Family Law Update Part III: S.B. 57 and Changes to Child Custody

One of the biggest changes ushered in by Senate Bill 57 is in relation to child custody. As the law stands in Illinois today, courts handle child custody proceedings by awarding physical and/or legal custody to one or both parents. When a parent is awarded physical custody, the child lives with that parent and the parent essentially cares for the child.

Likewise, when a parent is awarded legal custody, that parent makes decisions as to how the child is raised. When Senate Bill 57 goes into effect on January 1, 2016, this method of child custody will be eliminated.

Under Senate Bill 57, however, courts will be required to allocate parental responsibilities between both parents. These responsibilities are very similar to the responsibilities discussed above. The court will still be able to award:

  • Parenting time;
  • The right to choose the educational institution the child attends; and
  • The right to direct the child’s religious upbringing and among several other things.

These determinations are made in the best interests of the child. However, Senate Bill 57 requires the court to consider a variety of factors when determining the best interests of the child, which were not part of the prior law. These changes move towards a more equal balance of time that both parents share with the child, instead of parents leaving court feeling like winners or losers.

As you can see, the changes going into effect soon will have a major impact on child custody issues in the future. If you are in the process of getting divorced, or already are, and you are facing child custody issues, you should contact an experienced attorney who will be able to evaluate your situation and advise you of the best course of action in light of the changes coming in 2016.

Factors the Court Considers When Determining the Best Interests of the Child

The new law lays out the factors a court must consider when determining the allocation of parental responsibilities and the best interests of the child.

These factors include:

  • The wishes of the child, based on the maturity and ability to reason and make independent preferences;
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community;
  • Mental and physical health of the parents and child;
  • Cooperation between both parents regarding decision making;
  • The level of participation each parent has had with the child in the past;
  • Course of conduct of the parents in the past;
  • Wishes of the parents;
  • Needs of the child;
  • Transportation issues, distance between each parent and schedules of the child and parents;
  • Willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuing relationship;
  • Any threat of physical violence to the child;
  • Whether either of the parents are sex offenders; and
  • Any other factor the court considers relevant.

Consult an Attorney

If you have a child and are considering divorce, or already filed for divorce, you should contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney who understands how these new changes will affect child custody arrangements and assist you in obtaining the best solution to your problem.