Illinois Child Custody Procedure

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Divorce is never easy, especially if it involves having to make decisions about child custody and child support. Child custody can be determined privately, with or without the assistance of lawyers and/or a mediator, but if a resolution can't be reached, any party can petition a court for help. Child custody issues, like other family law matters, are governed by state laws.

In Illinois, child custody is called "allocation of parental responsibilities." The state's child custody laws address a variety of matters related to child custody including (but not limited to): decision-making (legal custody), parenting time (physical custody), and the procedure for petitioning for child custody.

Illinois Child Custody Procedure at a Glance

While reading the actual statutes is important, it can often be helpful to first get a summary of a law in plain English. Below you can find some basic information about child custody procedures in Illinois as well as links to relevant statutes.

Statute(s)

Illinois Statutes Chapter 750 Section 5/601.2 (Jurisdiction; Commencement of Proceeding)

How to Petition for Child Custody

A proceeding for child custody can be commenced in court by:

  • filing a petition for divorce, legal separation, or a declaration that the marriage is invalid; or
  • filing a petition for custody in the county where the child lives.

A person who is not the child's parent can file a petition for custody in the county where the child is permanently a resident, but only if the child isn't in the physical custody of one of his or her parents.

It's also possible for a step-parent to file a petition for child custody, but only if all of the following conditions are met:

  • the parent who had the majority of parenting time cannot care for the child because he or she is disabled or deceased;
  • the step-parent provided for the care, control, and welfare of the child before petitioning for custody;
  • the child wants to live with the step-parent; and
  • living with the step-parent is in the best interests and welfare of the child.

If one parent is deceased, the parent or step-parent of the deceased parent (which would be the child's grandparent) can file a petition if, at the time when the parent died, the surviving parent:

  • had been absent from the marital home for over a month, and the spouse didn't know where he or she was;
  • was in the custody of the state or federal government; or
  • had been convicted of or received supervision for (1) committing certain criminal offenses* against the child or deceased parent or (2) violating an order of protection that was meant for the protection of the child or deceased parent.

*Please see the statute for the specific criminal offenses that pertain to this subsection.

Timeline for Child Custody Petitions

The person who commences the action for child custody is required to serve a written notice and copy of the petition to the person who currently has child custody (and anyone else who has a pending motion for custody) at least 30 days before any hearing on the petition.

Related Statute(s)

Illinois Statutes Chapter 750:

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Illinois Child Custody Procedure: Related Resources

If you're interested in more information related to this topic, you can visit the links provided below:

Get Legal Help to Better Understand the Child Custody Procedure in Illinois

It can be difficult determining child custody, especially when working with a soon-to-be ex with whom you're not on the best of terms. For this reason, it can be helpful to speak with an experienced child custody attorney in Illinois who will be well-versed in the state's child custody procedure and who can guide you through the process of gaining custody of your child.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.