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What is the Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody?

 Posted on August 30, 2023 in Divorce

DuPage County, IL child custody lawyerWhen parents in DuPage County, IL, divorce, one critical decision is to determine how to divide the allocation of parental responsibilities of their children. The two main terms these responsibilities fall under are legal custody (now referred to as “decision-making”) and physical custody (“parenting time”).

Decision-making responsibilities refer to the right to make important decisions regarding a child's upbringing. These decisions can include education, medical care, and religion. Parenting time refers to visitation rights and how much time the child will spend with each parent.

If you are going through a divorce in DuPage County, IL, and are concerned about the allocation of parental responsibilities for your child, it is important to talk to a family law attorney. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options and can represent you in court.

What About Joint Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?

In many cases, parents in DuPage County, IL, will share the decision-making for their children. This grants both parents the right to make decisions about their children's upbringing. Even so, the court may still split the authority between different issues: one parent might have decision-making rights regarding the child’s education, where the other may decide on religion. However, a judge might still grant only one parent significant decision-making rights if it is found to be in the best interests of the child.

All parents are entitled to a reasonable amount of parenting time in Illinois regardless of who holds significant decision-making responsibilities as long as it does not endanger the child in a mental, physical, or emotional way. One parent may be designated as the custodial parent and usually retains the bulk of parenting time.

If parenting time is shared jointly, parents will have a visitation schedule in their parenting plan that determines how much time each parent spends with the child. Shared parenting time can be a good option for families who live close to each other and who can co-parent effectively.

Regardless of who is granted decision-making responsibilities, during parenting time, that parent will have sole responsibility over routine and emergency decisions for the child. 

Who Makes the Final Decision on the Matter?

The choice of whether to award decision-making or parenting time to one or both parents is made by the court. Each decision is made on a case-by-case basis. The court may consider several factors when making this decision, including the best interests of the child. Other factors may include:

  • The parents’ wishes

  • The age, maturity, and needs of the child

  • The parents' ability to provide for the child's physical and emotional needs

  • The parents' history of violence or abuse

  • The parents' ability to co-parent effectively

The option to agree on co-parenting responsibilities is available, but you will need to have all agreements spelled out in writing before submitting it to the court. Even with a written agreement plan submitted, the decision will still be based on whether or not it is in the best interests of the child.

If you are unhappy with a court’s decision on a child’s legal arrangements after divorce, you may be able to appeal it. However, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of such an action as appeals are often expensive and time-consuming.

Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney

Determining the allocation of parental responsibilities of your children is an important decision that can affect all parties involved. It is best to resolve any disagreements you may have with the co-parent before heading to court. However, if this cannot be done, you should employ an experienced Naperville, IL, child custody lawyer who can represent you if your case goes to court. 

Even during the preliminary negotiation processes, Calabrese Associates, P.C. can help you with any concerns you might have regarding your responsibilities as a parent. We offer a reasonably-priced consultation to discuss your situation and gather all necessary information to help with your case. Dial 630-393-3111 and make an appointment today.

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