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A divorce can become much more complicated with child custody issues.  Indeed, when divorcing spouses disagree about child custody in Illinois, the divorce process can grow contentious.  How do Illinois courts determine custody, and how can parents help to make their child custody arrangement work?


Child Custody Law in Illinois

Under Illinois law, two different types of custody exist: sole custody and joint custody.  In the state of Illinois, these two forms of custody don’t refer to the amount of time spent with a child.  Many parents confuse custody rights with the right to spend time with their children.  However, custody refers primarily to decision making about the child’s upbringing and well-being.


The two different types of custody work like this:

  • Sole custody: when a parent has sole custody, she or he will have the right to make all major decisions concerning the child.  For example, major decisions often include the child’s school, the child’s religion, and the child’s healthcare providers.
  • Joint custody: when parents share joint custody, they’ll share in the major decisions concerning their child. These major decisions are the same as those involved in a sole custody situation, such as where the child goes to school, what religion the child practices, and where and which healthcare providers the child sees.

It’s important to keep in mind that joint custody doesn’t refer to equally shared time with the child.  Rather, the court typically will assign “residential custody” to one of the parents.  The child will live primarily with that parent.


Making Joint Child Custody Work for Your Family

Are you concerned about the psychological effects that joint custody—with shared residential time—will have on your child? According to a recent article in Parents magazine, many divorcing spouses worry about the ability to make joint custody work.  Between splitting up holiday visits and making shared decisions about your child’s future, the prospect of joint custody can be anxiety-inducing.  Yet psychologists agree that parents can take steps to ensure that custody issues don’t get in the way of a healthy parent-child relationship.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t speak poorly about your ex-spouse in front of your child.  If you badmouth an ex-spouse to your child, it can change the child’s perception about that parent.
  • Don’t agree to an unrealistic schedule. Be rational when you’re thinking about which parent will have residential custody of the child and whether you’ll actually be able to stick to all of the commitments you agree to during the divorce.  It’s best to remove emotions from this process and to think carefully about 1) what you’re actually able to do, and 2) what’s best for your child.
  • Do agree to an arrangement that’s best suited to your child’s needs. You should always balance your own commitments with factors like your child’s age and what type of arrangement is likely to work best based on your child’s school and extracurricular needs.
  • Do remember that, even if your ex-spouse was a bad partner, that fact alone doesn’t mean that she or he is a bad parent.
  • Do find a way to communicate effectively with your ex-spouse about your child’s needs.  For parents with joint custody in Illinois, it’s essential that you find a way to work amicably with your ex-spouse as you make major decisions—together—about your child’s future.


Do you have questions about child custody in Illinois?  Don’t hesitate to contact an experienced Downers Grove family lawyer.  Contact the Law Office of Elizabeth J. Chacko, P.C. today.

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