On January 1st, 2016, the State of Illinois made several changes to the Illinois Dissolution of Marriage Act. One of these changes includes the shift from using “custody” in a divorce decree to “parental responsibilities.” The altered wording is intended to give both parents equal standing before the court. The intent is the same and the allocation of parental responsibilities determines who will have decision making authority for the minor children of a marriage. It is among the most important decisions that the court will make. As such, the courts typically take their time to consider all factors before making a decision.
The allocation of parental responsibilities includes having the right to determine:
- Healthcare Decisions
- Lifestyle (Including food, clothing, discipline, etc.)
- Out-of-School Activities
- Religious Activities
- Parenting Time
Individuals may request parental responsibilities via a dissolution of marriage, by filing a parentage petition, or coupled with an order or protection. These options and the wording they include should be discussed in detail with an individual’s custody lawyers.
Filing for the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
The petition should be filed in the county where the child resides. This does not have to be the county where the dissolution of marriage was filed. Once filed, the next step is to schedule a case management court date. This will be no later than 90 days after filing. It is important to note that the other parent must receive notification of this date via a 30 day summons.
Before the court assigns parental responsibilities, it must be proven that the child is the legal parent of the child. In most cases, the natural mother or natural father can do this via a birth certificate. However, even non-natural parents can petition the court for the assignment of parental responsibilities.
For non-natural fathers, they can show that they were married to the natural mother at the time the child was born, or within 300 days before the child’s birth. The courts will also consider a non-natural father’s petition if they are named on the child’s birth certificate.
For non-natural mothers, a case may be filed naming herself as the child’s parent. They may also show that they married, or were engaged in a civil union with the natural mother at the time of the child’s birth or within 300 days before the birth. As with non-natural fathers, having their name on the child’s birth certificate is also sufficient.
Parental Responsibilities & Step-Parents
Step-parents may petition the court for an allocation of parental responsibilities if each of the following criteria apply:
- The child is 12 years of age or older.
- The step-parent is currently married to the child’s parent.
- The child’s natural parent lives with the child, and has lived with them for a period of 5 years or longer.
- The natural parent has died, or is otherwise unable to care for the child.
- The child wishes the step-parent to assume parental responsibilities.
- Allocation of parental responsibilities to a step-parent would be in the best interests of the child.
Domestic Abuse, In-State, & Out-of-State Moves
These are some of the most common concerns of divorcing parents when determining the allocation of parental responsibilities. The court considers domestic abuse and relocation on a case-by-case basis.
Domestic abuse and neglect are no longer considered grounds for divorce under the Illinois Dissolution of Marriage Act, however, they are considered at the time the court allocates parental responsibilities and parenting time. The courts and Illinois custody lawyers are well aware that up to 50% of divorces involve domestic violence or emotional abuse.
If abuse is a factor, then it is crucial to document and present the history of abuse, the medical/psychological care the child has received, as well as documentation of any civil or criminal proceedings. The court will consider these when determining the allocation of parental responsibilities.
Parents living in Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties can move anywhere within a 25 mile radius from the current home without seeking permission. Parents outside of these counties may move up to 50 miles away from the current home. The other parent or the courts must approve any moves for greater distances.
Parents are required to seek permission from the court to take the child out of Illinois on a permanent basis. The exception to this is if the parent lives near the Illinois border, in which case the parent may move the child across the state line as long as the distance does not exceed 25 miles from the child’s current home. In all cases, the court will consider whether the move will enhance the life of the child, the motives of the requesting parent, the existing parenting time schedule, and whether the non-custodial parent will still be able to see the child.