ARTICLE IX. CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS
 
PART A. RULES OF GENERAL APPLICATION TO CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS

 

Rule 900. Purpose and Scope

       (a) Purpose. Trial courts have a special responsibility in cases involving the care and custody of children. When a child is a ward of the court, the physical and emotional well-being of the child is literally the business of the court. The purpose of this article (Rules 900 et seq.) is to expedite cases affecting the custody of a child, to ensure the coordination of custody matters filed under different statutory Acts, and to focus child custody proceedings on the best interests of the child, while protecting the rights of other parties to the proceedings.

      (b)(1) Definitions. For the purposes of this article, “child custody proceeding” means an action affecting child custody or visitation. “Removal” means an action involving removal of a minor child pursuant to section 609 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/609). “Child” means a person who has not attained the age of 18.

      (b)(2) Part A. Scope. Rules 900 through 920, except as stated therein, apply to all child custody proceedings initiated under article II, III, or IV of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 and article 112A of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963, and guardianship matters involving a minor under article XI of the Probate Act of 1975.

      (b)(3) Part B. Scope of Rules 921 through 940. Rules 921 through 940 apply to child custody proceedings initiated under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, and the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984.

      (b)(4) Part C. Scope of Rule 942. Rule 942 applies to child custody proceedings under articles II, III, and IV of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987.

      (c) Applicability of Other Rules. Applicable provisions of articles I and II of these rules shall continue to apply in child custody proceedings except as noted in this article.

 

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006; amended July 1, 2013, eff. Sept. 1, 2013.

 

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Rule 900 emphasizes the importance of child custody proceedings and highlights the purpose of the rules that follow, which is to ensure that child custody proceedings are expeditious, child-focused and fair to all parties.

The rules in the 900 series were written by the Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues. The Special Committee was appointed shortly after our Supreme Court adopted the rules promulgated by the Special Supreme Court Committee on Capital Cases. See Rule 43 (judicial seminars on capital cases), Rule 411 (applicability of discovery rules to capital sentencing hearings), Rule 412(c) (State identification of material that may be exculpatory or mitigating), Rule 417 (DNA evidence), and Rules 701(b) and 714 (Capital Litigation Bar). These rules were designed to improve pretrial and trial procedures in capital cases. In appointing the Special Committee on Child Custody Issues, our Supreme Court indicated its strong desire to address problems which were apparent in the most significant cases courts must decide–those involving child custody.

Our supreme court and legislature have repeatedly stressed the need for child custody proceedings to be handled expeditiously, with great emphasis on the best interest of the child. As pointed out by our Supreme Court in In re D.F., 208 Ill. 2d 223, 241 (2003), the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2–14(a)), sets forth the “legislature’s stated policy and purpose of expediting juvenile court proceedings and seeking permanency for children in a ‘just and speedy’ manner.” Similarly, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/606(a)) provides: “Custody proceedings shall receive priority in being set for hearing.” As explained by our Supreme Court in In re A.W.J., 197 Ill. 492, 497-98 (2001): “Like proceedings under the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1 et seq. (West 1994)) and the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2–1 et seq. (West 1994)) custody proceedings under the Marriage and Dissolution Act are guided by the overriding lodestar of the best interests of the child or children involved.”

The Special Committee noted that proceedings under the Adoption Act “shall receive priority over other civil cases in being set for hearing,” and that appealable orders under the Adoption Act “shall be prosecuted and heard on an expedited basis.” 750 ILCS 50/20.

The Special Committee also noted that, effective July 1, 2004, our Supreme Court adopted Rule 306 A, Expedited Appeals in Child Custody Cases. Rule 306 A (f) provides that “Except for good cause shown, the appellate court shall issue its decision within 150 days after the filing of the notice of appeal.” Rule 306 A (h) provides in part: “Requests for continuance are disfavored and shall be granted only for compelling circumstances.”

Paragraph (b)(1) defines “Child custody proceeding” broadly for the purposes of the rules. The broad definition is important, because the need to expedite custody decisions applies to all types of custody cases and coordination of custody cases is essential.

The rest of Rule 900(b) sets out the scope of the Committee’s other rule proposals.

Paragraph (b)(2) explains that Part A of the rules, consisting of Rules 900 through 920, is applicable to all child custody proceedings, except as noted. Rules 909 through 920 are reserved.

Paragraph (b)(3) explains that Part B of the rules, consisting of Rules 921 through 940, deals with dissolution of marriage and paternity cases. Rules 925 through 940 are reserved.

