Previously, before the new laws in 2016 came into effect, we had in Illinois what was called “child custody”. Along with the dramatic changes on parenting laws between divorced couples, there also came a new name for “child custody”. Now, it is called “allocation of parental responsibilities”. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), calls for parents to decide how they will distribute parental responsibility and parenting time. These decisions will need to be stated in an official parenting agreement.

The Illinois law on allocation of parental responsibilities encourages parents to formulate an outline of items that will support the carrying out of parenting goals. The outline of these documents should be similar to plans on joint parenting or mutually agreed-upon orders that were used in family law cases on custody, support, and visitation concerns and issues. The underlying principle behind the new parenting law for divorced spouses is to provide more stability and structure to these agreements and help show how decisions are being made.

The Allocation of Responsibilities

With the previous law, child custody was awarded to a parent as sole custody or to both parents as joint custody. The parent who has custody of a child had decision-making power over major areas of a child’s life. One or both parents could have this decision-making power or authority. On the other hand, with the new Illinois Child Custody law of 2016, the court system has jurisdiction over which parent has responsibility towards a particular area of child care.

There are four major areas of child care that constitute such agreements. They are as follows:

  1. Healthcare – decisions regarding the child’s medical, dental and mental health needs.
  2. Education – decisions regarding the school the child will attend and any help they may need such as tutoring.
  3. Extracurricular or Recreational activities – decisions on which sports, clubs, musical activities, etc. that the child participates in.
  4. Religion – decisions regarding the religion the child will practice and the church they will be attending. Regarding religious orientation, if parents have had a customary belief or practice or a previous agreement on religious tradition, the court will then assign responsibility for a child’s religious upbringing on clear evidence of such.

With the new law on child custody, a mother could be awarded responsibility over a child’s health and medical welfare while the father has decision-making authority on education and recreation. Since every familial situation is unique, the allocation of parental responsibilities will depend essentially on the facts and conditions surrounding each family dynamic.

Before you proceed to deliberating parental responsibility issues and concerns in court, try to seek legal counsel to help come up with a parenting agreement in the best interests of your children. This will help make the process a little less stressful and ensure that you understand your parental rights.