Not so long ago, the Illinois family courts referred to determinations about the future of children as custody decisions. However, the term custody implies ownership of an item and does not honor the true nature of relationships between parents and children.
As a result, Illinois lawmakers have adjusted the language of the state's family code to refer to the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities instead of custody. Many divorcing couples find this terminology confusing. That confusion can lead to mistakes in strategy when planning for divorce. After all, how do you learn what your rights and responsibilities as a parent really are?
Parents have a responsibility to provide for the care of their children
Parental responsibilities are relatively straightforward. Your child needs a home, access to clean water and food, an education and health care. They also require socialization and emotional support as they grow. It is your obligation as a parent to provide for those needs.
Sometimes, parents can share those parental responsibilities equally, with each parent assuming a share of parenting time and financial responsibility for the children. Other times, one parent has more parenting time, while the other has more financial obligations. Typically, the less parenting time and in-person support you provide to your children, the more you will likely have to pay in financial support to the children and the other parent.
Parental rights include an ongoing relationship and decision-making power
As a parent, you probably want your child to grow up in the same religion and culture as you did. If your ex doesn't agree with your faith or isn't part of the same culture, this can result in conflicting parenting styles after the divorce. The courts will typically do their best to give each parent some form of decision-making authority.
Sometimes, one parent has educational decision-making power and the other has health decision-making power. Other times, the courts may order the parents to reach agreements on these important decisions as they arise. In this situation, you and your ex will have to find a way to agree on important issues, like what school your children will attend or what medical care they receive.
You also have a right to spend time with your children, even if your work or health situation does not allow you to have the children live with you or stay overnight at your home. In the event that you cannot host your children, you should still have the right to visitation with them after the divorce.
There are more nuances to your parental rights and responsibilities in Illinois. Sitting down with an experienced family law attorney can help you understand your rights and the best way to advocate for them.