Free Initial Consultations


What Is a Parenting Plan?

Posted on in Child Custody

IL family lawyerWhen parents get divorced in Illinois, they are required to establish something called a parenting plan. A parenting plan is what it sounds like and outlines how two parents who are not together anymore will share the joys and duties of raising their child. Parents who were never married may also be required to establish a parenting plan when a child custody or parentage case is brought. These plans are designed to prepare separated parents for successful co-parenting. Having the majority of decisions about co-parenting made in advance can reduce conflict later, as there are fewer undecided issues to argue over. Parenting plans can either be made by the parents or by the Court. Mediation can help parents reach an agreement in many cases. It is important to work with a well-qualified Illinois child custody lawyer when you need a parenting plan. 

What Does a Parenting Plan Cover?

A lot of information is included in a parenting plan. The two primary goals of a parenting plan are to create a parenting time schedule and to allocate parental responsibilities. A parenting time schedule was referred to as a “custody and visitation calendar” in the past. Parents often use mediation to help them agree on a parenting time plan, but this issue can be contentious and is often litigated. 

Parental responsibilities that must be allocated include: 


IL family lawyerDuring an Illinois divorce, parental rights and responsibilities must be allocated. This means that each parent must be assigned specific responsibilities toward their children. Parental responsibilities include making important decisions about the child’s upbringing and spending time with them. The list of parental rights and responsibilities assigned to each parent will be included in a parenting plan. Every set of parents who get divorced in Illinois must have a fairly comprehensive plan for co-parenting that covers things like which parent will see the child and when, and who is tasked with making different decisions. Most parents are able to establish a parenting plan and allocate responsibilities by agreement with the help of a mediator. Others may need to go to Court and have a Judge help allocate parental responsibilities. Your lawyer can help you determine what types of responsibilities must be accounted for in your particular case. 

What Responsibilities Should be Addressed in a Parenting Plan? 

There are quite a few different parental rights and responsibilities that will need to be addressed during divorce. Types of parental rights you may need to address during your divorce include: 

  • Childcare - One of the most important parts of a parenting plan is a schedule for when each parent will be physically caring for the children. This might be referred to as the “allocation of parenting time,” or simply a “custody schedule.” Consider each parent’s work schedule, the children’s needs, and anything else that is important for your family.
  • Medical consent - One or both parents will need to be allocated the responsibility of making medical decisions and consenting to treatment on the child’s behalf. This usually includes decisions about mental health care. 
  • Education - Making provisions regarding your child’s education and each parent’s contribution is a factor. Which parent should decide where the child attends school? Will both parents share the cost of a college education or private school? 
  • Child support - This is a critical part of the divorce process, as to how each parent will contribute financially to the child’s expenses. Usually, this means that one parent will need to pay child support, but this arrangement may not make sense if you share parenting time 50/50. 
  • Religious training - Will the child be raised in a particular faith? Should one or both parents be able to take the child to religious services? Parents should determine whether one or both of them should have a responsibility to further the child’s religious training. 

These are only a few of the many, many, parental responsibilities you may need to allocate during your divorce. 


Barrington, IL child custody lawyerNavigating the sometimes rough waters of a child custody dispute in process can be challenging, both legally and emotionally. Very few parents would willingly give up any of the time they share with their children, and this often means that any disputes relating to parenting time or the parenting plan can become quite contentious during a divorce. 

The time period while parents are divorcing can be quite stressful for children of any age. Parents need to take the right steps to protect the well-being of their children, as well as their own parental rights during this time. An attorney can advise you on how best to serve both goals at the same time. 

Proven Tips for Navigating Custody Disputes 

A few commonly-offered tips for parents undergoing a custody battle include: 


Untitled---2023-09-12T151458.026.jpgIn many divorce and family law cases, child custody is one of the most important issues to address. In Illinois, the courts seek to protect the best interests of the child when making decisions about parental responsibilities and parenting time. The court will look at a variety of factors to determine the best ways to provide for children’s needs going forward. Parents who are seeking to protect their parental rights and resolve child custody disputes can work with an attorney to make sure these issues will be addressed correctly.

