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What does "joint custody" mean?

While the phrase "joint custody" is commonly used, some residents of Rockford, Illinois, may not have a clear idea of what that term means. Legally, it's important to remember that, recently, Illinois courts have changed to use the term "allocation of parental responsibilities" instead of terms like "custody" and "visitation". Still, average Rockford residents may be more familiar with talking about custody and visitation.

In practice, people often mean different things by "joint custody." A true joint custody arrangement, for example, would involve two parents sharing roughly equal time with their children and may even have arrangements to see the children in the same home. On the other hand, even if parents have not divided the time between their children equally, parents can still have what some might refer to as joint legal custody.

In joint legal custody, while one parent may be with the children the majority of the time, both parents have the same decision-making authority when it comes to important matters in the lives of their children. For instance, in questions of health care or religion, neither parent is legally allowed to make a significant decision for the child unless they get the agreement of the other parent, unless, of course, the judge has issued special orders otherwise.

With respect to questions about joint custody, a good starting point is for a parent to review the divorce or paternity order to see what is says about which parent has the authority to make what decisions. After that, questions are probably best referred to an experienced Rockford family law attorney.

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