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Illinois Child Custody
Child Custody in Illinois

According to the Illinois Compiled Statutes 750, Chapter 5, Section 602, "the court shall determine custody in accordance with all factors related to the best interest of the child including entering an order of joint custody if the court determines that joint custody would be in the best interests of the child."

As in other states, the primary concern in custody is the best interest of the child, and can either be in the form of joint custody or sole custody.

Joint custody requires a signed joint parenting agreement. The plan outlines the rights and responsibilities of the parents and the protocols for settling parental disagreements.

When parents cannot agree about the terms and conditions of joint custody, the court often orders an evaluation. This may involve having a social worker conduct a home study, or a psychologist may confer with the parents and child. The court can also appoint a guardian ad litem for the child pending the outcome of the custody hearing.

Mandatory Parenting Class

Illinois courts require all divorcing parents with minor children to complete a mandatory parenting class before granting a divorce. This requirement is designed to help parents and children deal with the trauma of divorce and separation. Unless the court grants a waiver, both parents must complete this requirement. Rather than give up an afternoon or evening taking your course in a crowded classroom, you can fulfill this requirement conveniently online at a very reasonable cost. We recommend you take Children in Between Online" to fulfill your court requirement and for the benefit of your children.

The Best Interest of the Child

According to Illinois Compiled Statute Section 5/602, a court considers a number of factors in deciding custody. In determining best interest of the child, courts consider:

  • the parents' wishes or preferences in custodianship;
  • the parents' mental and physical health;
  • the parents' living accommodations;
  • the criminal (sexual) record of a parent (if any);.
  • the parents' willingness and ability to encourage and establish a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • the child's wishes or preferences, provided that the child is mature enough to make such decisions (with the court's discretion, the judge can have a private interview with the child);
  • the child's relationship with his parents and siblings;
  • the child's capability to adjust to his or her home, school, and community;
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, or threats of violence against the child; and
  • the mental and physical health of all the parties involved in the custody claim.

In summary, the Illinois courts minimize the emotional impact on children of divorcing parents. Divorcing parents are encouraged to develop their own plans in raising their child. When they cannot, the courts step in to decide.


A custodial parent who wants to relocate out of state must file a petition with the court requesting permission because both parents have the right to maintain meaningful and continuous contact with the child. The court permits relocation if it is best for the child, regardless of whether the move is necessary for the parent.

If a custodial parent wishes to move out of the state, he or she must petition the court and prove the move is in the child's best interest, and not simply because the parent has the desire to relocate.

A custodial parent can move anywhere in Illinois that does not interfere with the non-custodial parent's parenting time.


The court modifies a custody order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original order was issued. A court will not hear the modification petition any sooner than two years after the original order was issued.

The parent seeking modification carries the burden of proof that a change is necessary because stability in the child's life is always the court's priority, particularly, for example, if the custodial parent is now unfit. The parent seeking modification must show clear and convincing evidence that a change in custody is in the best interests of the child. Changed circumstances that arose after the original custody order was issued can be evidence. So can facts that were unknown or hidden when the court made its initial determination.

Once entered, unless custody endangers the child's physical or mental well-being, a custody order cannot usually be modified for at least two years.

Joint Custody Preference

Illinois law expresses a preference for parents to share the child as equally as possible.

Unless it can be shown that a child would be endangered physically or mentally in the custody of a parent, joint custody is encouraged. When ascertaining if joint custody is suitable, a court will look at certain factors, including the ability of both parents to cooperate with each other effectively in accordance with a joint parenting order, each parent's residential circumstances and anything else the court deems relevant.

Illinois provides for sole custody and joint custody. In sole custody, a parent makes all the decisions regarding the child's welfare. In joint custody, both parents make legal decisions for the child.

This does not mean, however, that both get equal parenting time; the child may spend more time with a custodial parent.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. Courts scrutinize any existing factor that may endanger the child, such as if there has been physical violence or abuse against a parent or the child by the other parent or whether one of the parents is a registered sex offender. Joint custody is encouraged unless the child is endangered physically or mentally in the custody of a parent.

If it is necessary to protect the child from mistreatment or abuse, the residency requirement under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), may be waived.


The Illinois courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy.

The parent not awarded custody receives visitation rights. However, visitation rights may be revoked if the child's well-being is at risk with the visiting parent. In some instances, a supervised visitation can be secured through the court.

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