Types of Child Custody

Child custody issues generally fall into two categories:

  • Legal custody: This is known as the allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois, and it refers to a parent's right and responsibility to make decisions regarding their child's upbringing. Decision-making responsibilities may address issues such as education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities, and they may be shared between parents or granted primarily to one parent.
  • Physical custody: This is often known as visitation, but it is referred to as parenting time in Illinois law. This form of custody will address where the child will live on a day-to-day basis. In many cases, a child will live with one parent most of the time while still spending regular time with the other parent. In other situations, parenting time may be divided equally, or other arrangements may be put in place.

In most cases, the court will award joint legal and physical custody, as long as this would be in the best interests of the child. Sole custody may be granted in some cases. However, even if one parent will have sole legal custody, the other parent will usually have the right to regular, reasonable parenting time.


Untitled---2023-08-15T114355.825.jpgIn any divorce or separation involving children, Illinois courts require the parents to create a parenting plan that outlines how they will share parenting time, decision-making authority, and other child-related responsibilities. A parenting plan is a legal document that helps ensure both parents are involved in their children's lives and provides a framework for co-parenting after the dissolution of a couple’s marriage or the end of their relationship. By understanding what will be included in a parenting plan, parents can make sure they will be able to resolve child-related issues during a divorce or family law case, and they can be prepared to work together to raise their children in the years to come.

The Basics of a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan will cover a wide variety of relevant issues related to raising children, ensuring that parents can make decisions about important aspects of their children’s lives and provide for their children’s ongoing needs. While each case may have its unique considerations based on a family’s circumstances, here are some common elements that will be addressed in an Illinois parenting plan:

  • Parenting time schedule: This schedule will determine where children will live on different days throughout the year and when they will spend time in the care of each parent. A parenting plan will include details about regular visitation schedules, holidays, vacations, birthdays, and other special occasions.
  • Custody arrangements: The parenting plan will detail how parental responsibilities will be allocated between the parents. Depending on a family’s circumstances, parents may share the right to make decisions about their children's education, healthcare, religion, and other issues, or one parent may have primary responsibility in certain areas.
  • Communication: To ensure that parents will be able to work together to discuss child-related issues and address concerns about their children's well-being, a parenting plan may include guidelines for phone calls, emails, text messages, or apps specifically designed for co-parent communication.
  • Transportation and exchanging children: As children transition between their parents’ homes, parents can make an effort to avoid conflict and ease stress by outlining when and how these exchanges will take place. A parenting plan may include details about when each parent will pick up or drop off children at the other parent’s home or whether other arrangements may be made, such as meeting in a neutral location to exchange children.
  • Extracurricular activities: Parents may address how they want to handle activities that children will participate in, such as sports, music lessons, or clubs. A parenting plan can address issues related to enrollment fees, transportation arrangements, and other related matters.
  • Parental relocation: Either parent may choose to move to a new home at some point in the future, and a parenting plan may address these situations to ensure that a parent’s relocation will not affect the other parent’s relationship with the children. Parents may agree to restrictions on relocation, or they may put rules in place to determine what procedures will be followed in these situations.
  • Dispute resolution methods: A parenting plan can outline the methods that may be used to resolve disputes that may arise between parents in the future. By agreeing to use mediation or other methods, parents can take steps to minimize conflict and work together to find solutions that will protect their children’s best interests.

The Importance of a Well-Defined Parenting Plan

A parenting plan can help reduce conflicts and provide clarity for both parents as they navigate their co-parenting responsibilities. By addressing all essential aspects of raising children, parents can avoid misunderstandings and potential disagreements later.


Introducing The Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson

Nicholas W. Richardson is an experienced divorce lawyer and mediator whose comprehensive legal knowledge, commitment to clients and reputation for results bring lasting solutions to your problems.

Back to Top