Joint Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Prior to 2016, in divorce and parentage cases, Illinois Law recognized two types of custody as it related to decision-making for a child. First, there was sole custody. If a parent was granted sole custody, he or she essentially made all major decisions regarding the child’s healthcare, the child’s education, and child’s religious upbringing. Second, there was joint custody. If parents were granted joint custody, decisions regarding healthcare, education, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing, required consultation before any unilateral action could be taken. Examples of decisions which would require consultation in joint custody arrangements included: whether a child should attend a public or private school, choice of doctor and medical treatment when not an emergency (including counseling), and what faith a child should be raised in. As of January 1, 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act abolished the terms “joint custody” and “sole custody” altogether.

Now, the court focuses solely on how parents make these decisions regarding healthcare, education, religious upbringing, and extra-curricular activities. Parents can be assigned to make these decisions together. Alternatively, one of the parents can be designated as the sole decision maker for any particular issue.

Typically, in cases where the parties can make decisions together, they freely and voluntarily agree upon a joint allocation of parental responsibilities that would be best for the children. In some cases, however, a joint allocation of parental responsibilities can be ordered by the court after a hearing. In either case, an allocation judgment must be entered. An allocation judgment specifies the particular parenting rights and responsibilities of each party. It typically includes a parenting schedule, setting forth which parent has the children on which days. An allocation judgment may also require each parent to consult with the other prior to making any major decisions affecting their children. If the parents cannot reach an agreement outside of court, the allocation judgment must provide for an out-of-court dispute resolution method. Unless there is an emergency, the judgment will typically require the parties to attend mediation before filing any requests for modification with the court.

Generally speaking, agreements regarding allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time are good for children. When parents can reach an amicable agreement regarding their children, the resulting plan is more likely to accurately reflect the personalities, needs, and histories of the family members, and is more likely to promote the best interests of the children. In situations where the parties are unable to agree to an arrangement regarding allocation of parental responsibilities, the court may still order joint “custody” / decision making. However, it may do so only if it determines that such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child or children.

It is presumed by the court that the maximum involvement of both parents is in the best interests of the children. However, it is not appropriate in all cases. In extremely high conflict cases, cases where the parties have a history of domestic violence, or in situations where the parents have extremely different views on a major medical, religious or educational issues, it is likely not appropriate.

At Kollias & Giese, P.C. we stand ready to apply our experience of the diverse types of possible parental arrangements to help our clients design a plan best suited to their family’s needs.