickness or injury; tending to a child’s hygiene, including bathing, grooming, and dressing; engaging in play and ensuring participation in scheduled extracurricular activities; safeguarding a child’s physical well-being; and providing transportation
  • Guiding a child’s developmental milestones, including motor and language skills, toilet training, fostering self-confidence, and nurturing maturation
  • Implementing discipline, offering guidance in manners, assigning and overseeing chores, and managing tasks related to behavioral control and self-discipline
  • Ensuring regular school attendance, including appropriate remedial and special services tailored to the child’s needs, engaging with teachers and counselors, and supervising homework
  • Assisting a child in fostering and maintaining appropriate interpersonal relationships with peers, siblings, and other family members
  • Ensuring attendance at medical appointments, availability for follow-up, and meeting the child’s medical needs within the home
  • Providing moral and ethical guidance to the child
  • Coordinating alternative care arrangements by family members, babysitters, or other child care providers or facilities, including exploring options, communicating with providers, and supervising such care.

Parental Responsibility Allows More Room in Child Custody

It’s essential to understand that Illinois child custody laws have changed and can impact child custody arrangements in divorce or separation. Illinois legislators aimed to introduce more flexibility for parents, acknowledging that a uniform approach to child custody may not suit every family’s dynamics.

As a result, the revised law allows for a significantly more adaptable allocation of parental duties. Specifically, courts will no longer exclusively grant sole or joint legal or physical custody. Instead, they may determine that it’s in the child’s best interests for parents to share important decision-making responsibilities, with one parent primarily handling medical decisions.

Also, the court might allocate religious upbringing responsibilities to one parent while both parents jointly decide on educational matters. Alternatively, depending on the circumstances, the court may decide that joint decision-making is preferable for all aspects of the child’s upbringing.

This new model empowers the court to tailor parental responsibilities flexibly. Likewise, regarding parenting time, the court may opt for a 50/50 split each week or every other week based on the child’s best interests. Alternatively, in cases where one parent’s work schedule complicates matters, the court may decide on a shared parenting time arrangement with one parent having more overnights with the child.

How the Best Interests of the Child Still Guide Custody Decisions

While the Illinois parental responsibility laws no longer involve courts’ granting child custody solely or jointly, determining parental responsibilities continues to be guided by the “best interests of the child” standard. When the court or parents allocate parental responsibilities, various factors are considered to ascertain the most suitable arrangement for the child.

This includes, but is not limited to, factors outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, such as:

  • The child’s expressed preferences if they are of sufficient age and maturity to articulate a reasoned and independent choice regarding significant decision-making responsibilities or parenting time
  • The child’s current adjustment to their home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of both parents and the child
  • Each parent’s historical involvement in significant decision-making or parenting time
  • The parent’s ability to collaborate in making significant decisions about the child’s upbringing
  • Previous agreements between the parents
  • Past conduct related to significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time
  • Parents’ individual preferences
  • The specific needs of the child
  • The distance between the parents’ residences
  • Each parent’s willingness to facilitate an ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Any reasons to restrict a parent’s responsibilities, such as a history of violence or conviction for a sex offense.

You need an experienced Wolfe & Stec family attorney to handle your parental responsibility case. Contact Wolfe & Stec at 630-305-0222 to schedule a consultation.

Why Choose Wolfe & Stec Child Custody Lawyers?

At Wolfe & Stec, we recognize that selecting the right legal representation for your parental responsibilities is a significant decision. Here’s why we believe you should choose us:

  • Experience and Expertise: We boast a team of highly skilled family law attorneys with years of experience handling a wide range of parental responsibility cases in Illinois. We stay updated on recent developments in family law to provide our clients with comprehensive and effective legal representation.
  • Personalized Approach: We understand that every family is special, and no two cases are alike. That’s why we take the time to listen to our clients, understand their concerns, and tailor our strategies to meet their individual needs and goals.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Navigating parental responsibilities matters can be emotionally challenging for families. We approach every case with empathy, compassion, and sensitivity to our clients’ emotions. We will create a supportive environment where you feel heard, understood, and respected.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): We recognize the value of cordial resolutions whenever possible. Our lawyers are skilled in ADR methods, including mediation and collaboration. These approaches can often lead to more cooperative outcomes, reducing stress for all parties involved.
  • Vigorous Advocacy: When litigation becomes necessary, you can trust us to provide vigorous advocacy on your behalf. Our courtroom experience and strategic approach enable us to present compelling arguments and protect your parental rights with determination and skill.

