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Although caring for a child after divorce may seem like common sense, there can be genuine questions about what the responsibilities of a custodial parent are. Fortunately, Illinois law provides very specific areas in which caregivers are responsible for children. This makes it easy for spouses or judges to recognize areas in which a custodial parent may be failing to meet a child’s needs, and sets the standard for what a child is legally able to expect from a parent. While the term “child custody” is no longer used in Illinois law, the parent with the majority of parental responsibilities and/or parenting time may still sometimes be referred to as the custodial parent.
Lawyers with experience in child custody disputes can help parents navigate the legal system and ensure their child is getting the care he or she needs.
This includes, but is not limited to
Physical needs – Adequate nutrition, sufficient sleep, proper hygiene, and care when a child is sick or injured are all examples of a child’s physical needs which a parent must meet.
Developmental needs – Children need help from their parents to reach developmental milestones. Learning to walk, talk, use the bathroom, and play well with others are just some of the skills a parent will teach a child. Developmental delays can have long-lasting impacts, and co-parents should be watchful for any behaviors that might cause or contribute to delays.
Disciplinary needs – Children are wonderful, curious, funny, and sweet, but they are not born with the skills to regulate themselves emotionally. Parents are responsible for helping children turn into functioning members of society, and sometimes this requires discipline. However, it is crucial to recognize the difference between time-outs and supervising chores, versus excessive discipline that can border on abuse. Co-parents should discuss disciplinary strategies to maintain consistency for the child.
Social needs – Although it can be difficult after a divorce or separation, parents are responsible for facilitating positive relationships with a child’s siblings, peers, and extended family. This includes allowing and encouraging a positive relationship with a co-parent or ex-spouse.
Educational needs – Children must be in school during legally mandated school hours, and custodial parents are responsible for ensuring that any remedial or special education services are provided for. This includes communicating with teachers, school counselors, and making sure homework gets done.
Supervisory needs – If a custodial parent needs to leave the child, he or she must secure an appropriate caregiver. This can be a family member, a babysitter, or a co-parent.
Parents may naturally have differences in interpretation of how these responsibilities should be carried out. The above list discusses some of the most important legal responsibilities of custodial parents in Illinois, but is not comprehensive. For help understanding your full responsibility under the law, or if you have questions about whether your ex-spouse is meeting their legal obligations to your child, contact a Hinsdale family lawyer with the office of Martoccio & Martoccio at 847-253-3100 today.