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Why Illinois Switched to “Parenting Time”

By Nottage and Ward on January 26, 2018

Nikki, a woman in her 30s, had been dating her boyfriend, Michael, for a little over a year when they found out that Nikki was pregnant. The two determined that they would not get married, but both wanted to have the child. Healthy little Zoe was born nine months later to the happy parents and grandparents of the baby girl.

But a year or so later, things got complicated. Michael, still a large presence in his daughter’s life, had decided to go back to school to get his graduate degree in the hopes that he could get a better paying job in the near future, and Nikki was working full-time and depending a great deal on her parents and Michael’s parents for help with raising Zoe. Eventually, the financial strain and overall stress of the situation drove Michael and Nikki apart. But Michael and his parents still wished to be a part of Zoe’s life and not just sideline players or occasional acquaintances. They wanted to be responsible financially and emotionally with bringing up little Zoe, and very much wanted her to know that her daddy’s family was her family too.

So what does Illinois law have to say about the above situation with regards to parental rights and responsibilities?

First of all, it’s important to note that, as of 2016, Illinois family law has undergone extensive changes. One significant change is in language. “Custody” and “visitation” are no longer used, and have been replaced by “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.”

Previously, Illinois law was divided into either “joint custody” or “sole custody,” both of which are self-explanatory terms. After 2016, the authority to make major life decisions—such as choosing the child’s healthcare, education, religious upbringing, and influential social activity—was split between the parents. Family courts now decide which parent should be accountable for a specified subject on a case-by-case basis, as determined by the circumstances of the case.

Why the changes, you may ask? One reason is that Illinois courts are trying to remove the concept of “winning custody,” which implies there are winners and losers and that parenting is black and white in that regard. The courts want the best interests of the child to be at the forefront of legal decisions, and by removing the harsh implications of these terms, help to humanize these complicated and life-altering arrangements.

If you are concerned about new terms like “parenting time” and how paternity comes into play, feel free to contact the legal team at Nottage and Ward, LLP. You can call us at (312) 332-2915.

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