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Illinois Divorce and Joint Custody Defined

I was involved in a child custody matter recently that was becoming difficult to settle, for a number of reasons. I represented the Dad in the case. One of the reasons for the impasse was the wife’s refusal to consider joint custody. I had prepared a detailed Joint Parenting Agreement that was a healthy and proper plan for the parents and the children of the marriage, It was rejected.

Here’s what occurred. Shortly before trial, I took the wife’s deposition. In the deposition, I began to inquire as to her reasons for refusing a joint parenting agreement, pointing out to her examples as to how she and my client had communicated and worked together on recent medical and school issues involving the children.

What developed in the deposition was an appreciation that she had never accurately understood what joint custody in Illinois meant. She told me that she refused to share the time 50/50 with the children with her then-husband, but she offered that she was completely OK with making him a part of every decision in the children’s lives She affirmed that he is a good dad, and should be equally involved in the major decisions.

Definition: Joint custody of a child requires both parents to cooperate in deciding major issues affecting their children, including, but not limited to, major medical decisions, religious training, and education. Sometimes, social decisions such as sports, camps, can be included in this definition.

The moral of the story, it seems, is that it helps that the parties understand at the outset of the case what is meant by joint and sole custody in Illinois, before a dispute develops over the idea. Wife”s longtime misunderstanding lead to a lack of progress on settlement. Once she was assured of what the concept of joint custody was, she quickly agreed to the joint parenting plan. The parties had already agreed on a parenting schedule. The case settled, and the cost and stress of a trial over legal custody was avoided.

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