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Child custody laws shift after new research

Photo of Karen Lavin

When the parents of a child are no longer together, special considerations must be made. In these circumstances, decisions about child custody and child visitation are important. There are two main types of child custody in Illinois -- legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody is the broader decision making authority. The parent or parents with legal custody make decisions about education, religion and medical needs. Physical custody is about day-to-day authority. The parent or parents with physical custody make everyday decisions. The child generally lives with the parent that has physical custody.

Child visitation is the amount of time that the non-custodial parent gets with the children. The parties have the option to decide visitation times. But if the parties cannot agree, then a court will make visitation and custody decisions with the best interest of the children in mind.

In the past, mothers often won physical custody because courts felt it was in the child's best interest to be with the mother a majority of the time instead of being transferred between parents. But new research suggests that it is just as important for children to be with their fathers and that shared parenting is beneficial to the children.

According to this new research, children are actually much better off when they spend equal time with their mother and their father. The study found that children who have equal time with parents are less stressed and more secure.

This research is pushing many states, including Illinois, to reconsider their child custody laws. These new laws will require the court to ensure that each parent receives at least a minimum amount of time with their children. The Illinois legislature is currently discussing a bill that gives each parent visitation with their child at least 35 percent of the time. Such a bill may help parents secure a more equitable visitation schedule with their children following a divorce.

Source: 12 News, "Arizona dad fights for rights of divorced fathers," Alia Beard Rau, June 16, 2012

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