On January 1 of this year, major changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act went into effect. These amendments were intended to reflect the societal changes regarding how child custody should be handled. In fact, the updated law does away with the term “child custody,” replacing it with the terms “parenting time” and “parenting responsibilities” instead.
When many people hear the phrase child custody, it brings to mind a contentious battle, pitting parent against parent, where one parent will “win” custody of the child, while the other parent will “lose.” Such fighting is not only difficult but is also not conducive to the child’s well-being. Over the last several decades, more and more parents have started to recognize this reality, with both parents playing major roles in their child’s life, despite the end of their own marriage or relationship. This refocusing of such efforts was one of the driving forces behind the amendments to the law.
Just as it sounds, parenting time refers to the time that each parent will spend with his or her child, and was previously known as visitation. When a family court judge decides how parenting time should be divided, the judge must consider what type of relationship the child has with each of the parents. The judge will also look at the makeup of each household and if there are other members present which will impact the child’s life, either positively or negatively. If the child is of school-age and is involved in school and/or community activities, and one parent has moved away from that community, the judge must take that into consideration as well. Although the wording of the law may have changed, best interests of the child remain the most important consideration for all involved.
When the court makes a determination on how parental responsibilities should be divided, it ensures that both parents, if appropriate, can contribute to the decision-making process regarding their child and that is not just left up to one parent whenever possible. The court will determine which parent will be responsible for making decisions regarding medical decisions, religious upbringing, and school and extracurricular activities. The court may say that both parents will share in decisions or the decisions will be divided, based on each parent’s strengths and abilities.
If you are facing a divorce and have children, understanding the new law is an important part of the process. Contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney today to discuss your case and your available options. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free consultation with Kezy & Associates.