Paragraph (b)(4) explains that Part C of the rules, consisting only of Rule 942, Court Family Conferences, applies to nondelinquency juvenile cases.
Other Supreme Court rules will continue to apply in child custody proceedings unless noted.
The 900 series of rules does not address proceedings arising under the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1 et seq.). The Special Committee believes that adoption is qualitatively different from the child custody proceedings addressed in the Rule 900 series. Consequently, any rule changes applicable to proceedings under the Adoption Act will be addressed separately.

 

Rule 901. General Rules

       (a) Expedited Hearings. Child custody proceedings shall be scheduled and heard on an expedited basis. Hearings in child custody proceedings shall be held in strict compliance with applicable deadlines established by statute or by this article.

       (b) Setting of Hearings. Hearings in child custody proceedings shall be set for specific times. At each hearing, the next hearing shall be scheduled and the parties shall be notified of the date and time of the next hearing. Hearings rescheduled following a continuance shall be set for the earliest possible date.

       (c) Continuances. Parties, witnesses and counsel shall be held accountable for attending hearings in child custody proceedings. Continuances shall not be granted in child custody proceedings except for good cause shown and may be granted if the continuance is consistent with the health, safety and best interests of the child. The party requesting the continuance and the reasons for the continuance shall be documented in the record.

       (d) In any child custody proceeding taken under advisement by the trial court, the trial judge shall render its decision as soon as possible but not later than 60 days after the completion of the trial or hearing.

       (e) Appeals. Appeals from orders entered in child custody proceedings shall be pursuant to the applicable civil appeals rules. All such proceedings shall be expedited according to Rule 311(a).

 

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006; amended February 26, 2010, effective immediately.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Rule 901 includes procedures that are designed and proven to expedite child custody proceedings.

Paragraph (a) requires strict compliance with statutory and rule based deadlines for child custody proceedings.

Paragraphs (b) and (c) concerning the setting of hearings and limitations on continuances should help to significantly reduce delays in child custody proceedings.

Paragraph (d) requires timely disposition of cases taken under advisement by the trial court.

 

Rule 902. Pleadings

(a) Complaint or Petition. The initial complaint or petition in a child custody proceeding shall state (1) whether the child involved is the subject of any other child custody proceeding pending before another division of the circuit court, or another court or administrative body of Illinois or of any other state, an Indian tribe, or a foreign country and (2) whether any order affecting the custody or visitation of the child has been entered by the circuit court or any of its divisions, or by another court or administrative body of Illinois or of any other state, an Indian tribe, or a foreign country. If any child custody proceeding is pending with respect to the child, or any order has been entered with respect to the custody or visitation of the child, the initial complaint or petition shall identify the tribunal involved and the parties to the action.

(b) Verification of Initial Complaint or Petition. The plaintiff or petitioner in a child custody proceeding shall verify the pleadings required by paragraph (a) of this rule. If the plaintiff or petitioner is a public agency, the verification shall be on information and belief of the attorney filing the pleading and shall state that reasonable efforts were made to obtain all information relevant to the matters verified.

(c) Answer or Appearance. In a child custody proceeding the defendant’s (or respondent’s) answer, if required, shall include a verified disclosure of any relevant information known to the defendant (or respondent) regarding any pending proceedings or orders described in paragraph (a) of this rule. Any defendant or respondent who appears but is not required to file an answer in the child custody matter shall be questioned under oath by the court at the party’s first appearance before the court regarding any proceedings or orders described in paragraph (a) of this rule.

(d) Continuing Duty. The parties have a continuing duty to disclose information relating to other pending child custody proceedings or any existing orders affecting the custody or visitation of the child, and shall immediately disclose to the court and the other parties to the proceeding any such information obtained after the initial pleadings, answer or appearance.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

The purpose of Rule 902 is to ensure that the trial court is aware of all custody proceedings and orders relating to the child who is before the court. The Special Committee found that child custody and visitation may be the subject of multiple proceedings and orders. Rule 902 addresses the problem of multiple proceedings that may occur intrastate and intra-circuit. Multiple proceedings may arise intra-circuit when parties file for relief under different statutory provisions (e.g., an abuse case and a simultaneous guardianship case).

Paragraph (a) provides that the initial pleading of a party to a custody proceeding must include information regarding other pending custody proceedings and prior orders relating to custody or visitation. Information in paragraph (a) may be submitted to the court in a joint filing including the information required by section 209(a) of the Uniform Child-Custody and Enforcement Act (750 ILCS 36/209(a)).

Paragraph (b) requires that the pleadings required by paragraph (a) of this rule be verified by the plaintiff or petitioner in child custody proceedings.

Paragraph (c) provides that parties not required to file pleadings may be questioned by the trial court regarding other pending matters and prior orders.

Paragraph (d) provides that all parties have a continuing duty to disclose such matters to the court.

Requiring disclosure of other proceedings and orders should minimize the possibility of inconsistent child custody orders and help to prevent forum shopping.

 

Rule 903. Assignment and Coordination of Cases

Whenever possible and appropriate, all child custody proceedings relating to an individual child shall be conducted by a single judge. Each judicial circuit shall adopt a rule or order providing for assignment and coordination of child custody proceedings. Assignments in child custody proceedings shall be in accordance with the circuit rule or order then in force.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Rule 903 encourages the assignment of all custody proceedings concerning a child to a single judge. The rule does not mandate consolidation of child custody proceedings, because consolidation may be inadvisable in certain cases. Moreover, in some counties mandatory consolidation may be impracticable because of the arrangement of courtrooms and facilities.
Rule 903 encourages the consolidation of cases by requiring that the judicial circuits adopt rules or orders concerning the assignment and coordination of child custody proceedings, and by providing that the assignment of child custody proceedings will be in accordance with those rules.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Rule 904. Case Management Conferences

In child custody proceedings other than cases under articles II, III and IV of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, and cases under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 provided for under Part B of this article (see Rule 923), an initial case management conference pursuant to Rule 218 shall be held not later than 90 days after the petition or complaint has been served upon the respondent. If not previously resolved, the court shall address the appointment of a guardian ad litem or counsel for the child and counsel for any indigent party entitled to the assistance of appointed counsel at the initial case management conference.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Case management conferences provide an effective way for the trial court to simplify issues and expedite cases. Rule 904 provides that an initial case management conference will be held within 90 days after the petition or compliant has been served upon the respondent in child custody proceedings not covered by other rules.


Special rules regarding conferences are included in Parts B and C of the Rule 900 series: Rule 923 addresses case management conferences in dissolution of marriage and paternity cases. Rule 942 authorizes the use of Court Family Conferences in abuse and neglect cases.

 

Rule 905. Mediation            

      (a) Each judicial circuit shall establish a program to provide mediation for cases involving the custody of a child or removal of a child or visitation issues (whether or not the parties have been married). In addition to the minimum requirements set forth in subparagraph (b)(2) of Rule 99, local circuit court rules for mediation in child custody, removal and visitation cases shall address: (i) mandatory training for mediators; (ii) limitation of the mediation program to child custody, removal and visitation issues; (iii) (unless otherwise provided for in this article) standards to determine which child custody, removal and visitation issues should be referred to mediation and the time for referral; and (iv) excuse from referral to mediation if the court determines an impediment to mediation exists. The immunity and approval requirements of subparagraph (b)(1) of Rule 99 shall apply to mediation programs for child custody, removal and visitation matters.

      (b) Each judicial circuit shall establish a program to provide mediation for dissolution of marriage and paternity cases involving the custody of a child or removal of a child or visitation issues (whether or not the parties have been married). In addition to the minimum requirements set forth in subparagraph (b)(2) of Rule 99, local circuit court rules for mediation in dissolution of marriage and paternity cases shall address: (i) mandatory expertise requirements of a mediator; (ii) mandatory training for mediators; (iii) limitation of the mediation program to child custody, removal and visitation issues; and (iv) referral of child custody, removal and visitation issues to mediation, pursuant to Rule 923(a)(3), the court determines an impediment to mediation exists. The immunity and approval requirements of subparagraph (b)(1) of Rule 99 shall apply to mediation programs for child custody, removal and visitation matters. In cases where a litigant can only communicate in a language other than English, the court will make a good-faith effort to provide a mediator, and a pro bono attorney where applicable, and/or an interpreter who speaks the language of the litigant who needs English assistance.

      (c) Every judicial circuit shall file a quarterly report with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts setting out the number of custody, visitation, and removal cases referred to mediation, the number of custody, visitation, and removal cases where mediation was referred but did not proceed, the number of cases referred on a pro bono basis, the number of cases where there was a full settlement, the number of cases where there was a partial settlement, and the percentage of cases wherein the parties were satisfied or unsatisfied with the process. Every judicial circuit shall require the completion of a mediation report filled out by a mediator on every custody, visitation, and removal case referred to mediation as well as the parties’ evaluation of the mediation on forms prescribed by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts. The information contained in the mediator and parties evaluation reports shall remain confidential and shall only be utilized for administrative and statistical purposes as well as the court’s review of the efficacy of the mediation program.

      (c) (d) In addition to meeting the requirements of Rule 905(a), and (b), and (c), local circuit rules may also impose other requirements as deemed necessary by the individual circuits.

