Divorce and Dividing Parent Decision-Making Authority in Illinois
No parent wants to tell his or her child the news of an impending divorce, especially if the child is young. There is no adequate way to explain why a divorce is happening, or to fully help the child understand what divorce actually means. In the best situations, parents try to make the process as stress-free as possible by making an effort to work together and actively attempt to minimize conflict.
Completely eliminating the disruption of the child's life is not realistic; however, taking steps to keep the child in the loop about changes in daily life, if age appropriate, will go a long way to mitigating some of the negative impacts of this decision. Deciding which parent will handle the bulk of the childcare responsibilities and who will make the major decisions related to the child's welfare, are key aspects of any divorce case. Typically, these obligations are shared by the parents. Still, situations exist that justify giving one parent full rights over a child.
Generally, people lump all child-related family law decisions under child custody, but Illinois no longer uses this phrase. Instead, the law divides these issues into two aspects of parental responsibilities: parenting time and decision-making authority. Much of the focus around the responsibilities of parents is on parenting time, which is certainly important. However, which parent has decision-making authority for the child is equally important.
Which Matters Are Included?
Parental responsibility governs the major decisions in a child's life that reverberate long into the future, and these decisions affect the child's development and general well being. Issues include the following:
- Education, specifically school and/or tutor selection;
- Health, including decisions on the medical, dental and psychological needs of the child;
- Religion; however, a Court will only allocate decision-making over this issue if the parents have an implied or expressed agreement, or there is a past history of religious involvement; and
- Extracurricular activities.
How is Parental Responsibility Distributed?
The determining factor in the Court's allocation of this responsibility is the best interests of the child, and the Court is not required to distribute this authority to both parents. Ideally, the parents form their own agreement on decision-making; but, if an agreement is lacking, the Court is instructed to decide which parent will hold this right.
Determining the best interests of the child requires the Court to examine a number of factors that relate to the child's home situation and the relationship of the parents with one another. Factors include:
- The wishes of the child, depending upon the child's maturity and age;
- The child's adjustment to home, school and community;
- The mental and physical health of the child and parents;
- The ability of the parents to make joint decisions, or the presence of ongoing conflict that could interfere with such cooperation;
- How much each parent was involved in past decision-making for the child;
- The parents’ wishes;
- The child's needs;
- The distance between each parent's home; and
- A parent's history of past violence, if applicable.
Get Help From an Illinois Divorce Attorney
Divorce is hard on its own. However, when children are involved, the process becomes much more complicated and painful. In this situation, deciding what is best for you and your children is not easy. A passionate Palatine divorce attorney can educate you on the law related to divorce and children, which will give you the information needed to make informed decisions. The Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. helps clients throughout northwestern Chicagoland, and can assist you with all your divorce and family law needs. Contact the office for a free consultation.