Are you in the middle of a divorce or otherwise splitting up with your partner in the Chicago metropolitan area and have minor children together? It's not an easy experience to be sure, but the divorce or breakup was probably necessary. Now you have to come up with a parenting plan that accounts for who makes the important decisions involving children and which parent has custody of the children on what specific days or months.
Coming up with a parenting plan can be stressful and emotionally exhausting. An experienced family law attorney in Illinois can help make the process more bearable and more efficient. Here's what you should know, and if you have questions or need help, contact the reputable family law attorneys at Dolci & Weiland today.
An Overview of Illinois Parenting Plans
The first thing to know about a parenting plan is that each parent must file a parenting plan within 120 days upon requesting parental responsibilities from the court. The parenting plan, if mutual, can be filed as one parenting plan with both parents' signatures.
If you have not filed an appearance with the court and the court has not ordered you to file a parenting plan, you are not required to file one. Nonetheless, you should file a parenting plan because the courts look at these to determine who and how to delegate parental responsibilities. When neither parent files a parenting plan, the court holds a hearing and considers what is in the best interests of the child to derive at a parenting plan.
A parenting plan must consist of basic information, like:
- where will the child(ren) live;
- any restrictions placed moving or traveling;
- how much time the child(ren) will spend with each parent;
- how each parent receives information and records on the child; and
- driving responsibilities and drop-off locations for the exchange of the child(ren) for parenting time.
The final parenting plan will always be aligned with what's in the best interests of the child.
Parenting Plans for Holidays, Vacations & School Breaks in Illinois
Splitting up holidays, vacation time, and school breaks can be challenging, but there are ways to make it work for everyone involved.
For holidays, the most convenient way to arrange the parenting time schedule is by alternating years where one parent has the child(ren) for certain holidays for all even years and odd years and the other parent has the child(ren) for the same holidays every odd and even year, respectively.
For school breaks, much of this will depend on the allocation of parenting time. Some parents may share parenting time 50/50 while others have a 70/30 split. Typically, this structure will be aligned with school breaks, especially summer breaks. But breaks for winter and spring may be best allocated via an alternating plan, too, i.e., one parent has the child(ren) for spring break in even years and for winter break in odd years and vice versa for the other parent.
For vacation time, each plan should allocate time for each parent to have "vacation" time – this is true even if vacation is more like a staycation and you never really leave home. A parenting plan may not provide exact dates for vacation time but it should vociferate who picks the vacation time in any given year. So, again, one parent may pick a vacation time in even years while the other parent picks vacation time in odd years.
The important thing to keep in mind is your child's happiness and security. Fighting over parenting time only harms the child. Being clear in the parenting plan and being flexible outside the plan can go a long way to making everyone happy.
Parenting Plan Modifications in Illinois
At any point, one parent may need to modify a parenting plan. A parenting plan can only be modified by the court. Take caution with any out-of-court arrangements because they are not enforceable.
Also, note that according to 750 ILCS 5/610.5, modifications to parenting time can be modified at any time, but modifications to parental decision-making responsibilities cannot be made if earlier than two (2) years after the date of the parenting plan. There is, however, an exception with regard to parental decision-making:
there is reason to believe the child's present environment may endanger seriously his or her mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child's emotional development.
To modify parenting time, all that's needed is:
a showing of changed circumstances that necessitates modification to serve the best interests of the child.
Changed circumstances necessitating modification are referred to as substantial changes in circumstances. That said, even some minor changes in circumstances can result in a modification.
Substantial Change in Circumstances
According to 750 ILCS 5/609.2, a relocation of more than 25 to 50 miles automatically qualifies as a substantial change. Other substantial changes in circumstances could include things like:
- a different work schedule that no longer accommodates for the current parenting time
- the child's schedule no longer fits into the parent's schedule
- a parent remarries
- a parent relocates due to a job or other valid reason.
Minor Change in Circumstances
Sometimes a minor change in circumstances can constitute a valid reason to modify a parenting plan. Examples include:
- consistently working on a different schedule for six more or more and then one parent wants to return tot he original schedule (750 ILCS 5/610.5(e)(1))
- cleaning up a few odds and ends that do not work in practice, like an hour here or there or reassigning a holiday to another parent in another year (750 ILCS 5/610.5(e)(2))
- correcting mistakes that were made because all the facts were not known to the court at the time it approved a parenting plan (750 ILCS 5/610.5(e)(3)).
Parenting Plan Violations in the Chicago Metro Area
According to 750 ILCS 5/607.5, if one parent violates the parenting plan, the other parent can bring an action to enforce the parenting plan. If the court finds that a violation has occurred, it can order:
- additional terms and conditions
- require participation in a parental education program
- require family or individual counseling
- require parent-in-violation to post a Chas bond that can be forfeited for payment of expenses
- require parenting time to be made up
- find the non-compliant parent in contempt of court
- impose civil fines
- require a non-compliant parent to reimburse reasonable expenses to the compliant parent
- require any other measure so long as it is in the best interests of the child.