Interpreting joint parenting time agreements

mens divorce lawyerQuestion:

My soon to be ex-wife and I have agreed on everything in the divorce. However, when reading our Joint Parenting Agreement it reads as though I am only getting joint legal custody.

We agreed we would both have joint legal and physical custody, but the agreement states she is the primary custodial parent though our parenting time arrangements work out to a 50-50 split of overnights.

Why is she named the primary custodial parent if we are splitting physical custody?


In Illinois, joint custody means that the parents share in making major decisions regarding the children, such as education, health care, and religious training. When parents agree to joint custody, they enter into a Joint Parenting Agreement, which specifies the residence of the children as well as each parent’s rights and responsibilities as to the children, including each parent’s physical parenting time with the children.

Joint custody is separate and distinct from physical parenting time with the children. Joint custody does not mean equal physical parenting time.

Even in a joint custody arrangement, physical parenting time is determined according to a visitation schedule agreed upon by the parties, and set forth in the Joint Parenting Agreement. A visitation schedule may provide for equal or near-equal parenting time, or it may provide that one parent has the child a greater amount of time than the other parent.

In Illinois, it is required by statute that the residence of the child be identified in the Joint Parenting Agreement. Therefore, your agreement may designate your wife’s residence as the “primary residence” of the children.

This designation does not necessarily mean that the children spend most of their time at your wife’s residence or that she is given more physical parenting time with the children. The actual physical parenting time is governed by the visitation schedule set forth in your agreement.

The Joint Parenting Agreement should state the exact visitation schedule agreed to by you and your wife, including the specific days of the week and times that you have visitation with the children.

You should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in your area to review the Joint Parenting Agreement in detail and ensure that it accurately reflects the visitation arrangement agreed to by you and your wife.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers across the country, including Illinois.


Erin Brockhoff is an Associate Attorney in the Belleville, IL office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Brockhoff is licensed in the state of Illinois, and the Southern and Northern Districts of Illinois. Ms. Brockhoff received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Psychology, magna cum laude, from Miami University. She received her Juris Doctor from the Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she was a member of the Moot Court Honor Society.

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