How to File for Full Custody in Illinois
While a child having both parents fully present in their lives is preferable, some situations may arise that make that impossible or unhealthy. If you’re seeking full custody of your child in Illinois, work with a child custody lawyer at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd.
Our firm has extensive experience assisting clients with child-related matters. If you believe pursuing full custody is in your child’s best interest, let our child custody lawyers stand by you during your battle.
Child custody is not “one size fits all.” There are different categories of custody, and the exact custody arrangement that works best depends on the child and family situation. Custody encompasses physical and legal custody, and arrangements may involve either joint or sole custody, with possibilities for visitation.
Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody
Physical custody refers to the child’s home, where they will physically reside. When you have physical custody, your child lives with you. One parent can have exclusive physical custody or both parents may share physical custody, meaning the child would spend time in both parents’ homes.
Legal custody involves the ability to make important decisions impacting the child and their upbringing. Parents with legal custody can decide on vital topics, including:
- Where the child will attend school
- What religion the child will practice
- What doctors the child will see.
Like physical custody, either parent can have legal custody or both parents can share the responsibility.
Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody
Child custody can either be sole or joint.
Sole custody, also referred to as full custody, gives one parent physical and legal custody of the child. On the other hand, joint custody allows both parents to share custody.
A parent with full custody is the custodial parent, while the other parent is the noncustodial parent. Depending on the circumstances, the noncustodial parent may have visitation rights, but in some cases, they may not have any contact with the child.
Reasons to File for Full Custody
There are several reasons why you may be considering filing for full custody. In many cases, it could be what is best for your child.
The following are some of the most common reasons parents file for full custody of their children:
- Abuse: A parent that has either physically, mentally, or emotionally abused their child or their child’s other parent would likely lose custody of their child for the child’s safety.
- Drug or alcohol abuse: When a parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, a judge may find it best for the child for the other parent to get full custody.
- Mental illness: Mental illness can make it difficult for a parent to adequately care for and provide for their child.
- Incarceration: A parent’s incarceration is a strong and valid argument for the other parent to seek sole custody, as it impedes their ability to parent and spend time with their child.
- Neglect: When a parent neglects their child, they often fail to provide the child with medical care, food, water, clothing, supervision, or other necessities.
- Abandonment: Abandoning a child in any form is a clear indication that a parent does not take their parental responsibilities seriously, frequently resulting in the other parent’s gaining full custody.
- Relocation: Depending on the situation, a judge may find it fair to grant a parent sole custody if the child’s other parent relocates.
If you’re wondering whether your circumstances could allow you to file for full custody, a skilled child custody lawyer could review the details of your case to provide sound legal advice on the matter.
Filing for Full Custody in Illinois
The exact process of filing for full custody in Illinois depends on whether you’re getting divorced. In either case, parents can either work together to make decisions regarding their children or a judge can intervene and make decisions for the child.
If You’re Seeking Full Custody During a Divorce
Going through a divorce means facing many essential matters, including property division, alimony, and child custody.
In your divorce petition, along with information regarding your marriage, you can request full custody of your child. Once your divorce is finalized, your new custody arrangement will go into effect.
If You’re Seeking Full Custody Absent a Divorce
If you’re requesting full custody without a divorce, you’ll need to start by initiating your case with the court.
Seeking full custody will require either amending an existing divorce decree or previous child custody order or starting a new case. You’ll draft and file your petition and additional documentation with the court, asking them for full custody.
Once you’ve initiated your court case, you’ll need to notify the other parent by serving them with a copy of the petition. You cannot proceed with the case without either serving the other parent or providing a waiver of service.
Once the other parent receives service of process, they have 30 days to file their response with the court. Their response addresses the details in your petition. If the other parent fails to either file their response with the court on time or successfully get an extension, you may request a default judgment from the court, asking them to approve your petition for full custody.
If the other parent gets their response in on time, both parents will have the opportunity to appear before the judge to plead their case for or against full custody to the petitioning parent.
Asking a judge for full custody is a big deal, as it substantially affects the child’s life. Therefore, you’ll need to provide sufficient reasoning and evidence as to why getting sole custody would be right for your child. A skilled child custody lawyer can help persuade the judge and get the most favorable outcome.
In some cases, it may be possible to get a temporary order for sole custody before a final order is granted.
Temporary custody orders allow the petitioner to ask the court for temporary full custody while proceedings are ongoing. For example, you may request a temporary order for sole custody during your divorce if you present evidence as to why having full custody of your child is necessary or beneficial.
At the conclusion of your case, the judge can either decide to vacate your temporary order and make alternative custody arrangements or make the full custody permanent.
How a Family Judge Makes Determinations Regarding Full Custody in Illinois
Making decisions regarding children is never easy, as judges feel pressure knowing the decisions they make in the courtroom can affect a child forever.
In Illinois, family judges follow the child’s best interests standard. This requires examining several factors, including:
- The child’s age and health
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Any allegations, including those of abuse or neglect.
Parental fitness is also a significant factor judges must include in their decision-making regarding sole custody. A parent may be deemed unfit for a number of reasons, like mental health issues or criminal history. When a judge feels a parent is unfit, they’re more inclined to grant the other parent full custody.
A family judge may also consider a child’s preferences, but only if the child is older, as a younger child is less likely to make sound decisions.
Work with an Experienced Illinois Child Custody Attorney
Working with a knowledgeable and experienced child custody attorney can help you get one step closer to getting full custody.
Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. provides every client with the personalized attention and dedication they deserve. We understand the importance of child-related matters and the impact custody cases can have on your life and that of your children.
We want to work with you to get you the most favorable outcome. Contact us today at (630) 305-0222 to schedule a free case assessment with one of our child custody lawyers.