 Adopted February 10, 2006, effective January 1, 2007; amended May 19, 2006, effective January 1, 2007; amended July 1, 2013, eff. Sept. 1, 2013.

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues
(amended May 19, 2006)

            The Committee believes mediation can be useful in nearly all contested custody proceedings. Mediation can resolve a significant portion of custody disputes and often has a positive impact even when custody issues are not resolved. The process of mediation focuses the parties’ attention on the needs of the child and helps parties to be realistic in their expectations regarding custody.

            Many counties and judicial circuits have had mandatory mediation programs in place in their domestic relations courts for years. Cook County and Du Page County have utilized mandatory mediation programs for more than a decade. To date, these mandatory mediation programs have been implemented by the judicial circuits under the auspices of Rule 99, Mediation Programs.

            Rule 905 requires each judicial circuit to establish a mediation program for child custody proceedings. Local circuit court rules will address the specifics of the mediation programs. The Cook County model for mediation programs, which provides county-employed mediators at no cost to the parties, may not be financially or administratively feasible for every circuit. Alternatively, some circuits have required approved mediators to mediate a certain number of reduced fee or pro bono cases per year as identified by the court. The individual judicial circuits may implement rules which are particularly appropriate for them, including provisions specifying responsibility for mediation costs.

            Paragraph (a) applies to cases involving custody or visitation issues, other than those arising in dissolution of marriage and paternity cases. It requires local circuit court rules to address mandatory training for mediators and limits the mediation program to issues involving child custody and visitation. Paragraph (a) also requires local circuit court rules to set standards to use in determining which child custody and visitation issues should be referred to mediation and also address when the referral will be made.

            Paragraph (b) provides for mediation of disputed custody and visitation issues in dissolution of marriage and paternity cases, absent good cause shown. The timing and manner of referral to mediation in dissolution of marriage and paternity cases is provided for in Rule 923.

            Parties may be excused from referral under both paragraphs (a) and (b) if the court determines an impediment to mediation exists. Such impediments may include family violence, mental or cognitive impairment, alcohol abuse or chemical dependency, or other circumstances which may render mediation inappropriate or would unreasonably interfere with the mediation process.

 

Rule 906. Attorney Qualifications and Education in Child Custody and Visitation Matters

(a) Statement of Purpose. This rule is promulgated to insure that counsel who are appointed by the court to participate in child custody and visitation matters, as delineated in Rule 900(b)(2), possess the ability, knowledge, and experience to do so in a competent and professional manner. To this end, each circuit court of this state shall develop a set of qualifications and educational requirements for attorneys appointed by the court to represent children in child custody cases and guardianship cases when custody or visitation is an issue and shall further develop a plan for the procurement of qualified attorneys in accordance with the plan.

(b) Submission of Qualifications and Plan. The Chief Judge of a judicial circuit shall be responsible for the creation of the qualifications and Plan and for submitting them to the Conference of Chief Judges for approval. The Chief Judges of two or more contiguous judicial circuits may submit a Plan for the creation of a single set of qualifications and Plan encompassing those judicial circuits or encompassing contiguous counties within the circuits.

(c) Qualifications and Plan. The qualifications shall provide that the attorney is licensed and in good standing with the Illinois Supreme Court. Certification requirements may address minimum experience requirements for attorneys appointed by the court to represent minor children. In addition, the qualifications may include one or all of the following which are recommended: (1) Prior to appointment the attorney shall have 10 hours in the two years prior to the date the attorney qualifies for appointment in approved continuing legal education courses in the following areas: child development; roles of guardian ad litem and child representative; ethics in child custody cases; relevant substantive state, federal, and case law in custody and visitation matters; family dynamics, including substance abuse, domestic abuse, and mental health issues. (2) Periodic continuing education in approved child related courses shall be required to maintain qualification as an attorney eligible to be appointed by the court in child custody and visitation cases. (3) Requirements for initial pro bono representation. (4) Attorneys who work for governmental agencies may meet the requirements of this rule by attending appropriate in-house legal education classes.

(d) Conference of Chief Judges Review and Approval. The Conference of Chief Judges shall review and approve the Plan or may request that the Chief Judge modify the submitted list of qualifications and Plan. Upon approval, the Chief Judge of each circuit shall be responsible for administering the program and insuring compliance. An attorney approved to be appointed by the Court to participate in child custody and visitation matters under a Plan approved in one county or judicial circuit shall have reciprocity to participate in child custody and visitation matters in other counties and judicial circuits in Illinois.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Paragraph (a) requires each judicial circuit to establish qualifications and educational requirements for attorneys who are appointed by a court to represent children in child custody proceedings. The circuits would also be required to establish a plan for procuring the services of qualified attorneys for child custody cases.