How Wolfe & Stec Can Help

Our team is dedicated to providing comprehensive legal assistance tailored to each client’s unique needs. Here’s how we can help:

  • Thorough Case Preparation: We carefully prepare each matter in cases requiring court intervention. Our legal team conducts thorough research, gathers evidence, and develops compelling arguments to present your case persuasively in court. We advocate vigorously to protect your parental rights and your child’s best interests.
  • Negotiation Skills: Many parental responsibility cases can be resolved through negotiation and mediation. Our lawyers are skilled negotiators who can effectively communicate your interests and work toward fair and favorable agreements.
  • Litigation: In cases where litigation is necessary, you can trust our attorneys to advocate vigorously for you in court. We are experienced litigators who are not afraid to fight before a judge for your parental rights and your child’s best interests. 
  • Child-Centered Approach: Our focus remains on the well-being of your child. We advocate for parenting arrangements prioritizing the child’s best interests, emphasizing stability, emotional support, and a nurturing environment. Our commitment to a child-centered approach sets us apart in delivering comprehensive legal solutions.

Can a Parent Lose Their Parental Rights?

Some parents willingly relinquish their parental rights to facilitate the adoption of the child. Your parental rights and parental responsibilities can also be involuntarily revoked if you are deemed “unfit.” To establish parental unfitness, the party seeking termination must present “clear and convincing evidence” demonstrating that the parent has engaged in one or more of the following:

  • Abandoned the child
  • Repeatedly neglected the child
  • Physically abused the child
  • Failed to protect the child from danger
  • Neglected to provide for the child’s basic needs
  • Lacked a reasonable concern for the child’s well-being
  • Been convicted of specific criminal offenses such as murder or sexual assault
  • Suffered from a substance abuse problem preventing the performance of parenting duties
  • Experienced cognitive or mental health conditions rendering them incapable of fulfilling parenting duties.

What Is the Usual Parenting-Time Provision If One Parent Is Awarded the Significant Majority of Parenting Time?

For older children, a common arrangement typically includes parenting time on alternate weekends, alternating legal holidays, an equitable split of Christmas and spring breaks, a duration of at least two weeks during summer vacation, along with one or two mid-week evenings post-school or work, occurring weekly or bi-weekly. Overnight stays often hinge on parental work schedules and proximity. However, there’s no universal template; each family’s situation is distinct.

Increasingly, parents opt for a balanced distribution of parenting time. Historically, courts were hesitant to mandate equal parenting time in contested cases. Nevertheless, courts uphold such agreements if parents mutually agree on a relatively equal division of their children’s time.

Contact Wolfe & Stec Child Custody Lawyers

If you face challenges related to parental responsibilities in Illinois, Wolfe & Stec is here to provide compassionate and effective legal support. Our skilled family law attorneys are committed to achieving positive outcomes for our clients and protecting the interests of their children.

Contact us at 630-305-0222 to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward resolving your parental responsibilities matters.

Attorney Natalie Stec

Natalie M. Stec, born and raised in Illinois, and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her practice has been concentrated in significant pre and post decree marital and family law cases; including custody, visitation, support, and paternity matters. She has important criminal defense experience in both misdemeanor and felony cases. She is a very dedicated and passionate litigator. [ Attorney Bio ]

Woodridge Illinois Law Firm

3321 Hobson Road, Suite B
Woodridge, IL 60517
Phone: 630-305-0222

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