When parents in Illinois go through a divorce, the thought of dividing time with their children is often difficult, and the world of child custody can be confusing and overwhelming. When beginning the child custody process, it can be particularly important to understand the legal terminology that all parties are using, especially when in court or working with a mediator to find a solution.
For example, the term custodial parent means the parent who has the most time with and physical custody of their child. This parent is most involved with and has the highest level of responsibility for the child, even when the other parent is an active, involved presence in the child’s life. In some cases, both parents can be considered custodial when they share joint custody and equal time with their children. However, in many more cases, one parent is responsible for the children for the majority of the time, from helping with school to dealing with emotional issues, while the other has a different type of relationship. Being the custodial parent can be both highly rewarding and very challenging.
Many single parents effectively have sole custody of their children but are not legally considered custodial parents. This is especially true when the parents were never married and when one parent left before or shortly after the child’s birth. Many custody orders are officially entered during divorce, and it is not unusual for parents who never divorced to not have a formal custody order in place.
Child custody can be one of the most challenging yet important aspects of a divorce; decisions made about custody will likely affect the parent-child relationship for years to come. A family law attorney may help advocate for a divorcing parent on child custody matters as well as asset division, spousal support and other key concerns.