In most cases, parents end up sharing parenting responsibilities after a divorce. This joint allocation of parental responsibilities is also known as co-parenting. There is ample evidence that children do best when both parents maintain an active presence in their lives, even if those parents are not married and do not cohabitate.
However, co-parenting is not necessarily easy on the parents. Particularly if you have a sticky relationship with your ex-spouse, you may be hoping for sole allocation of parental responsibilities. However, this is not always likely. Sole parental responsibilities are generally only awarded in cases when the other parent is struggling with addiction or has a proven history of abuse.
What are the options?
Illinois amended its statute to remove harsher sounding terms such as custody and visitation. There seemed to be more of an inclination to award sole custody rather than joint custody. The term allocation of parental responsibilities was deemed to be softer and there’s an implication that both parties be involved in the decision-making of the child’s issues. Illinois has broken it down into four major categories: medical, religious, extracurricular activities, and education. I often suggest adding discipline as it’s a major area of concern and conflict.
The parties can split the decision-making; jointly decide or have one party make all the decisions for the children. The Court will order mediation and then, if necessary, appoint a GAL so that the children’s voice can be heard.
‘Parenting time’ now replaces the term ‘visitation.’ A party may make all the legal decisions yet receive, perhaps, half or less of the parenting time. Parenting time is decided based on what is in the best interests as to the physical sharing of the children. The court takes into account all relevant factors including school placement, holidays, vacation, transportation and even the right of first refusal (allowing the other party first chance if the parent is unable to exercise parenting time).
The best interest of the child prevails
In the end, the court will rule in favor of what is best for the child, not what is most convenient for the parents. In most circumstances, this will result in some sort of shared allocation of parental responsibilities and an equitable division of parenting time in the children’s best interests.