The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the “Illinois Divorce Act”) does not define what Joint Custody is other than that it is based upon a Joint Parenting Agreement (“JPA”).
Contrary to popular belief, joint custody does not mean your children will spend half the time with you and half with your spouse, or that you will both have equal decision making authority. Instead, Joint Custody means what your JPA defines it to mean.
Typically, a JPA is a customized, structured agreement that provides how many aspects of child custody will be handled, including custody, parenting time, decisions concerning the child’s welfare, and how disputes over the JPA will be resolved. Often, the JPA provides that its terms will be periodically reviewed.
The JPA is a critical agreement that will govern nearly all aspects of child custody and decision-making. Therefore, it is crucial that it be detailed, and that both parents understand every aspect of it.
The JPA should provide in detail what decisions will require joint agreement, which decisions will require consultation, and which decisions will simply require notification. How medical, religious and educational decisions are to be made are almost always addressed.
Good JPA’s also have detailed visitation / parenting time schedules, and set forth how the parents will communicate with the children when in the other parent’s custody and parental conduct rules. Most JPA’s also include a provision that when disputes arise, the parents will go to mediation prior to going to Court.
There are a host of other issues that parents should at least consider including in a JPA, including: when the children can start dating/working/driving, if joint decisions are required to get tattoos or body piercings, and whether the parents can have boyfriends or girlfriends reside overnight when the children are present.
While many parents start the custody process with the idea of amicably working together in the best interest of their children, few parents know all of the issues that need to be discussed, agreed upon, and incorporated into a JPA. It’s critical that all of the important issues be resolved in the JPA, and not left as a matter to be handled at a later date. We will carefully listen to your needs and concerns and address those concerns in a customized JPA which will avoid unnecessary, aggravating and costly post-divorce disputes.
We can handle all of the Child Custody aspects of your divorce. If you would like to read more now, click on any of the following links: