Understanding Child Custody in Illinois

Child custody cases are a priority with G. Edward Murphy and the attorney teams at Murphy & Dunn, P.C.  While our attorneys try many child custody cases in Peoria, Bloomington and throughout the State of Illinois area, the majority of custody cases we handle are ultimately settled by lengthy and hard fought negotiations. Our belief is that two parents acting rationally and with the help of two experienced family law attorneys will make a better decision regarding the care and custody of their children than will one judge who barely knows you. However, that does not always work. In those cases that settlement is not possible, we are there for you to litigate the issues in a favorable manner for you to win custody.



In Illinois, there were previously two types of child custody:  legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody concerned the right to make and be involved in major decisions concerning the health care, education and religion of your children. If both parents had joint legal custody, then neither parent has the final say over these issues. If the two parents could not agree on what was the best decision, then the issue went to mediation. If one parent had sole legal custody, then he or she did not need to consult the other parent when making these major decisions.

Physical custody was where the child lived. Physical custody could be shared or one parent could have sole physical custody. If one parent had sole physical custody, then the other parent previously had visitation according to a schedule that was negotiated between the parents and their attorneys.

Custody related issues are the most important issue you can have in a divorce case and should not be taken lightly. You need a high quality custody lawyer to assist you in this area of the law no matter what.

All of the custody rules and laws changed in 2015. At that time, the law changed and removed the use of custody and visitation from the statute for purposes of dissolution and replaced them with the terms "Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: Decision-Making" and "Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: Parenting Time". These sound like just politically correct modifications to the statute, but in reality they have changed everything: generally for the better. Although it sounds like just a renaming of the same old principals, what it has really done has improved parental relationships in dissolution cases and made it clear to both parents that you may be divorcing each other as spouses, but you are not divorcing your children. Both parties now are truly equal in the eyes of the law and the Courts have been been awarding both parents, more often than before, shared parenting time and shared parental decision-making.  Overall it has been a positive change.



This provision is basically what used to be joint legal custody. It discusses how parents make all of the major decisions for their children, including educational, healthcare, religious, daycare, extra-curricular, and other major parenting decisions.  The options are still the same: that being shared totally with mediation necessary if they cannot agree, one parent making the decisions by themselves, or the parties discussing the decisions jointly and trying to reach an agreement, but if they cannot then one parent has final say. We call this hybrid decision-making in our office. The new law has promoted joint decision-making and parties are more and more being agreeable to same.



This provision is basically what used to be physical custody and visitation. However, once again, just the change of name has changed everything. More and more parents are jointly sharing the parenting time and responsibilities under the new law and more parents are learning to cooperate with each other on same. The net result has been that parties are realizing that no one "wins" a custody case except all of the attorneys because of the huge financial cost and emotional cost of a custody case being fully litigated. The Parenting Time is granted to both parties on a schedule determined to be what is in the best interests of the children. This does not automatically mean equally, however.

No matter what, you need an experienced custody trial attorney like G. Edward Murphy and his team of attorneys and paralegals on your side. Whether an agreement is reached, or whether there is a true custody fight, they are the team you need. 



In Illinois, child custody is determined by what is considered to be in the best interests of the children. If the two parents cannot agree on the children's best interests, then Illinois courts will require that the parents participate in mediation prior to having custody litigation. G. Edward Murphy is also a certified family law mediator. For further information, please fill out our Contact Us form, e-mail us at gedwardmurphy@murphy-dunn.net, or call us at 309.674.5551 to schedule your free initial office consultation at either of our two convenient office locations.