Illinois no longer requires parents to establish who has custody of children during divorce proceedings. Instead, they must create a parenting plan. The main objectives of a parenting plan are to create a formal agreement about where children live, when they will visit with a parent who they do not live with and who is responsible for certain decisions about care.
In general, it is helpful if parents can decide on a parenting plan themselves rather than leave it up to a court. However, if parents cannot agree on a parenting plan independently, a court will make the final determination after hearing evidence from both parents.
How courts make rulings
When parties are litigating family law matters that involve children, courts exercise best efforts to make decisions that will benefit the children rather than favoring the interests of their parents. Courts rule on parenting plans separately from any matters about divorce and spousal support.
Factors that courts consider
Courts will hear evidence and testimony from both parties when ruling on a parenting plan. They may consider parents’ living situations, employment obligations and any previous instances of problems pertaining to child care. In evaluating children’s best interests, courts consider the importance of children being able to spend time with both parents, where they attend school and where they receive medical care.
Parents should prepare thoroughly in advance of a scheduled hearing about a parenting plan. A court may hear many different types of evidence such as individual testimony and school records, and evidence must be ready to present on the date of a hearing.