What does it mean to be the “residential parent” in a custody case?

child popsickleThe residential parent is the party with whom the minor children primarily reside in a divorce or custody case in Illinois.  The residential parent designation can also mean that this is the parent who receives child support, since the children are implicitly with the residential parent the majority of the time (i.e. they “reside” with that parent).  However, this is not always the case.

Some parties elect to do a 50/50 time split with the minor children.  In that scenario, usually no one pays child support.  The p arties each pay the expenses for the minor child or children while they are with that respective parent, and the parents share equally major expenses such as medical, educational expenses, religion, extra-curricular activities, etc.  However, this is not always the case and sometimes child support will change hands.  A 50/50 split on parenting time is something the parties must usually agree to and the parties likewise must live near each other and work well together.  Judges rarely, if ever, order a 50/50 time split between two parties.

Additionally, in a 50/50 time split, usually, one parent has to be named as the “residential parent” for the purposes of school enrollment.  The children have to go to school in the district in which they reside.  This is one way that a residential parent can be designated in a custody judgment.

Other parties choose to omit a “residential parent” altogether because they believe the parties are then on equal footing; however, someone has to be designated, once again, for the purpose of school enrollment.

The party named the residential parent is the party with whom the children primarily “reside”.  One issue that is often raised is what will happen if the residential parent moves away from the other parent? Generally, a substantial change in circumstances can change visitation or parenting time if it affects the best interests of the minor child.

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