Paragraph (b) requires that attorney qualification and procurement plans be submitted to the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges for approval. It also provides that attorney qualification and procurement plans may be drafted to apply to contiguous circuits or to contiguous counties within two or more circuits.

Paragraph (c) specifies that attorneys appointed to represent children must be licensed and in good standing as attorneys. It also provides that the qualifications and standards must include a minimum experience requirement, and may include criteria concerning initial and continuing legal education requirements and requirements for initial pro bono representation. Attorneys approved under a circuit plan would be eligible for appointment in cases in other areas of the state on the basis of reciprocity.

In writing Rule 906, the Special Committee considered Rule 714, Capital Litigation Trial Bar, which imposes minimum requirements upon trial counsel in order to insure that counsel who participate in capital cases possess the ability, knowledge and experience to do so in a competent and professional manner. The Special Committee believes that cases involving child custody and visitation issues demand the same high standards of advocacy as do capital cases.

The Special Committee is mindful that many judicial circuits will find it very difficult to find funds to pay for the plans under which counsel are appointed. Ideally, the State would provide sufficient funding to reimburse the private attorneys who are appointed by the court. In the absence of such funding, the individual judicial circuits will need to be innovative in meeting the financial requirements of the plans. In addition to requiring the parties to pay for the appointed lawyer’s services, the local rules could provide for the targeting of court filing fees. Voluntary pro bono service is also strongly encouraged.

 

Rule 907. Minimum Duties and Responsibilities of Attorneys for Minor Children

(a) Every child representative, attorney for a child and guardian ad litem shall adhere to all ethical rules governing attorneys in professional practice, be mindful of any conflicts in the representation of children and take appropriate action to address such conflicts.

(b) Every child representative, attorney for a minor child and guardian ad litem shall have the right to interview his or her client(s) without any limitation or impediment. Upon appointment of a child representative, attorney for the child or guardian ad litem, the trial court shall enter an order to allow access to the child and all relevant documents.

(c) As soon as practicable, the child representative, attorney for the child or guardian ad litem shall interview the child, or if the child is too young to be interviewed, the attorney should, at a minimum, observe the child. The child representative, attorney for the child or guardian ad litem shall also take whatever reasonable steps are necessary to obtain all information pertaining to issues affecting the child, including interviewing family members and others possessing special knowledge of the child’s circumstances.

(d) The child representative, attorney for the child or guardian ad litem shall take whatever reasonable steps are necessary to determine what services the family needs to address the custody dispute, make appropriate recommendations to the parties, and seek appropriate relief in court, if required, in order to serve the best interest of the child.

(e) The child representative, attorney for the child or guardian ad litem shall determine whether a settlement of the custody dispute can be achieved by agreement, and, to the extent feasible, shall attempt to resolve such disputes by an agreement that serves the best interest of the child.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Rule 907 establishes minimum standards of practice for attorneys who represent children.

Paragraph (a) sets out the responsibility of an attorney representing a child in any capacity to act in accordance with the rules of ethics and avoid conflicts of interest.

Paragraphs (b) and (c) provide guidance on the attorney’s essential duty of investigation: the duty to determine the child’s circumstances and the family’s needs. In aid of this duty, the rule provides specifically that an attorney has the right to interview a child client without limitation or impediment. Paragraph (b) also provides that the trial court shall enter an order allowing the child representative, attorney for the child or guardian ad litem access to all relevant documents.

Paragraph (d) addresses advocacy. The attorney for a child is required to make appropriate recommendations to the parties, seek resolution by agreement where it is in the best interests of the child, and seek relief on behalf of the child in court, when needed.

The Special Committee is aware that the American Bar Association and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws have taken the position that there should be three distinct types of appointments: (1) a child’s attorney, who provides independent legal counsel in the same manner as to an adult client; (2) a “best interest attorney,” such as Illinois’ child representatives, who provide independent legal services for the child’s best interests but who does not make general “recommendations”; (3) a guardian ad litem, who gathers information for the court and helps identify other needed services for the child or family.

In its Standards of Practice for Attorneys Representing Children in Custody Cases, the ABA recommended that attorneys not serve as GALs unless they do so as would a non-lawyer. However, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act mandates that GALs appointed under the Act be attorneys and that they may actually act in loco parentis for the child. See 750 ILCS 5/506. It is the position of the Special Committee that none of these concerns require changes in the language of Rule 907 or any other rule.

 

Rule 908. Judicial Training on Child Custody Issues

            (a) Meeting the challenge of deciding child custody cases fairly and expeditiously requires experience or training in a broad range of matters including, but not limited to: (1) child development, child psychology and family dynamics; (2) domestic violence issues; (3) alternative dispute resolution strategies; (4) child sexual abuse issues; (5) financial issues in custody matters; (6) addiction and treatment issues; (7) statutory time limitations; and (8) cultural and diversity issues.

