Figuring out parental responsibilities in Illinois

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The needs and desires of children are one of the most important things to consider if married parents are getting a divorce. The end of a marriage may have many consequences, emotional and practical, but children have limited agency in a divorce so others have to consider their best interests.

Illinois no longer refers to child custody, although the term is still commonly used, and the replacement phrase is "parental responsibilities." This new verbiage drives home the need for continued dedication to the child. Parental responsibilities are often involved in a divorce, but they may also be considered if a legal parent must be named.

Actual responsibilities that may be determined by a family court ruling include food, transport to school, medical care, clothing, access to activities, play time, chore time and responsibility for third-party child care. Also important in these rulings are decision-making abilities in the child's life and time spent with the child, often known as visitation.

In general, only biological or legal parents can claim parental rights and responsibilities. A stepparent or possible guardian may ask for custody if he or she have been left with the child to care for or the child wishes to or would most benefit from living with him or her.

Although legal representation is not necessarily required during parental responsibility proceedings, an attorney may be recommended to build a case for custody or related rights and privileges. Parents going through divorce or a guardian who inherited responsibility for a child deserve to have their offerings considered.

Source: Illinois Legal Aid Online, "Getting Custody of a Child," accessed Nov. 24, 2017

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