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STG Divorce Law

Illinois Parenting Time Guidelines for Effective Parenting Plans

The Illinois Parenting Time Guidelines and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities are the regulations by which all parents in Illinois are held accountable when determining parental rights, responsibilities, and parenting time schedules. In other words; What are your responsibilities as a parent during the divorce process.

Although each parent’s situation may be different, the ultimate goal of these guidelines is to ensure that every child has two active, involved parents while also keeping the best interests of the child in mind as much as possible.

In this article, we’ll focus on parenting time and exactly what you need to know as a parent.

What Is Parenting Time Under Illinois Law

In divorce cases involving child custody, Parenting time, formerly known as “visitation” or “physical custody,” is the rights and responsibilities a parent has in spending time with their child.

It’s important for parents who are getting divorced in Illinois to understand what parenting time is because it affects where a child will live and who will be responsible for decisions affecting a child’s welfare.

How Parenting Time Is Determined

During the divorce process, parents can present a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan to the court for approval. If the plan is not approved or the parents cannot agree, the court will allocate parenting time.

It is always preferred if parents can present a mutually agreed-upon plan. In cases where parents cannot agree on a parenting plan and share custody, there are several factors the courts look at to determine parenting time, which we’ll outline later.

How to Create an Effective Parenting Plan

Creating a parenting plan can be a tough task in an already difficult situation. It is important to look at all aspects of your family situation when creating a parenting plan. 

The most efficient way is to work with an experienced divorce attorney who can help you create an effective parenting plan. You can also download a free parenting plan template, like the one we’ve provided here.

Creating The Parenting Schedule

The parenting schedule will need to address weekdays, weekends, holidays, school breaks, and vacations.  Holidays, school breaks, vacations, and other special occasions can disrupt parenting time arrangements.

Parents can decide to alternate holidays every other year, split holidays in half, celebrate the holiday twice, assign fixed holidays, or any other arrangement that works for the family and allows the child to enjoy holiday traditions and quality time with both parents. The same can be done for school breaks.

The best practice for vacations is to plan a trip during a time when your child is already scheduled to be with you. You should consider any limits that the parenting plan puts in place such as when, where, and for how long, you can take your child on a trip.

It is important to communicate to your co-parent your plans as early as possible so they can simply be aware of your plans and can make any necessary arrangements on their end. If you choose to schedule a vacation outside of your allotted parenting time, you will need to get permission from your co-parent. 

Keep in mind that you may have to give up time later for the other parent to have extra time if you vacation with your child on your co-parent’s time.

Shared Parenting Time

Illinois courts prefer shared parenting time whenever it is in the child’s best interest. However, there is no presumption that equal parenting time is in the child’s best interest. As such, shared parenting time does not automatically equate to equal parenting time. 

The parenting time schedule will be designed to align with the child’s needs. Additionally, the court has the authority to place restrictions on parenting time if evidence suggests, by a preponderance of the evidence, that exercise of that parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional development.

If an Agreement Can’t Be Reached

In cases where a parenting plan is not approved or parents cannot come to an agreement about sharing custody, the court will make a determination on the parent’s behalf. 

Again, the court will always look at the case from what is in the best interest of the child. There are several factors the court will look at which include:

  • The wishes of the parent seeking parenting time;
  • The wishes of the child;
  • The amount of time each parent spent as caretaker of the child in the prior 2 years;
  • Any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents;
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents and siblings;
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all involved;
  • The child’s needs;
  • The distance between the parents’ residences;
  • Whether a parenting time restriction is appropriate;
  • Physical violence or threats of violence by the parent directed at the child or other member of the home;
  • The willingness and ability of the parent to place their child’s needs before their own;
  • The willingness and ability of the parent to facilitate and encourage a close relationship with the other parent;
  • The occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the home;
  • Whether one of the parents is a sex offender (including the nature of the offense and any treatment)
  • Terms of a military family-care plan if applicable.

It’s important to note that this list isn’t exclusive. The court may consider anything that it finds relevant. However, the court cannot consider parental behavior that has no impact on the child.

Generally, Illinois law presumes that both parents are fit to have unrestricted parenting time with their child. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act recognizes allocations of equal parenting time in which both parents are allocated substantially equal amounts of time with their child. But, if each parent exercises 146 or more overnights with their child per year, the basic child support obligations will be impacted.

Court Hearings and How They Can Be Avoided

When getting divorced, emotions run high and couples aren’t always in the best place to make mature decisions. The best way to make the divorce process less stressful and limit the state’s involvement in determining parenting time is to work with an experienced attorney from the start

An experienced divorce lawyer can guide you through the entire process, beginning with working out a parenting time schedule with your soon-to-be-ex. If not handled correctly, court hearings can lead to tense situations that make your divorce more contentious than it needs to be.

If you are considering divorce, or have already made the decision, contact us today and schedule a consultation. We’re ready to listen and help you get to a better place.

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