            (b) Judges should have experience or training in the matters described in paragraph (a) of this rule before hearing child custody cases. Before a judge is assigned to hear child custody cases, the Chief Judge of the judicial circuit should consider the judge’s background judicial and legal experience, any prior training the judge has completed and any training that may be available to the judge before he or she will begin hearing child custody cases.

            (c) Judges who, by specific assignment or otherwise, may be called upon to hear child custody cases shall attend a seminar approved by should participate in judicial education opportunities available on these topics, such as attending those sessions or portions of the Education Conference, presented bi-annually at the direction of the Supreme Court concerning matters, which address the topics described in paragraph (a) of this rule or related issues at least once every two years. Judges may meet this requirement by attending a seminar in person or by completing approved. Judges may also elect to participate in any other Judicial Conference Judicial Education Seminars addressing these topics, participate in other judicial education programs approved for the award of continuing judicial education credit by the Supreme Court, complete individual training through the Internet, computer training programs, video presentations, or other means relevant programs. The Chief Judges of the judicial circuits should make reasonable efforts to ensure that judges have the opportunity to attend approved seminars to meet their responsibilities under programs approved for the award of continuing judicial education credit by the Supreme Court which address the topics and issues described in paragraph (a) of this rule.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006; amended May 19, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Proposed Rule 908 recognizes the complexity of child custody cases and the broad range of experience and training that would be helpful to judges hearing these cases.

Paragraph (b) requires that chief judges consider a judge’s experience and training before the judge is assigned to hear child custody cases. This provision does not establish a mandatory prerequisite to such an assignment.

Paragraph (c) requires that trial judges who will hear child custody cases attend a seminar on child custody matters at least once every two years. The proposed rule encourages personal attendance at seminars, but emphasizes that other forms of training may be used.

 

 

ARTICLE IX. CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS.

PART B – CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS UNDER THE ILLINOIS MARRIAGE AND DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE ACT
AND THE ILLINOIS PARENTAGE ACT OF 1984.

 

Rule 921. General Provisions

In addition to the rules in Part A of this article, the rules in this Part B shall apply to child custody proceedings filed under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, and the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Rule 921 establishes the scope of Part B, which includes Rules 921 through 924. Rules 925 through 940 are Reserved. Rules 921 through 924 apply to child custody proceedings filed under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, and the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984. The requirements of Rules 921 through 924 are in addition to the requirements of Part A found in Rules 900 through 908 as applicable.

 

Rule 922. Time Limitations

All child custody proceedings under this rule in the trial court shall be resolved within 18 months from the date of service of the petition or complaint to final order. In the event this time limit is not met, the trial court shall make written findings as to the reason(s) for the delay. The 18-month time limit shall not apply if the parties, including the attorney representing the child, the guardian ad litem or the child representative, agree in writing and the trial court makes a written finding that the extension of time is for good cause shown. In the event the parties do not agree, the court may consider whether an extension of time should be allowed for good cause shown.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Rule 922 provides that custody matters in dissolution of marriage and paternity cases must be resolved within 18 months. Written findings are required if the deadline is not met, and extensions of the time limit may only be granted for good cause shown, on written finding by the trial court.

 

Rule 923. Case Management Conferences

(a) Initial Conference. In a child custody proceeding under this part, an initial case management conference pursuant to Rule 218 shall be held not later than 90 days after service of the petition or complaint is obtained. In addition to other matters the court may choose to address, the initial conference shall cover the following issues:

(1) Parenting Education. The parents shall show proof of completion of an approved parenting education program as required by Rule 924, provide a fixed schedule for compliance, or show cause to excuse compliance;

(2) Custody and Parenting Plan. The parents shall provide the court with an agreed order regarding custody and an agreed parenting plan, if there is an agreement;

(3) Mediation. If there is no agreement regarding custody or a parenting plan or both, the court shall schedule the matter for mediation in accordance with Rule 905(b) and shall advise each parent of the responsibilities imposed upon them by the pertinent local court rules.

(b) A full case management conference shall be held not later than 30 days after mediation has been completed. In addition to other matters the court may choose to address at the conference, and if the court has not appointed counsel previously, the court shall address whether to appoint an attorney for the child or a guardian ad litem or a child representative in accordance with section 506 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/506).

