Filing for Parental Responsibilities in Illinois: 4 Steps

Before you open a parental responsibilities and parenting time case, consider your options for deciding custody.

If you choose to settle or litigate without an attorney, follow the steps below to open a case. If you hire an attorney or another legal professional (such as a mediator), they will likely file for you.

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Step 1: Open a case

Begin by opening a case with your local family court and filing a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities. The petition may be submitted independently or as part of a divorce, separation, order of protection or parentage case.

You must file all forms electronically, unless you have been granted an exemption.

Unless you qualify for a fee waiver, you will have to pay filing fees, usually around $300.

Step 2: Serve the other parent

You must arrange to have the other parent served (formally delivered) a copy of the petition, along with a summons to appear in court. The papers must be given in person to the other parent or to someone 13 or older that lives with him or her.

The server may be a sheriff's deputy, a private process server, a private investigator or — with permission from the court — an adult with no relation to the case.

Sheriff's offices, often the cheapest professional option, offer free service for parents below certain income levels.

Whoever serves the papers must return a sworn statement of delivery to the court.

Step 3: Wait for a response

The other parent has 30 days to respond. They may agree to the requests in the petition and choose to settle, or they may answer the petition with a response form.

If the other parent fails to respond in time, you may ask the court for a default judgment. This means the court rules without the other parent's involvement.

A default judgment may be vacated (canceled) if the other parent responds within 30 days of its issuing. After 30 days, vacating becomes more difficult.

Step 4: File a parenting plan

Each parent has 120 days from the initial filing to submit a proposed parenting plan. These plans help the judge make custody decisions.

If you and the other parent agree on all custody issues, you can file a joint parenting plan and move to the settlement process. A judge will likely approve the joint plan, as long as it meets the child's best interests.

Preparing for what comes next

The next step in the court process will depend on your circumstances. Most parents will go to mediation, unless they reach a settlement first.

No matter what's next for you, take advantage of technology to be fully prepared.

The Custody X Change online app offers custom parenting calendars, parent-to-parent messaging, an expense tracker and more. You can use it to put together proposals for the other parent, negotiate, prepare settlement paperwork or organize evidence.

Be prepared for every step of your case with Custody X Change.

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