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How are parental responsibilities in Illinois decided?

When parents in Illinois divorce, important decisions will need to be made regarding the child. One of these decisions is who will have decision-making responsibilities for the child. This decision could affect both the parents and the child for years to come.

Under Illinois Statute 602.5, when it comes to the allocation of parental decision-making responsibilities, the standard the court will use is the "best interests of the child." While parents are still permitted to negotiate their own agreement, if they are unable to do so the court will determine which parent, or both, will have the right to make significant decisions affecting the child. These decisions include issues of long-term importance such as: where the child will go to school; health care decisions; what religion the child will practice with certain conditions; and extracurricular activities, among others.

When determining what the child's best interests are, the court will consider various factors. This includes the wishes of the child, as well as the wishes of each parent. The child's adjustment to his or her home, school and community will also be considered. The health of the child and each parent is another consideration. Another consideration is the child's needs.

The court may also consider each parent's willingness to cooperate with one another. Another consideration is each parent's past participation in making significant decisions affecting the child. If the child's parents had previously agreed on how they will address decision-making responsibilities, this may be considered.

The distance the parents live from one another and the costs and feasibility of transferring the child between homes will be considered, as well as how this will affect the child's daily schedule and whether the parents can work together to make such an arrangement work. Each parent's willingness to encourage and support the child's relationship with the other parent is a consideration. Any instances of domestic violence towards the child will be considered. Whether either parent is a sex offender will be considered. Finally, as a catch-all, courts will consider any other relevant factors.

As this shows, deciding how to allocate parental decision-making responsibilities can be complex. There are many factors to consider. Parents facing such issues will want to make sure they understand what factors the court will consider, as well as whether they are able to negotiate the allocation of parental responsibilities out-of-court.

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