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Paragraph (a) provides that an initial case management conference is required within 90 days after service of a petition or complaint is obtained in a dissolution of marriage case involving a child or in a paternity case. At the initial conference the trial court will ensure compliance with parenting education requirements (Rule 924) and determine whether the parents have agreed to a custody and parenting plan. Parents not in agreement regarding custody and parenting plan issues at the time of the initial case management conference will be referred to mediation. The trial court may also use the initial case management conference to address other matters it deems proper.

Each judicial circuit which currently has a mediation program has a provision in their local circuit court rules explaining how parents whose children are the subject of a custodial dispute must comply with the circuit court rules. These rules vary from judicial circuit to judicial circuit. In Cook County, parents are required to attend the mediation session but, if they do not agree with the mediator’s decision, the parents merely bring this fact to the attention of the circuit court. In Du Page County, if the parents do not agree on child custody after they have completed the requirements of the mediation program, they are required to see a clinical psychologist for a mandatory evaluation. Another difference between the judicial circuits is how the costs of mediation are paid. While many mediation programs impose costs, the Cook County Circuit Court’s Marriage and Family Counseling Service is free.

Paragraph (a)(3) supports the Special Committee’s goal of allowing the individual judicial circuits to adopt rules and set up programs which best suit that circuit’s needs.

Paragraph (b) provides that in cases referred to mediation under the rule, a full case management conference is required within 30 days after mediation is completed. At the full case management conference, the court will consider, inter alia, the appointment of counsel for the child as provided in section 506 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/506).

 

Rule 924. Parenting Education Requirement

(a) Program. Each circuit or county shall create or approve a parenting education program consisting of at least four hours covering the subjects of visitation and custody and their impact on children.

(b) Mandatory Attendance. Except when excused by the court for good cause shown, all parties shall be required to attend and complete an approved parenting education program as soon as possible, but not later than 60 days after an initial case management conference. In the case of a default or lack of jurisdiction over the respondent, only the petitioning party is required to attend but if the respondent later enters an appearance or participates in postjudgment proceedings, then the party who has not attended the program shall attend. The court shall not excuse attendance unless the reason is documented in the record and a finding is made that excusing one or both parents from attendance is in the best interests of the child.

(c) Sanctions. The court may impose sanctions on any party willfully failing to complete the program.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Parenting education can have a very positive impact on the outcome of a child custody proceeding. Parenting education encourages parents to think about the impact of their actions on their children and teaches parents to deal with adult problems in ways that avoid harm to their children.

Paragraph (a) requires each judicial circuit or county to create or approve a parenting education program and sets out the minimum requirements of such a program. Individual judicial circuits or counties may permit the circuit courts to impose additional educational requirements on one or all of the parties.

Paragraph (b) requires parenting education for all dissolution of marriage cases involving a child and all parentage cases, absent good cause shown. Compliance with the parenting education requirement will be reviewed at the initial case management conference. Parents are expected to complete parenting education not later than 60 days after the initial case management conference.

Paragraph (c) provides that sanctions may be imposed on parties who willfully fail to comply with the parenting education requirement.

 

 

ARTICLE IX. CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS

PART C – CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS UNDER ARTICLES II, III
AND IV OF THE JUVENILE COURT ACT OF 1987

 

Rule 941. General Provisions

In addition to the rules in part A of this article, the rules in this part C shall apply to child custody proceedings filed under articles II, III and IV of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Rule 942. Court Family Conferences

(a) Abuse Neglect, and Dependency Cases. In cases under articles II, III, and IV of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, on motion of any party or on its own motion, the court may in its discretion hold a Court Family Conference in accordance with this rule.

(b) Initial Conference

(1) Time. At the temporary custody hearing, or as soon thereafter as possible, the court shall set the date and time for an initial Court Family Conference. The initial Court Family Conference shall be held not less than 56 days after the Temporary Custody Hearing.

(2) Parties. All parties shall appear at the initial Court Family Conference except the minor, who may appear in person or through a guardian ad litem or his or her attorney. The caseworker assigned to the case must also appear. If no party objects, a foster parent may participate in the Conference. If any party objects, the court in its discretion may exclude the foster parent but the foster parent retains the right to be heard by the court before the end of the proceedings. The court may in its discretion allow other persons interested in the minor to attend the Conference at the request of the child or a parent. The failure of any party (with the exception of the child or his or her guardian ad litem or attorney) to appear shall not prevent the court from proceeding with the Court Family Conference.

(3) Record. If all parties are present for the initial Court Family Conference, the court shall conduct the Conference off the record, and at the conclusion of the Conference summarize the Conference for the record. If the parents are not present, the Court shall conduct the entire Conference on the record.

