What does joint custody mean?

Joint custody is a type of custodial arrangement for children following a divorce action. However, joint custody does not necessarily mean that each parent has equal parenting time. Rather, the physical residence of the children at any given point in time is determined by the parties’ agreement, or by a court order.

Essentially, parents can end up with joint custody in one of two ways. Pursuant to 750 ILCS 5/602.1, a court will first ask the parents to submit a joint parenting agreement that addresses each of their powers, rights, and responsibilities with respect to the personal care of their children, as well as major decisions about the children, such as those involving education, medical care, and religious upbringing. The parents may be able to reach this agreement on their own, through their attorneys, or through a mediation process. If you need the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney in Chicago when creating you family agreement, contact us!

If the parents fail to voluntarily reach a joint parenting agreement, the court still has the option of ordering joint custody, if the court finds that a joint custody order would be in the best interests of the children. In determining what is the children’s best interests, the court must take several factors into consideration, such as the following:

  • Ability of the parents to cooperate and comply with a joint parenting order
  • Residential circumstances of each parent, and
  • All other factors that may be relevant

Incidentally, whether or not parents share joint custody pursuant to agreement or court order, it is presumed that both parents have equal access to records and information relating to their children, such as medical records, child care records, and school records. In other words, a school or healthcare provider cannot deny a parent access to these records on the basis that he or she is a non-custodial parent. However, there are a few exceptions. If an order of protection prohibits a parent’s access to school records, the school cannot release the school records to that parent. Likewise, a parent who is the named respondent in an order of protection is prohibited from having access to a child’s medical records, if the child is named as a protected person in that order of protection.

Joint custody can be a good choice for parents who are able to communicate effectively regarding their children, despite their differences. If you think that joint custody might be an option for you, contact your Chicago area divorce lawyer today, and explore the different custody arrangements that are available.

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