Summer 2016's Most Common Question

"I'm having problems with my child's other parent.  My child is not happy with that parent now that he is a teenager.  He wants to come live with me.  How do I get custody of him?  How do I find a lawyer to do this?"

I answer this question three times a day on Avvo's Q&A section, and I think the time has come to write a blog entry about it.  The rules in 2016 changed only a little bit as far as procedure is concerned, so let's outline the major steps to get custody or modify it if you've got it.

How do I ask for Custody?

This is the one terminology that really changed in 2016.  We no longer use the word "custody," but instead split the rights to be in the child's life, or "Parental Responsibilities" to two categories:

  • Significant Decision-Making Responsibility - The important decisions for the child in education, healthcare, extra-curriculars and religion.
  • Parenting Time - Who the child lives with and the visitation schedule for the other parent.

Who can ask for "Parental Responsibilities?"

The mother asks for custody when she proves she is the legal parent of the child.  If a woman is married to the mother of the child within 300 days (or entered a civil union) of the birth, she will also be qualified as the mother under this standard.

The father can show he is the parent of the child if one of a few things occurs

  • He files the parentage case.
  • He is married to the mother at the time of birth, or within 300 days before the child's birth.
  • The mother and father sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity

When can I ask for "Parental Responsibilities?"

  • No other state is currently hearing the case about your child
  • The child has lived in Illinois for the past 6 months, or since his or her birth.
  • The child was moved to another state within the past 6 months.
  • There is an emergency to the child's health in Illinois

You will have to show one of those four grounds to get a judge in Illinois to decide the issue regarding your child.

How do I ask for it?

You're going to need to fill out four forms:

  • 30 Day Summons:  This document lets the other side know that you want to petition for parental responsibilities.  You need to have this served on them by a licensed process server or the sheriff.
  • Petition for the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: This is the document that tells the court what you want.  You will fill out the identical substance in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
  • Joint Parenting Plan:  This is the document that shows the plan you will eventually have with the other spouse.  You might be seeking to modify this document.
  • Order for the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities:  This document is the judge's order resolving parental responsibilities (Custody).

A lawyer can help you fill out any of the forms, and it's indeed something we do at my firm.  Illinois legal aid has a fantastic series of videos that explains this process in more detail, but I think this is a great start to answer the most basic questions about starting up custody proceedings -- or at least giving my audience a nice place to start googling.