(4) Disclosure of Service Plan. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services or its assigns shall provide the most recent service plan to all parties seven days before the initial Court Family Conference. In the event that the service plan has not been filed with the court prior to the initial Court Family Conference, the court shall convene the initial Court Family Conference and discussion shall focus on services that would appropriately be included in the plan. Such discussion should ensure that the family and the caseworker have a clear understanding of the expectations of the court.

(5) Issues.

(A) The discussion at the initial Court Family Conference shall focus on eliminating the causes or conditions that contributed to the findings of probable cause and, if applicable, the existence of urgent and immediate necessity. If possible, at the conclusion of the discussion the court shall set a target date for return home or case closure. If the court determines that setting a target date for return home or case closure is not possible or is premature, the court, during the discussion, shall make clear to the parties and the caseworker what needs to be accomplished before the court will consider setting a target return home date.

(B) The discussion at the initial Court Family Conference shall include the services contained in the service plan for the parents and the child. The needs of the child and visitation plans between the parent and the child and between the child and any siblings shall also be discussed.

(C) The discussion shall include any other matters that the court, in its discretion, deems relevant.

(6) Other Issues. At the initial Court Family Conference, the court may address case management issues that would be appropriate for consideration at a subsequent Court Family Conference.

(7) Order. At the conclusion of the initial Court Family Conference, the court shall enter an order approving the service plan or setting forth any changes the court requires to be made to the service plan.

(c) Subsequent Court Family Conferences. Court Family Conferences may be held after the initial Conference as the court deems necessary. At a subsequent Court Family Conference, the court has the authority to make orders relating to case management as is provided for in other civil cases by Rule 218. In the court’s discretion, matters considered at the initial Conference may be reviewed at any subsequent Conference.

(d) Concurrent Hearings. The initial Court Family Conference may be held concurrently with any hearing held within the required time. Subsequent Court Family Conferences may be held concurrently with any other hearing on the case.

(e) Confidentiality. With the exception of statements that would support new allegations of abuse or neglect, statements made during an off the record portion of an initial or subsequent Court Family Conference shall be inadmissible in any administrative or judicial proceeding. If the court refers to any specific statements made by the parents in its summary of the off the record portion of the Conference or in the order entered following the Conference, upon objection of the parents, such references shall be stricken.

Adopted February 10, 2006, effective July 1, 2006.

 

Committee Comments
Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

A Court Family Conference is intended to be an opportunity for the trial court, the parents, the caseworker and the child or child’s representative to discuss the court process, and the meaning, intent and practicality of the service plan; to discuss and ensure the safety of the child; to cooperatively discuss goals; and ultimately, to expedite resolution of the case through reunification of the family or other appropriate action. Paragraph (a) authorizes the use of Court Family Conferences in abuse, neglect and dependency cases.

Paragraph (b)(1) provides that a Court Family Conference will be held not less than 56 days after the Temporary Custody Hearing in cases when the court determines it is appropriate to do so.

Paragraph (b)(2) provides that all parties are required to appear at a Court Family Conference, except the minor, who may appear through a guardian ad litem or through counsel. The assigned caseworker must also appear, and a foster parent may appear, absent objection by a party.

Paragraph (b)(3) provides that statements made at Court Family Conferences are confidential and may not be used subsequently, except for statements that may provide the basis for a new allegation of abuse or neglect. The Court Family Conference will be off the record unless the parents are not present. Upon completion of an off the record Conference, the court will summarize the matter for the record.

Paragraph (b)(4) provides that the most recent service plan is to be provided to the parties seven days prior to the Conference. At the initial Conference the service plan is discussed, with the purpose of ensuring that the caseworker and the parents clearly understand the expectations of the court.

Paragraph (b)(5) addresses the issues which should be discussed at the Court Family Conference, with an emphasis on the parties, the court and the service providers sharing information in an open and expeditious manner.

Paragraph (b)(7) provides that the court may approve the service plan or order changes to the plan at the conclusion of an initial Court Family Conference.

Paragraph (c) allows subsequent Court Family Conferences, and the combination of initial or subsequent Court Family Conferences with other hearings in the case. Subsequent Court Family Conferences may address any issues that could be considered in a case management conference under Rule 218.

Paragraph (d) provides that Court Family Conferences may be held at the same time that the court conducts any other hearing. As the rules of evidence apply to hearings, but do not apply to Court Family Conferences, it is incumbent upon the circuit court to only consider properly admissible evidence when determining the result of the hearing.

In order to promote an open and honest discourse at an initial or subsequent Court Family Conference, Paragraph (e) provides that statements made during the off the record portion of the Conference shall be inadmissible in any administrative or judicial proceeding. The only exception to this confidentiality requirement is when the statements at the Conference would support new allegations of abuse or neglect.