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What is child custody?

Child custody falls under two primary categories in the state of Illinois: joint custody and sole custody. Joint custody refers to both parents having custody and decision making authority over the child, and it usually involves the child dividing his living arrangements between the two parents. Sole custody refers to the child either living solely with one parent and/or one parent having sole decision-making authority over the child.

These days, sole custody is somewhat rare, but it could result if the mother or father has no interest in maintaining custody of his or her child. Alternatively, it might happen if the mother or father has a serious drug addiction, a noted history of domestic abuse or a criminal background.

There are two primary types of sole custody: sole legal custody and sole physical custody. Usually, a parent with sole custody will have both of these designations, but sometimes, the parent may only have one or the other. Sole legal custody gives the parent sole authority to make decisions about a child's welfare -- including decisions about education, medical care, emotional needs and moral and religious development. Sole physical custody means that the child lives exclusively with one parent, and the other parent will have some kind of visitation schedule to spend time with the child.

In terms of organizing one's life and caring for the needs of a child, sole custody can simplify the decision-making process and give a parent complete autonomy over his or her child's life. While sole custody parents can still receive child support payments from the non-custodial parent, this kind of custody arrangement does represent a significant responsibility and commitment.

Source: Findlaw, "Sole Custody" accessed Mar. 06, 2015

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