Parents who are no longer married to or romantically involved with one another often face serious challenges in developing an agreement regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities. In most cases, both parents want to continue to play an important role in their child’s life and are willing to compromise to make that happen. Sometimes, however, the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own. When this happens, the court must step in and assign parental responsibilities and parenting time in a manner that promotes the child’s best interests.
The process of determining parenting rights and responsibilities was—until just a few years ago—known as “child custody” in Illinois. In 2016, however, an update to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act revamped the court’s approach to the subject and replaced the term “child custody” with the phrase “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Additionally, the law divides parental responsibilities into two primary areas, each of which may be determined separately.
Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities
The first consideration for divorcing or separating parents is the authority for significant decision-making regarding the child. Significant decisions include any concerns that will impact the child’s life over a long period of time, such as education, health care, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. Decision-making authority may be granted to both parents equally, solely to either parent, or any combination of the two. For example, one parent could be responsible for educational and healthcare decisions while the other parent is responsible for all religious training, and both parents share responsibility for extracurricular activities....