A Closer Look at Illinois Parenting Plans

Wheaton, Illinois Divorce Attorneys

Knowing that your children will be taken care of during and after your divorce is probably one of your greatest concerns during this difficult time. The involvement of our court system in your personal affairs, especially when it comes to your children, can seem overwhelming and burdensome without proper guidance. A knowledgeable family law attorney can help you navigate the legal system and ensure that your legal rights are protected.

Domestic courts are governed by our Illinois state laws and dictate the procedures necessary to provide for your children in the event of divorce. Among the many new and revised family-related laws that went into effect on January 1, 2016 is a change to the “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities” section of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, or 750 ILCS 5/600. This change encourages cooperation between parents, resolution outside of court, and greater flexibility in providing for your children even after the divorce is final.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Instead of using broad terms such as “custody,” “parental supervision” or “visitation,” the new Illinois laws emphasize that each parent can share responsibilities when it comes to their children. Some of the responsibilities may be considered decision-making, where others may have more to do with allocation of parenting time.

Decision making-responsibilities include:

  • Medical;
  • Educational;
  • Religious/ moral/ ethical guidance;
  • Financial;
  • Extracurricular;
  • Residence determinations.

Parenting time considerations include:

  • Where the child will live during the week;
  • Where the child will live on weekends;
  • Whether there will be a rotating schedule;
  • Where the child will spend major holidays and vacations; and
  • Whether there will be times where both parents will be present with the child. One of the primary objectives of thinking about these things before the divorce settlement is finalized is encouraging cooperation between the parties. The courts now require that the parties devise a preliminary “parenting plan” before major decisions will be made about allocation of parental responsibility. This parenting plan must include a breakdown of how the parties wish to divide the above issues that will arise in the long-term care of their children.

What Is a “Parenting Plan?”

The parenting plan is at least a summary of how the parties wish to allocate the responsibilities of raising their child, even if separately. A parenting plan must be filed within 120 days after a petition regarding allocation of parental responsibilities is filed and may be filed separately or jointly. A joint parenting plan is, of course, preferred and has many benefits. First, failure to file a parenting plan at all will require the court to hold an evidentiary hearing, which may dispel private matters into the public’s ear in open court. Second, joint plans get the parties thinking about what their priorities are, what their main contentions are, and where their breaking point is when it comes to the possibility of compromise.

Even if the parties can only agree on a rough parenting plan, this is better than going into court or mediation with nothing prepared at all. The court can then take the parenting plan and attempt to help you resolve some of the issues you are unable or unwilling to resolve outside of the courtroom. These decisions are always based on what the best interests of the child are in the present and in the future.

The keys to crafting a reasonable parenting plan are objectivity and flexibility. Couples draft parenting plans knowing that down the road they may one day be late to pick up the children, that they forgot about the importance of a specific holiday tradition, that their children may have interests adverse to theirs, and generally, that things have the possibility of changing. Objectivity is extremely helpful when thinking of things that may become problems down the road, especially if new spouses or additional children come into the picture eventually.

Contact a DuPage County Family Law Firm Today

Compromise and formulation of parenting plans requires the knowledge of experienced divorce attorneys that understand the importance of advocating for your child’s best interests. Those with significant experience in this area can help identify some of the possible issues that may arise that you may not otherwise think of. Abear Law Offices has a team of skilled DuPage County family law attorneys that can help you through any family law matter, whether it involves property settlements, parenting plans, custody, or settlement modification. We have five convenient offices in the greater Chicagoland area; contact us today.

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