Illinois parents may be curious as to how a judge decides child custody when divorcing parents are unable to agree. Custody may be sole or joint. Despite the name, joint child custody does not necessitate that the parents share parenting time equally. It simply means that both parents participate in parenting. Legal custody also includes the right to make important decisions regarding the child, such as where the child will go to school or the child's religious upbringing.
Before deciding which parent gets custody of minor children, the judge must determine what is in the children's best interests. That involves looking at a variety of factors, including the wishes of everyone involved. The wishes of children will have more weight if the children are older. Another factor is the relationship between each child and the parents, siblings, and any other person who will have a significant relationship with the child, such as a new partner. The judge may also consider whether either parent is willing to help foster a relationship between the other parent and the children, the relationship each parent has with the children, and the health of all individuals. In addition, the judge may consider whether either parent is a sex offender or has a history of abuse or other violence.
If the judge awards sole custody to either parent, the other may receive visitation. The judge may also award supervised visitation if there is any reason to believe the children could be in danger. The custodial parent may not refuse to allow court-ordered visits.
A family law attorney may be able to help a parent negotiate a custody agreement that is best for everyone. The attorney can also assist in the enforcement or modification of an agreement if warranted.
Source: State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County, "Child Custody Information", July 18, 2014