Parental Allocation (Sole and Joint Custody)


If a couple has children, their divorce must address the issue of parental allocation—which includes both decision-making authority and parenting time. Parental decision-making authority is the legal right to make decisions regarding the child. Parenting time, also known as visitation, is the time each parent spends with a child and how that time is divided.

At the Law Offices of Joshua E. Stern in Evanston and Chicago, we know that when a divorce involves children, the process can often be more complicated and stressful. With the sensitive nature of these situations, we always work to resolve any parental decision-making issue for the benefit of all involved—especially your children.

We will also help you construct a parenting time schedule with your spouse to avoid confusion and conflict. By addressing things like holidays, school vacations and the right to travel in advance, we will help you avoid future trips to court and create more stability in your child’s life.

What is parental allocation?

Most people are familiar with the term “custody” as it relates to parental rights in an Illinois divorce. Now, what used to be “custody” is called parental allocation. Custody was split into two categories:

  • Legal custody that addressed decision-making authority for the child
  • Physical custody that addressed where the child lived the majority of the time and the address of record for the child

Over the years, parents began to treat joint custody (shared between the two parents equally) and sole custody (possessed by a single parent) as two ends of a spectrum. Parental allocation more fully reflects this and better fits into the modern concept of parental rights. Parental allocation states that:

  • Parents can have sole or joint decision-making authority for their children
  • Physical custody has slowly deteriorated in importance; it is now largely a matter of determining the child’s mailing address

What does parental decision-making authority include?

In Illinois, decision-making authority is divided into four topics under which the parents can have sole or joint authority:

  • Education — Includes the choice of schools and tutors, as well as other decisions affecting the studies and academics of the child
  • Medical — Includes all decisions relating to the child’s medical, dental, psychological and other health care needs
  • Religion — Takes into account the child’s prior upbringing and the parents’ past conduct in regards to religion
  • Extracurricular activities

Within each area, either parent may have sole decision-making authority or jointly share it with the other parent. Typically, the shared allocation of decision-making requires the parents to agree on any major decisions.

What is parenting time?

Also known as visitation, parenting time refers to the time each parent spends with his or her child after a divorce. Parenting time schedules divide the week and weekends between the parents, and can be as fixed or as fluid as the parties desire. Parents also typically alternate major holidays and life milestones, divide up the child’s breaks from school and are each permitted to travel with the child during the year.

For a divorce in Evanston, Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, a few issues must be addressed when determining parenting time:

  • The schedule must be able to accommodate school and extracurricular activities
  • The child’s clothing, medication, toys, homework and the like need to accompany the child
  • Each parent has the right to assume reasonable communication with the child during the other’s parenting time

Importantly, parenting time is in no way dependent on payment of child support—so a failure to pay child support does not prevent the paying-spouse from having parenting time.

Parental Allocation Judgement

Parenting time and decision-making authority are typically detailed in the parties’ Parental Allocation Judgment, which is the final Illinois court order detailing all non-financial matters relating to the parties’ children. A Parental Allocation Judgment will not only address these issues, but also general rules of parental conduct. While most of these judgments are formed by agreement, the court has the ability to order one following a trial.

Modification of Parental Allocation in Illinois

As with any issue concerning a child, decision-making authority and parenting time can both be modified at any time. This ensures that the best interest of the child is always maintained.

Parental agreement modifications in Chicago, Evanston and the surrounding suburbs most often happen when:

  • The child’s school or extracurricular activity schedule changes
  • A new career or life event alters the day-to-day plans of the parent
  • One parent proves unable to co-parent or act in the best interest of the child

When modifying parenting time, it is important the agreed-upon schedule ensures both parents regularly spend quality time with the child. If a parenting schedule no longer permits the parents to meet that goal, it must be modified to reflect the needs and circumstances of all involved. If the parental decision-making agreement is modified, each of the factors that were initially considered will need to be readdressed.

Contact an Evanston Family Law Firm

If you need to modify either your parental decision-making authority or parenting time agreement, or need a family law attorney to support you during the process, contact the Law Offices of Joshua E. Stern for a free consultation. We can be reached at (847) 868-9584 and can meet you at our offices in Evanston or Chicago, or at another location.

Our boutique family law firm is based in Evanston and serves clients across Chicago and the North Shore, including Skokie, Winnetka, Wilmette and Glenview.

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For a free consultation, call the Law Offices of Joshua E. Stern at (847) 868-9584 or contact us.