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Illinois has a unique approach to minor children in divorce

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2020 | Child Custody

One of the most frustrating things about trying to navigate the Illinois family law system is the amount of jargon involved. Jargon is specialized language used in a niche area that may not have a clear meaning to people outside of the industry or field that utilizes the jargon.

Even terms that are well-known and common can have unique implications in the legal system. Other times, the language people believe applies is actually inaccurate or outdated. When it comes to parenting time and parental authority in a divorce or in a situation with unmarried biological parents, most people would use the word custody to refer to the parenting time and authority delegated by the courts.

However, Illinois has not used the term custody for situations involving the care of dependent children. Instead, the law now refers to such concerns as the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities.

What are parental rights and responsibilities?

The word custody often implies ownership, which is likely part of the reason why state lawmakers changed the jargon used in these cases. Parental rights and responsibilities are the obligations that parents have to the children in their lives and the legal rights or authority they derive as a byproduct of their relationship with those children.

Your parental rights include the right to have a say in the health care, educational and religious decisions about a child, as well as the right to spend time with your children. Parental responsibilities include assuming legal liability for the actions of the child, providing guidance and meeting the physical needs of a child, such as shelter, health care, clothing and food.

How did the Illinois courts split up parental rights and responsibilities?

Although the jargon currently used in the state of Illinois refers to the responsibilities and rights of the parents, it will be the needs of the children that guide how the court handles the situation. Illinois family courts should always focus on the best interest of the children when deciding how to allocate parental rights and responsibilities.

In most cases, the courts want to preserve an active role for both parents, but in scenarios involving neglect, abuse, or issues such as addiction or severe health problems, the best interest of the children may involve one parent having more authority or parenting time than the other.