In any divorce with minor children, or in any case involving time-sharing with a minor, Illinois law requires that the parents implement a parenting plan. Parenting plans are documents outlining parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Moreover, parenting plans are designed to ensure that both parents have the opportunity to foster relationships with their children and share in childrearing.
What Do Parenting Plans Include?
Parenting plans deal with parenting time and decision-making. At a minimum, parenting plans in Illinois must include provisions addressing the following:
- The child’s living arrangements, parental visitation schedules and contact schedules;
- An allocation of decision-making authority regarding matters such as education, religion, health care and extracurricular activities;
- Mediation requirements in the event that the parents want to alter the allocation of parenting time or parental responsibilities;
- Access to school, medical, child care and other records;
- The child’s address for school records;
- Arrangements for transportation between the parents;
- Future modifications of the plan, if certain circumstances arise; and
- Various other provisions addressing the child’s best interests.
Parenting plans may include other provisions as well. Various plans may require the parents to treat each other with respect when the children are present, avoid undermining the other parent’s authority and refrain from alienating the children from the other parent. Parenting plans may provide schedules for school breaks and holidays and may additionally include restrictions on travel. Finally, parenting plans may also provide for periodic reviews to evaluate whether changes need to be made.
Creating a Parenting Plan
If possible, the parents should reach an agreement outside of Court and then submit their parenting plan to the judge for approval. If this happens, the parents are more likely to comply with the plan. Additionally, the parents know their family best, and are generally in the best position to make decisions that are best for the family.
If the parents can reach an agreement, the Court reviews the proposed plan, then, if it is suitable, approves the plan. If they cannot come to an agreement, the Court can order mediation. If that fails as well, the Court will make a plan for the parents. After an evidentiary hearing, the Court will allocate parental responsibilities based on the child’s best interests.
Courts must make decisions for parenting time and decision-making responsibility based on the best interests of the child. To determine a child’s best interests, the Court considers a list of factors, including:
- The child’s wishes;
- The parents’ wishes;
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child;
- Past time each parent spent performing caretaking functions for the child;
- Each parent’s and the child’s mental and physical health;
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a close relationship between the child and the other parent;
- Any occurrence of abuse or neglect; and
- Other factors relating to the child’s best interest.
If you are considering a divorce, understanding how these changes will affect your children, as well as planning accordingly for the future, is essential. An attorney can help you negotiate a parenting plan and can help to ensure that your child is protected throughout the process. Please contact skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson for a free consultation.