Differences between primary and legal custody in Illinois

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Child Custody on Thursday, October 25, 2012.

When it comes to divorce decisions, child custody arrangements are always the most contentious. During this time it can also get particularly confusing as parents try to navigate the world of custody. Parents in Illinois may find themselves wondering, what is the difference between primary and legal custody? Who will be in charge of things like religious upbringing, medical decisions and extracurricular decisions?

Of course, there is no one-size approach, but there is a general breakdown of custody terms used in Illinois:

Physical custody: This is where the child will actually live. If the child is school-aged, the child will typically spend a bit more time at that parent’s house as the usual arrangement is to have the child return home to the same home every school night. With this arrangement, the child typically spends every other weekend and some nights for dinner with their other parent.

Physical custody can also be referred to as joint or sole custody.

Legal custody: Legal custody refers to who has the decision-making authority. In Illinois, the preference among judges is to award joint legal custody, meaning parents work together to come to agreement on issues regarding education, religion and any medical decisions. However, there are cases where co-parenting to come to a decision will not work. In those cases, one parent can be named the chief decision-making authority.

Another way some parents work out legal custody is to break the decision-making up into “spheres of influence.” This could mean that if one parent has very strong religious beliefs, that parent would be in charge of religious upbringing. However, the other parent may then be in charge of medical decisions, and both would work together to make extracurricular decisions.

In the end, the arrangement that will work best is dependent on a couple’s individual circumstances. An attorney with experience in Illinois child custody law can help to explain the different options.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Custody And Its Different Components,” Eyal Talassazan, Oct. 16, 2012

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