Parental responsibilities means making important decisions for a child, and spending time with them. This used to be called "custody." That term is no longer used in Illinois.
The court usually decides who gets parental responsibilities when married parents get a divorce. If the parents were never married, this is decided when:
- The court needs to decide if a person is a legal parent of a child (this is called parentage); or
- One of the parents asks for child support or parenting time with the child.
When a child is with a parent, that parent is in charge of day-to-day care for the child. This includes:
- Feeding the child,
- Getting the child up and off to school,
- Taking care of the child when the child is sick,
- Making sure the child is clean and dressed,
- Getting the child to activities,
- Playing with the child,
- Getting the child to medical appointments,
- Punishing the child, if necessary,
- Making sure the child does chores, and
- Arranging for someone to watch the child.
What are parental repsonsibilities?
There are two types of parental responsibilities: decision-making power and parenting time.
One type of parental responsibility is the power to make decisions about how to raise a child. Judges and lawyers call this "significant decision-making responsibility." This includes the areas of education, healthcare, after-school activities, and religion.
Parenting time is the time a child spends with a parent. The judge usually gives both parents some parenting time, but time is not always equal.
Usually, the child lives mostly with one parent and has regular contact with the other parent (this used to be called "visitation").
Who can get parental responsibilities for a child?
Usually, only the child's parents can ask for parental responsibilities. If you are unsure whether you are a child's legal parent, see our article on Establishing parentage by going to court.
Someone who is not a parent of a child may ask for parental responsibilities in special cases, like when the parent leaves the child in someone else's care for good.
If a stepparent wants to ask for parental responsibilities, they must prove:
- The parent with more parenting time has died or is unable to care for the child, and the stepparent is already caring for the child;
- The child wants to live with the stepparent; and
- It is in the best interests of the child to live with the stepparent.
If a person is not a parent or stepparent and wants to spend time with a child, this is called visitation. This could be a grandparent, aunt, or close friend.
Updated: April 2018