Do we have to pick “joint” or “sole” custody for our custody agreement?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-young-girl-boy-fighting-over-bear-image17751201Every final Judgment that is entered in a custody case in Illinois has to talk about how custody will work.  Many people are surprised to learn that this does not necessarily mean that you have to designate “sole” custody or “joint” custody in your agreement.

Generally speaking, a “sole” custody agreement means that one parent makes the major decisions for education, health and religion.  They can make those decisions and tell the other parent about it later on, generally speaking.  Both parents still can make day to day decisions for the minor child when the minor child is in their care, as long as the custody agreement doesn’t provide otherwise.  For example, Parent A can have sole custody, but when the minor child is with Parent B, Parent Bcan decide what time the child goes to bed or if the child can eat dessert.  Parent A can decide if the minor child needs a health procedure or needs a major change in education, such as a change in school.  Parent A usually has to tell Parent B what was decided, but doesn’t need to consult him or her.

In a “joint” custody situation the parents make major decisions together for religion, healthcare and education.  If the parents are not able to reach an agreement on any major issue, they usually have to go to mediation.  If mediation fails, the parents have the right to file a petition in Court.

Many parties choose not to designate “sole” or “joint” custody in their custody agreement because the word “sole” and the word “joint” really don’t dictate how custody and decision making will work.  Instead, the procedures set forth in the custody judgment designate how the decision making will work. So, technically speaking, you could have a hybrid of both a joint custody agreement and a sole custody agreement, or, you could choose not to put either in the agreement.  As long as the agreement talks about how the decisions will be made and appears to be in the best interests of the minor children, that is usually sufficient.

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