As of January 1, 2016, Illinois became one of only a handful of states no longer using the word “custody” but joint custody is alive and well in our state.
Even in the most contentious of divorces, most divorcing parents agree to share “custody” or what we now call in Illinois “allocation of parental responsibilities” which is decision making in four major areas of their children’s lives. Those four major areas are religion, education, non-emergency medical decisions and the choice of extra-curricular activities for the children.
Just because parents share decision making does not mean however that they are with the children 50 % of the time although the old tradition of every other weekend and only one dinner a week is falling by the wayside.
The “non-custodial” parent, often the dad, is getting more and more time with the kids and that time is no longer labeled “visitation”. He is getting more “parenting time”. He does not have to be the parent who simply takes them to the movies or to Mcdonald’s on the weekends anymore.
But with that time comes greater responsibility, he will be expected to take them to more and more of their agreed upon extra-curricular activities and in many cases to get them to school on time.
He can become move involved in their school activities and interact with their teachers. He can have a more active role in choosing their extra-curricular activities.
There is a well founded belief that unless one parent is very dysfunctional and truly harmful to the children having both parents active in their upbringing benefits children.
In fact, sometimes the dad who was largely uninvolved with his kids may become a better parent after the divorce once he has defined rights and responsibilities and likewise the mom who is no longer shouldering all of the responsibility for the children or who is no longer distracted by the tensions of trying to keep a floundering marriage afloat is free to become a better mother.
It is my hope as a divorce lawyer that the end result of “joint custody” does in fact benefit the children.