Experiencing a divorce with young children involved can be difficult, especially when protecting your time with your children is important to you.

It is imperative that you understand how child custody and support laws work in Illinois so you can approach your case in an advantageous position.

Sole custody vs joint custody

Parenting time is also called “visitation” in many states. This is the time one parent is responsible for caretaking and making “nonsignificant” decisions related to general care of the children.

When the court awards one parent sole custody, you or the court must schedule the time the other parent (the noncustodial parent) gets to have with the children, using a custody calendar if desired. Either you and your ex can determine this, or if you cannot come to an agreement, the courts can decide. The schedule should generally include normal weekly and weekend parenting time, holiday schedules, summer school break schedule, and any scheduled vacation times with the children.

Joint parenting order

If you and your ex decide on a joint parenting agreement, or if the judge thinks both parents should be able to make decisions for the child’s well-being, they can create a joint parenting order. They make this decision based on things such as:

  • Factors related to the children’s best interest
  • Residential circumstances
  • The ability of you and your ex to cooperate under a Joint Parenting Agreement and Order
  • The ability of you and your ex to cooperate with each other in making decisions regarding the children

This becomes legally binding and both parents must follow it, including the visitation schedule. Generally, you cannot change this agreement for two years.

In some situations, the judge may rule that one parent must have supervision while visiting their children. This means a third party is present throughout that parent’s time with the children.

Fair trial

Being able to work together with your spouse on issues related to your children can make this process far easier, requiring less court involvement and making things fair for each parent. However, if you are having a difficult time deciding what is truly in the best interest of your children, sometimes going to court is the best option.