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New Illinois Child Custody Law in 2016: No More “Custody” or “Visitation”

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Major changes have been made to Illinois Family law in 2016.  The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act has gone through a major re-write, with new laws that have come into effect on January 1, 2016.  One major change is that the terms “custody” and “visitation” will no longer be used.  Instead, these matters will be referred to as “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.”


Old Child Custody Law

Custody law in Illinois was generally divided into joint custody and sole custody.  The difference between these two types of custody arrangements centered around which parent would be making the final decisions with regards to the major areas of a child’s life, including:

  • Education – choice of school, special programs, or tutors
  • Health – choice of doctors, dentists, or mental health providers, and necessary treatments
  • Religious upbringing of the child
  • Choice of extracurricular activities for the child

Under a joint custody arrangement, both parents would typically share the decision-making authority with regards to these areas of the child’s life.  With a sole custody arrangement, only one parent would have the final decision-making authority over these matters. 


New Child Custody Law in 2016: Assignment of “Parental Responsibilities”

Under the new Illinois Child Custody law in 2016, decision-making authority regarding these major subjects will not necessarily be granted to one parent or both parents.  Rather, the court will determine which parent should be responsible for each subject.  For example, a judge may decide that the mother be responsible for making decisions on education and extracurricular activities, and that the father be responsible for making decisions with regards to healthcare.  Or, a judge may decide that both parents be responsible for the decision in one, two, or all subjects.  The judge will decide separately for each major area.  The assignment of parental responsibilities will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. 


Best Interests of the Child

As always, every case will have different facts and different results.  If both parents agree on how to split and share the different responsibilities, they can enter into a written parenting agreement.  If the parents do not agree, the judge will examine the facts of the case, and use the best interests of the child standard in reaching its decision.  Click here to look at the different factors which courts will examine when making a decision on assignment of parental responsibilities. 



Old Visitation Law

“Visitation time” commonly refers to the schedule which arranges when each parent will have the child with them.     The typical arrangement was that one parent was granted “residential custody” or “primary physical possession” of the child.  That parent would have the children with him or her most of the time.  The other parent would then be the “non-custodial” parent, and would be granted a reasonable “visitation schedule.”  The court would determine which parent would have “residential custody” based on the best interests of the child.  A reasonable visitation schedule is commonly thought of as alternating weekends, some time on one day during the week, and alternating holidays.



New Visitation Law: “Parenting Time”

Under the new law that came into effect on January 1, 2016, the term “visitation time” has been be replaced by “parenting time.”  Since there will be no more “residential custody,” the way that parenting time schedules will be determined will be different than in the past.  Similar to the subject of parental responsibilities, the court will look towards certain “best interests of the child” factors in reaching a decision on a parenting schedule.  Click here to look at the factors that the court will use in determining a parenting time schedule.  The new law in January will also provide that a parent who has not been granted significant decision making activities (under the assignment of “parental responsibilities”) will be entitled to a reasonable parenting time schedule with the child. 


Why the changes?

One reason these changes were made was simply to establish more appropriate terminology for these family law issues.  Saying that one parent won “custody” of the children, and that the other parent now may “visit” the children at certain times is a harsh way of referring to these immensely life-altering events in a custody dispute.  Furthermore, courts wish to lessen the notion of establishing “winners” and “losers” in custody disputes.  The assignment of “parental responsibilities” was determined to be a more appropriate way of resolving issues between parents when relating to the care of their children. 


(815) 207-9570

Call to schedule an initial consultation

If you are seeking legal representation on a Will County, Dupage County, or Kendall County child custody or divorce matter, contact our family law attorney at (815) 207-9570 to schedule a consultation. 

The information on this site is not legal advice.  Retain an attorney licensed in the state which has jurisdiction over your matter before taking any action which affects your legal issues, legal marital status or custody arrangements, and follow the advice of your retained lawyer.