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Know your options when it comes to child custody

During your marriage, you probably never gave the issue of child custody a second thought. After all, you and your spouse were raising the children together, so it wasn't something you needed to think about. Now that you are getting a divorce, child custody matters may be dominating your thoughts.

Perhaps it would relieve some of the trepidation and anxiety you may feel over this issue if you better understood the basic terminology and options you have when it comes to child custody.

Two different classifications of custody

First, you may want to understand that like most courts, Illinois separates child custody into legal and physical custody. Understanding the differences of each may help you when making further decisions regarding the post-divorce future you want to create for your children.

Legal custody refers to the ability of one or both parents to make major life decisions for the children. These decisions include issues such as health care, religious affiliation and schooling, among other things. Most courts prefer to award parents joint legal custody unless a family's particular circumstances make it impossible or inappropriate for some reason.

As the name implies, physical custody refers to where the children will live. In most cases, courts award joint physical custody as well if the children will spend a substantial amount of time with each parent. When one parent will only spend a few hours with the children each week, the other parent receives sole physical custody. These days, courts reserve this type of custody for particular situations only since children tend to benefit more from having as much time as possible with each parent.

Thinking that joint custody may be the way to go?

Even when a marital relationship breaks down, the majority of couples still acknowledge that the children need both parents in their lives. If you and your future ex-spouse fall into this category, then you may consider joint legal and physical custody. If so, the two of you may create your own parenting plan that fits your family's unique needs.

At a minimum, you may want to consider the following when creating a parenting plan:

  • The needs of each child
  • Your and the other parent's work schedules
  • Each child's school and activity schedules

If you live close enough, you can split your time as evenly as possible. If one of you lives closer to the school and the other does not, you could make other arrangements that allow liberal visitation for the parent who lives farther away from the school. Some parents will keep the children living in the marital home while they rotate in and out of it on a schedule in order to keep the children's lives as consistent as possible. As you can see, you have numerous options.

Seeking the court's approval of your plan

Once you and the other parent work out a parenting plan, the court will need to approve it. As long as you cover all relevant legal and practical issues, receiving that approval should not present an issue. The courts follow the "best interests of the child" standard, so the focus needs to remain on what best serves your children's needs.

Dealing with custody issues often presents numerous challenges. Fortunately, you don't have to go through the process on your own. It may be beneficial to rely on the available legal resources in your area.

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Courtney ∙ Clark Law, P.C.
104 South Charles Street
Belleville, IL 62220

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Phone: 618-207-3458
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