The Laws and Terminology for Divorcing Parents

The Divorcerer Speaks:  The Laws and Terminology for Divorcing Parents We all know how the saying goes: “out with the old and in with the new.”  You may be surprised to know that I am not talking about your spouse; instead, I am talking about how the change in Illinois law and the terminology being used is changing people’s perceptions about divorce and their children. Sole Custody.  Joint Custody.  Visitation.  Everyone seems to know what these terms mean and many believe that they carry significant negative connotations and are archaic – custody and visitation – of one’s own children.  These are the “old” terms. Instead, the change in the law created some “new” terms that you may want to consider and understand if you are contemplating or going through a divorce: “Parenting time” means the time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child. “Significant decision-making” means deciding issues of long-term importance in the life of a child and these include education, religion, medical and extra-curricular. “Allocation Judgment” means a judgment incorporating and allocating the “Parenting Plan” into a written agreement that includes decision-making responsibilities, parenting time and oftentimes many other (non-financial) child-related issues are addressed therein. In regards to parenting time allocation, if the parties are unable to agree to a parenting schedule then the court will determine what is in the child’s best interest taking all relevant factors into consideration.  In regards to significant decision-making there are four general areas that must be allocated:  education, religion, medical and extra-curricular.  The decision-making component to parental allocation can name one parent as the sole decision-maker (in one or more of these four categories) or can name both parents as joint decision-makers (in one or more of these four categories).  Again, if the parties cannot agree to the allocation of decision-making then the court will determine what is in the child’s best interest taking all relevant factors into consideration.  The end goal is to finalize an Allocation Judgment. The new law and new terminology seems to catch-up to the way people think about divorce and their children – in a more positive manner – catching up with public perception and generational changes in addressing these issues. You can find Jennifer R. Ward, Founder of WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC at or you can follow her on Facebook @WardFamilyLaw, Instagram @divorcerer, Google Plus @Wardfamilylawchicago and Twitter @WardFamLawIL


Jennifer R. Ward has exclusively practiced in the matrimonial and family law field for nearly 20 years. Furthermore, Ms. Ward is Adjunct Faculty at the John Marshall Law School teaching family law legal drafting to law students and has done so since 2005.

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