Home » Understanding Child Custody in Illinois: A Comprehensive Guide

Child Custody Illinois

Navigating child custody can be one of the most emotionally taxing experiences for parents. Understanding the legal landscape in Illinois can help demystify the process and empower parents to make informed decisions in the best interests of their children.

Types of Custody in Illinois

Illinois law recognizes two main types of custody: physical custody and legal custody.

  1. Physical Custody: This refers to where the child will live and who will take care of the child’s daily needs. Physical custody can be:
    • Sole Physical Custody: The child lives primarily with one parent, while the other parent may have visitation rights.
    • Joint Physical Custody: The child splits time between both parents’ homes, though not necessarily equally.
  2. Legal Custody: This involves the right to make important decisions about the child’s life, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Legal custody can also be:
    • Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the exclusive right to make these decisions.
    • Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share the decision-making responsibilities.

Factors Considered in Custody Decisions

Illinois courts prioritize the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Several factors are taken into account, including:

  • The child’s wishes: Depending on their age and maturity, a child’s preference may be considered.
  • Parental wishes: Each parent’s preference and proposed custody arrangement are evaluated.
  • Parent-child relationship: The emotional bond and level of involvement each parent has with the child.
  • Child’s adjustment: How well the child is adjusted to their home, school, and community.
  • Mental and physical health: The physical and mental health of both the parents and the child.
  • History of violence or abuse: Any history of domestic violence or abuse is taken seriously.
  • Willingness to cooperate: Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent.

Modifying Custody Orders

Custody orders are not set in stone. If circumstances change significantly, either parent can request a modification. Common reasons for modifications include:

  • A parent relocating.
  • Changes in the child’s needs or preferences.
  • Changes in a parent’s situation, such as job loss or health issues.
  • Evidence of a parent’s inability to meet the child’s needs or safety concerns.

Parenting Plans and Mediation

Illinois encourages parents to work together to create a parenting plan. This plan outlines how custody and visitation will be handled and addresses other important aspects such as holidays, transportation, and communication.

If parents cannot agree on a plan, mediation may be required. A neutral third party helps facilitate discussions to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. If mediation fails, the court will decide based on the child’s best interests.

Legal Representation

While parents can represent themselves in custody proceedings, having an experienced family law attorney can be beneficial. An attorney can provide valuable advice, help navigate the legal system, and advocate for the best possible outcome.


Child custody matters are complex and emotionally charged. Understanding the legal principles and processes in Illinois can help parents navigate this challenging time with greater confidence and clarity. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that the custody arrangement serves the best interests of the child, fostering their well-being and development.

Wilson, Dabler & Associates, L.L.C.

14 South Second Street
Belleville, IL 62220

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216 North Market Street
Waterloo, IL 62298


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