The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

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What Are the Different Types of Parental Responsibilities in Divorce?

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St. Charles parenting time attorney

Whether you are going through a divorce in DuPage County and have minor children from your marriage, or you share minor children with a partner and you have decided to separate, you will need to learn more about how Illinois law handles child custody issues. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), Illinois courts no longer award child custody to one or both parents. Further, courts no longer use the terms legal custody and physical custody to describe the relationship between a parent and a minor child. Instead, courts allocate parental responsibilities.

According to the IMDMA, there are two different types of parental responsibilities: significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. What is the difference between them, and how do courts allocate them? 

Learning More About Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities

The IMDMA explains that significant decision-making responsibilities are those that involve “deciding issues of long-term importance in the life of a child.” There are various issues that often are of long-term importance in the life of a child, but the IMDMA specifically identifies the following as significant issues:

  • Child’s education, including the choice of school for the child and any tutors or instructors for the child

  • Health care issues for the child, including matters related to medical treatment, dental care, and psychological needs

  • Religion, which includes religious education and religious upbringing more broadly

While all parents in Illinois will be involved in significant decision-making responsibilities that include education and health care, the IMDMA is clear that it does not always allocate responsibilities concerning the child’s religious upbringing or religious education. Rather, the court will only allocate significant decision-making responsibilities concerning religion when there is an express or implied agreement between the parents about the child’s religious upbringing. In other words, the court will not get involved in decisions about the child’s religious upbringing unless the parents have already made such decisions.

Parenting Time and Caretaking Functions

While significant decision-making responsibilities do not require a parent to live in the same place as the child or to necessarily spend a significant amount of time with the child, parenting time refers to “the time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child,” according to the IMDMA. Parenting time has replaced the legal terms previously known as physical custody and visitation.

How Parental Responsibilities Are Allocated

For both significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time, there two ways that these parental responsibilities can be allocated:

  • Parents can work together to create a parenting plan in which they allocate parental responsibilities

  • Court can allocate parental responsibilities in an allocation judgment when the parents cannot reach an agreement

Contact a Kane County Child Custody Lawyer

If you are going through a child custody case, it is critical to have an experienced and compassionate St. Charles child custody attorney on your side to assist with your case. Our firm can help you to show that it is in your child’s best interest for you to have significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us to learn more about our services. Contact the Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C. online or call us at 630-409-8184 today to schedule a private consultation.


The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

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