Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (“Child Custody”)

The allocation of parental responsibilities is the legal phrase in Illinois for child custody and visitation.  There are two components to the allocation of parental responsibilities:

  • Significant Decision-Making
  • Parenting Time (“visitation”).

In some Chicago child custody cases, the parents agree on how these responsibilities should be allocated. In other Chicago child custody cases, the court must decide how to allocate these rights and responsibilities between the parents. The legal system decides the allocation of decision-making rights and parenting time based on the best interests of the child.


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Significant Decision-Making in
Chicago Child Custody

One of the most important rights and responsibilities a parent has is the authority to make significant decisions regarding his or her child. The responsibility of making significant decisions for a child is separate from the responsibility of making routine day-to-day decisions during a parent’s parenting time.

Minor day-to-day decision are usually things like whether to visit a playground, what food a child eats, and whether the child watches television. Regardless of whether the child is in a parent’s physical possession, if the parent is allocated significant decision-making responsibility, he or she has the right to make significant decisions regarding the child.

There are four types of significant decisions related to the child, for which decision-making responsibility needs to be allocated to one or both of the parents:

  • Education
  • Medical
  • Religious
  • Extracurricular Activities

Unlike previous custody law, the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities is no longer an all or nothing proposition of sole custody versus joint custody. Instead, we now can tailor the allocation of parental responsibilities based upon the best interests of the child. For example, one parent might be responsible for medical decisions, the other parent might be responsible for decisions regarding education and extracurricular activities, and both parents might be responsible for decisions regarding religion.

Parents who share responsibility for making significant decisions regarding the child must jointly make those decisions together. Thus, significant decision-making responsibility will generally not be allocated to both parents unless the parents are able to work together and agree on that type of decision. When only one parent is allocated significant decision-making responsibility, he or she has the authority to make decisions without the other parent’s approval. 

Parenting Time

Illinois law provides that parenting time will be scheduled for both parents in accordance with the best interests of the child. Whenever a parent has parenting time with the child, his or her residence will be considered the child’s residence for that time. During a parent’s parenting time, he or she will also have the sole responsibility for making routine day-to-day decisions regarding the child and any emergency decisions affecting the child’s health and safety that may arise.

The parenting time schedule will be set by the court if the parties are unable to agree upon one. Regardless, the parenting time schedule must be in accordance with the child’s best interests and the court considers many factors when making this determination. Many courts are receptive to a more modern parenting time schedule if it is appropriate for the family. One such modern arrangement is when both parents share equal (“50/50”) parenting time with the child. This may be a good option for parents who are both very involved in the day-to-day activities of raising their child. It may not be practical if the parties do not reside close to each other.

A schedule needs to be agreed upon or proposed by the court that is not detrimentally disruptive to the child. There are a number of equal parenting time schedules available. With an equal parenting time schedule, it is possible that neither parent will be ordered to pay child support to the other. If, however, one parent lacks sufficient income or assets to provide sufficiently for the child during his or her parenting time it is possible that the court may order child support even with an equal parenting time schedule.

The parenting time schedule must also include a holiday schedule. It is usually best to address as many holidays as possible including Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, the child’s birthday, Halloween, and all school holidays. The parties may also want to address their own birthdays. 

Parenting Plan and Allocation Judgment

Illinois law requires that all parents, within 120 days after service or filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities, file with the court, either jointly or separately, a proposed parenting plan. The time for filing a parenting plan may be extended by the court for good cause shown. If no appearance has been filed by the respondent, no parenting plan is required unless ordered by the court.

There are certain terms that must be included in the Parenting Plan. Some of the required terms are: how significant decision-making regarding the child/children is to be allocated between the parents, the child’s living arrangement and parenting time schedule, transportation arrangements between the parents, terms regarding communication with the child during the other parent’s parenting time.

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