happy father and son

In Illinois, thousands of marriages end in divorce each year, leaving couples to wade through the complicated procedure of determining where their children should live and how they should be raised. A Cook County child custody lawyer knows that custody battles can become emotional, stressful and complicated for even the most amicable of couples. A clear understanding of the different types of custody and what they include can be helpful in preparing parents for the legal process.

State law recognizes two different types of child custody in Illinois: physical and legal custody. While physical custody has to do with the physical residences where a child resides, legal custody is slightly more complicated and offers parents access to rights that physical custody does not include.

The right to make important decisions

The primary difference between physical and legal custody has to do with a parent’s right to make legal decisions on behalf of their children. A wide range of aspects regarding the wellbeing of a child are covered by legal child custody, including the following:

  • Educational choices
  • Medical care
  • Religious upbringing

When a judge awards legal custody, he or she must consider the best interest of a couple’s children before making a final ruling. In general, the court wants parents to have control over their children’s lives when it is appropriate, whether or not they are married.

Joint vs. sole custody

In the majority of child custody cases, judges award joint legal custody to both parents. Unless one parent is proven unfit by the court, the preference is typically toward shared parenting when possible. Even if sole physical custody is given to one parent, both parents may be required to come to a consensus when making important decisions for their children.

A Cook County child custody lawyer knows that parents must also keep each other informed about any major decisions in order to give one another the opportunity to either agree or disagree. If problems with communication arise after joint legal custody is awarded, parents could be ordered by the court to attend mediation or counseling to resolve the issues at hand.

How Illinois courtrooms determine legal custody

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act obliges judges to consider several factors before ruling on child custody arrangements. The court must look at the physical and mental health of each parent, the willingness of each parent to maintain a relationship with their child and more prior to deciding whether legal custody should be shared or held by one parent if it is in the best interest of the child. Many parents choose to seek counsel from a Cook County child custody lawyer before entering the courtroom.