Every child deserves love and support from both parents. A child of divorced or unmarried parents, however, may find his or her situation to be a little more complex than that of other children. He or she is often the subject of a child custody arrangement that dictates the role each parent assumes in his or her life. Custody arrangements can be customized to meet the specific needs of every family, but are categorized by law into two types: sole custody and joint custody. While the granting of residential custody to one parent is necessary, joint legal custody represents a cooperative effort between the child’s parents. Such an arrangement, however, generally requires the parents to develop a workable Joint Parenting Agreement regarding the care of their child.
Under Illinois law, the concept of joint custody of a child refers to the shared responsibility between parents for making important life decisions in regard to the child. Most parents with joint custody do also make fairly equitable arrangements for each parent to spend time with the child, but joint custody does not guarantee that to any extent. Instead, it provides that each parent will be responsible for working together in deciding issues for the child such as non-emergency medical care, education decisions, religious upbringing, and other important considerations.
Joint Parenting Agreement
Parents seeking joint custody of their child are requested by the court to negotiate and draft a Joint Parenting Agreement to serve as the basis for a joint custody arrangement. The Agreement is expected to specify:
- Each parent’s rights, responsibilities, and powers;
- How decisions regarding the child are to be made;
- How disagreements between the parents will be resolved; and
- A mechanism for periodic review of the Agreement.
In practice, a Joint Parenting Agreement may also delineate visitation schedules and stipulate specific concerns. These may include, for example, choice of school or school district, rules regarding the introduction of new romantic partners of each parent, and any other pertinent issues.
Failure of the parents to initially develop a workable Joint Parenting Agreement does not automatically preclude them from eventually being granted joint custody. To assist the process in those circumstances, the court will appoint a mediator to work with the couple in creating an Agreement. In the event that mediation fails to provide an acceptable resolution, however, a contested custody trial represents the only remaining recourse. The awarding of joint custody, then, becomes extremely unlikely as the couple’s inability to cooperate would make such an arrangement practically unworkable.
Protect Your Child’s Best Interests
There are many resources and advice articles available online and in print regarding how to develop a solid Joint Parenting Agreement. While they may offer general information and points to consider, an experienced Kane County family law attorney can work with you to fully customize an Agreement that meets your needs. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation. Our knowledgeable team has helped hundreds of parents provide for their children and we welcome the opportunity to serve you.