When Is Shared Custody Appropriate?

Advice from Our Skilled Illinois Family Lawyers

For some modern families it is common for both fathers and mothers to play active roles in the parenting of their children. When these marriages come to an end, one of the most troublesome problems is the issue of where the children will live.

Illinois law provides two options to resolve custody disputes, namely sole or joint custody. Either option may unsatisfactorily results in children residing primarily with one parent while the other parent exercises visitation and pays child support.

The response to this problem in Illinois family law is a growing trend for judges to approve a hybrid form of joint custody, called shared custody, where parents share the physical possession of the children equally.

If you need assistance with a custody matter, contact the Illinois family law attorneys at Wakenight & Associates, P.C. We have offices in Oak Park, Downers Grove, Mokena, Joliet, Aurora​, Elmhurst, Burr Ridge, St. Charles, Lake Forest, Northbrook, Schaumburg, and Chicago Loop.

Common Shared Custody Schedules, Decisions, & Support

A common parenting schedule is typically Monday and Tuesday with one parent, Wednesday and Thursday with the other parent, and the weekends alternating between the two households. Holidays are alternated throughout the year between the parents and vacation time is provided for each household.

The parents in a shared custody case jointly resolve issues of education, religion, health care, and extra-curricular activities and traditional child support is modified to allow for each parent to be solely responsible for the financial needs of the children when in their possession. The higher-income earning parent, however, pays a reduced amount of support to the lower-income earning parent, which lessens the disparity in income between the two households.

When Shared Custody May be a Good Option

Shared custody is the exception and not the rule. Not all parents are able to contribute or participate to the extent required in a shared custody case due to hostility between parents, conflicting work schedules, and other issues,

The basic prerequisites for a shared custody resolution are as follows:

  • Location: in general, the parents must reside in the same school district. This makes it unnecessary to designate a primary residence, which is traditionally used to determine where the children go to school.
  • Availability to share parenting: A shared custody order can only be settled if both parents are physically able to care for the children half of the time. Traditional day time work hours are usually required to get children to school on time and be available to get them to sleep at a reasonable hour.
  • Age of the children: Infants are not considered good candidates for a shared parenting order. Generally, children of grade-school age and older can do well in a proper shared custody situation.
  • Parental cooperation: No judge will enter a shared custody order unless the divorcing parties agree and jointly ask the court to do so without a bitter battle.

While it is still rare that a case is concluded with a shared custody order, such cases are becoming more common in Illinois, and, in the proper circumstances, the court will enter such an order.

Protecting the Best Interests of Your Children

As in any custody order, the emphasis for the court is not on the parents but on the best interests of the children. To this end, the shared custody arrangement is installed and in place well before the final order is entered. This allows the final agreed upon order to be presented along with the testimony of the parents that the agreement has successfully been in practice, that the children are functioning well, and that the parties agree that the shared custody arrangement should continue on a permanent basis.

With these safeguards in place, it would be unusual for a judge to not defer to the parents and their sworn representations as to how their custody case should conclude.