Over the last few months, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding recent changes to the family law statutes in the state of Illinois. By this point, you may be aware that at-fault divorce has been eliminated, along with mandatory separation periods and the elimination of “heart balm” civil lawsuits. You may also have heard that the state’s approach to child custody has been dramatically changed as well, attempting to refocus such proceedings more intently on the child’s best interests.
Under the recently-amended Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, what was previously known as child custody has become the allocation of parental responsibilities. The update reflects a more fluid, cooperative method for determining the role each parent will play in his or her child’s life and upbringing. As part of the new process, the statute identifies two separate classifications of parental duties: significant decision-making responsibilities and caretaking functions.
While virtually every aspect of a child’s life is important and deserves careful consideration, the law recognizes that certain elements must be addressed separately between divorced, separated or unmarried parents. By mutual agreement or by order of the court, the parents must have an understanding of which of them—or both—will be responsible for making decisions regarding their child’s education, medical care, religious training, and extracurricular activities. Allocating these primary duties is a major part of the updated process, but they are far from the only considerations that must be made.
In most situations, both parents will be allocated a certain amount of parenting time with the child. During this time, the respective parent will be responsible for non-significant decision-making, as well as caretaking functions for the child. Caretaking functions are the normal, everyday duties associated with caring for a child that have little to do with long-term decision-making. According to the law, these include:
- Meeting the child’s nutritional needs;
- Managing bedtime and morning routines;
- Caring for the child when he or she is ill or hurt;
- Attending to the child’s hygiene;
- Ensuring attendance and appropriate participation in school and extracurricular activities;
- Providing discipline and training;
- Tending to the child’s medical needs and ensuring he or she attends medical appointments;
- Arranging babysitters, when necessary, and supervising alternative care; and
- Offering guidance and support for the child, physically, emotionally, mentally, morally, and ethically.
While most of these should seem fairly obvious to any reasonable parent, it is still important to have such functions listed and addressed in a parenting plan. When each element is expressly considered, both parents are more likely to comply and remain cooperative in the parenting process. Failure by a parent to adequately meet the child’s needs related to caretaking functions could result in a reduction or restriction of parenting time to ensure the child’s best interests remain the top priority.
Compassionate Legal Professionals
The new law regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities is sure to raise many questions for parents throughout the state and our knowledgeable team is prepared to help. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney today to schedule your free consultation and to get the answers you need. For more than 40 years, we have been assisting families in the greater Chicago area and we look forward to serving you.