Child custody proceedings may be handled by the family court or be negotiated by parents and their attorneys. The court often prefers it when parents create their own parenting plan, as it shows that parents are willing to work together to benefit their child. However, the court must still approve of the final agreement. In both cases, the court will ensure that a child is taken care of. Whether your custody case is litigated or negotiated, you need an experienced Bloomington custody attorney.

There is a misconception among many that the court will always favor the mother during custody cases. Both parents may worry that the court’s preference will negatively impact the time they have with their children. When you begin a custody case, it’s crucial to understand how the court approaches custody arrangements and how that may impact your parenting plan.

Does Illinois Prefer One Parent Over the Other?

No, Illinois does not have a preference for either parent at the beginning of a court case, and there is no preference based on the gender of either parent. The family law court decides child custody cases based on one standard: the interests of a child.

The Illinois court assumes that it is in a child’s interest to spend meaningful time with both of their parents. There are other factors, however, which may overturn or alter this assumption, from the impracticalities of a child moving frequently to a parent being found unfit to care for their child.

Physical and Legal Custody in Illinois

There are two forms of custody, and parents may be provided joint custody for both types or one parent may be provided sole custody. There could also be a mix of the two.

  • Physical Custody: This is what people frequently think of when discussing custody, and it is also connected to visitation. Physical custody is where a child spends their time. If one parent has primary custody, that is the child’s primary home. The parent who does not have primary custody is usually provided with significant visitation rights.
  • Legal Custody: This is each parent’s right to make decisions for their child, such as a child’s education, medical care, and religious upbringing.

What Factors Determine a Child’s Interests?

If parents create a parenting plan through mediation, the court will ensure that the agreement is in the child’s interests. If parents do not create a parenting plan, the court will determine the child’s interests to create its own parenting plan. These are the factors that Illinois reviews to decide a child’s interests:

  1. The wishes of each parent
  2. The wishes of a child who is considered mature enough to express a reasonable preference outside of parental influence
  3. Each parent’s time spent on fundamental caretaking needs in the two years prior to the petition being filed or since the child’s birth
  4. Any prior agreement that parents made for caretaking
  5. The child’s relationship with each of their parents, their siblings, and other significant persons
  6. Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  7. The child’s adjustment and connection to their home
  8. The child’s needs
  9. Each parent’s ability and willingness to put their child’s needs above their own
  10. The location of each parent’s primary residence, the distance between those residences, and the cost and ease of transporting a child between residences based on their schedule and the cooperation of parents
  11. If parenting time restrictions are appropriate
  12. Whether there is a history or threat of physical violence by a parent against the child or another member of the household
  13. Any abuse against the child or someone in their household
  14. Whether either parent is an actively deployed member of the military
  15. Whether either parent is a convicted sex offender and the specifics of their offense

The court will also consider any other relevant factors in a case.


Q: Does the State of Illinois Favor Mothers in Custody?

A: No, Illinois family courts do not favor mothers when deciding custody. Both legal parents are assumed to have equal parental rights, and the court assumes that joint custody would be beneficial for a child. If there is contrary evidence, such as evidence that one parent is unfit for custody, this will alter how the court treats the custody case. However, this is not based on either parent’s gender but on each parent’s ability to provide for their child’s basic needs.

Q: Who Gets Primary Custody in Illinois?

A: The court decides custody according to the child’s interests, which is decided case-by-case based on each family’s unique situation. In most cases, the court assumes that joint custody is the ideal arrangement. The court will look at certain factors to modify or affirm this presumption, including:

  • The wishes of each parent and child
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to provide care for their child
  • The child’s relationship with each of their parents

If a parent wishes to have sole custody, they must provide evidence to overcome the predisposition for joint custody.

Q: What Is the Most Common Custody Arrangement in Illinois?

A: In Illinois, joint custody is preferred. This will include joint legal custody, but physical custody can be more complicated. Although a 50-50 split is preferred, this is not always possible or practical. One parent may have primary custody to:

  • More easily navigate the schedule of the children and parents.
  • Keep children from moving around too often.
  • Enable the children to remain in the community they have connections with.

The court will only limit one parent’s custody or prevent them from having legal custody if they are unfit to care for and make decisions for their child.

Q: How Do I Prove a Parent Unfit in Illinois?

A: To prove that a parent is unfit in Illinois, you must prove one of the following grounds:

  • Abandonment
  • Repeated neglect of a child
  • Severe cruelty
  • A lack of interest in their child’s health and safety
  • Criminal conviction of serious crimes
  • Unwillingness to provide for a child’s needs despite having the ability to
  • Failure to keep a child safe from a dangerous or harmful environment

Evidence can include:

  • Healthcare records for injuries or illnesses
  • Police reports
  • Photo and video evidence
  • Witnesses to a parent’s behavior
  • Communication between parents or between a child and their parents

Safeguarding Your Family’s Future

A custody determination is challenging and stressful, even when both parents mean well. If you are in a divorce or separation case with children, you need an experienced custody attorney. Contact Stange Law Firm today.