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Child Custody Attorneys in Chicago

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: Decision-Making & Parenting Time

The Chicago child custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. realize that, oftentimes, the most emotional and challenging aspect of a divorce or family law case is addressing the child-related matters.

Gone are the days when one or both parents were awarded “custody.” In 2016, the Illinois legislature replaced the terms “custody” and “visitation” with “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time”. As such, the two main areas addressed by the allocation of parental responsibilities are (1) decision-making, and (2) parenting time. In any case involving children – whether the parents were married or not – these issues must be addressed.


Give us a call at (312) 487-2795 or contact us online to schedule your free 20-minute consultation.


How the Court Determines Custody in Illinois

There are four main areas of decision-making that must be resolved before a final Allocation Judgment (a formal parenting agreement) can be signed by the judge, namely:

  • Education – Including the choice of school (early development, preschool, elementary school, high school, foreign language), public or private schools, tutors, and the use of specialized services.
  • Health Care – Including decisions pertaining to medical, dental, vision, and psychological needs of the child, including choice of doctors, medication and vaccine decisions, and treatment options.
  • Religion – Including what religious beliefs the child will be taught, what religious meetings they will attend, and what religious organizations and events in which they will be involved.
  • Extracurricular Activities – Including sports, arts, educational, social, and any other activities or events outside of their education.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is predicated on two parents working together to co-parent a child. Joint custodial relationships require good communication between the parents and the ability to work together to make important decisions regarding the child. These joint decisions can include those regarding the child's education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. All such decisions must be made jointly by the parents, taking the child’s best interests into consideration.

If there is a disagreement between parents who have entered into a joint parenting agreement regarding a decision that affects their child, joint parenting agreements require the parties to attempt to resolve the issue with a certified mediator prior to returning to court. If a mediator is unable to resolve the issue, then the last resort is to bring the issue before a judge for adjudication.

Sole Custody

In cases where parents are unable to work together to co-parent their child and cannot agree on the three major areas—education, health care, and religion—then one parent will be awarded sole custody. In these instances, the custodial parent will have final decision-making authority when it comes to these issues.

Non-custodial parents are often allowed to provide input to the custodial parents regarding these important decisions, but in the event of a disagreement, the custodial parents' decisions trump those of non-custodial parents. It is important to note that, despite one parent being awarded sole custody in Illinois, both parents can and should continue to be involved in their child’s life.

Illinois Parenting Time Guidelines (Visitation)

Parenting time generally relates to in-person parenting time, including school year (“regular parenting time”), summer, and holiday parenting time, but it may also include electronic parenting time. Additional considerations can be made for the right of first refusal (when one parent is unavailable to care of the children during their designated parenting time), and in certain circumstances, restrictions to parenting time may be appropriate.

The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. believes that it is important to structure parenting time to meet the needs of each individual family.

Both the allocation of decision-making responsibilities and parenting time are determined based on the “best interests of the child.” This assessment requires the court to consider numerous factors, including but not limited to:

  • The respective wishes of the parents and the child;
  • The history of care-taking functions;
  • The child’s adjustment to his/her current home, school, and community; and
  • The willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent.

In certain, limited circumstances, third parties, such as grandparents and step-parents, can petition the court for certain rights, including decision-making and visitation. If you believe this situation may apply to you, please contact our office.

Consult a Child Custody Lawyer in Chicago Today

Our team of attorneys and legal staff work with our clients to achieve outcomes designed for long-term success and positive parent-child relationships. In many instances, parties wish to settle child-related matters amicably. Mediation can be a crucial component for resolving child-related disputes, with certain exceptions in cases of domestic violence or when one or more parties are suffering from addiction or mental illness.

The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. is aware that not all parties can resolve their differences through settlement negotiations or mediation. Our Chicago child custody lawyers are skilled litigators with the ability to zealously advocate for their clients in the courtroom. This may include enlisting the experience of experts, such as forensic evaluators, mental health experts, or substance abuse evaluators, to achieve their clients’ goals and promote the best interests of the children.

The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. has a dynamic team of skilled and experienced lawyers for child-related issues. Our child custody attorneys in Chicago have a successful track record for both settling and litigating contentious matters pertaining to the allocation of parental responsibilities, including both pre- and post-decree matters. We are focused on achieving our clients’ desired results while ensuring that the best interests of the children are protected.


Contact us online or call (312) 487-2795 to get started on your child custody case in Chicago.


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