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Your Guide to an Illinois Parenting Plan

Cute little girl holding her mother.

An Illinois parenting plan in Oakbrook Terrace commonly includes aspects such as the allocation of parenting time, decision-making authority, and transport for the child between parents for their parenting time. It needs to account for holidays, vacations, school breaks, and other events that can throw a wrench into normal schedules. A comprehensive plan can offer peace of mind for the parents and stability for the children.

Cute little girl holding her mother.

What Are Some Illinois Parenting Plan Basics?

The overarching goal of the written parenting plan is to consider the children’s best interests and ensure two active, involved parents (as long as that aligns with the child’s best interests). Parenting plans cover four major areas: education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities.

One thing to know about parenting plans in Illinois is that “custody” is no longer used. “Allocation of parental responsibilities” has replaced it and covers parenting time and significant decision-making responsibilities. Parenting time refers to physical custody and visitation.

It can be daunting to try to create a parenting plan yourself. An uncontested divorce lawyer can help create a plan that looks at the big picture, considers the best interests of the children, and is legally valid.

What Are the Main Objectives of Parenting Plans?

The main objectives of parenting plans include determining parenting time and nailing down logistics such as where the child lives, times for handovers, how the parents will receive information, how far the parents can relocate with the children, and each parent’s decision-making authority. The idea is to give children stability and ensure that both parents have ample opportunities to be involved in their children’s lives.

Factors the parents should consider when drafting parenting plans to meet various objectives include these:

  • The child’s age and development, and any health issues or special needs
  • How close the parents’ homes are to each other
  • The parents’ availability, especially regarding their work schedules
  • The children’s schools and extracurricular activities
  • Holidays and special occasions
  • Communication between the parents

Another major issue to consider is the type of parenting relationship the parents have or will have. Overall, though, the parents should work collaboratively on raising their children. They often communicate directly, whether through phone calls, emails, text messages, messaging services, or parenting apps, about their children’s upbringing and health. They may work together to be flexible with parenting schedules and may have similar rules in both households.

When co-parenting is not feasible, parallel parenting may be an alternative. What is parallel parenting, though? It may occur when the parents have almost no interaction with each other or no interaction at all. The Illinois parenting plan needs to be more detailed than it would be in co-parenting, and third parties such as agreed-upon family members, friends, or counselors may help facilitate communication.

Parallel parenting can be a good option when the dynamics of a relationship make co-parenting hard. For example, emotions can run high in a divorce for many reasons. By using parallel parenting, the parents can shield their children from much of the inherent conflict and tension.

Legal Framework and Guidelines for Creating a Parenting Plan in Oakbrook Terrace, IL

When parents ask the family court for parental responsibilities, they have 120 days to file an Illinois parenting plan. When both parents agree completely on responsibilities and parenting time, they can submit one plan within 120 days. Both must sign the plan to show their agreement.

If the parents have not filed plans but disagree, they can work together to file a single plan. They can use joint discussions, lawyers, mediators, or other professionals to develop a parenting plan together.

If attempts to collaborate fail or the parents cannot work together in the first place, the parents file their separate plans. The court assesses both plans to decide what is in the children’s best interests.

What a judge determines might not satisfy either parent and might not be customized to the needs of the family. For these reasons and others, it can be risky to give a judge the power to make parenting plan decisions.

For instance, if one parent submits an equitable co-parenting plan while the other parent files a plan for strict parallel parenting or a plan that seems to unjustifiably give the other parent almost no time, the court might view the parent as being uncooperative. This is usually not in the parent’s favor. However, there could be good reasons for these moves, and a lawyer can clarify these issues for the court.

If neither parent submits a plan, a hearing will decide parental responsibilities. As always, the children’s best interest is the priority.

If both parents submit plans in which co-parenting does not seem to be the goal, the court may turn to parallel parenting approaches such as giving individual decision-making responsibilities to each parent. One parent might have most or all of the say in religious matters, while another parent might in educational issues. The family law court may order mediation first to see if the parents can work out a plan themselves, though.

Custody Arrangements

It is typically in the child’s best interests to have quality time with both parents. Joint custody arrangements are preferable when possible, and this can mean 50/50 splits of parenting time.

For instance, an every-other-week schedule could work well if both parents live close together and near the children’s school. If distance is somewhat of an issue, the parenting plan might have the children mostly staying with one parent during school weeks while the other parent has them for weekends and school breaks to make it more equitable. Each situation is unique.

If the parents agree on a plan between themselves (whether with the help of other parties or not), a judge will likely approve it unless it is obviously unfair. A plan in which one parent gets no time at all is bound to raise questions.

Parents have the flexibility to customize custody arrangements to work with their circumstances. For example, if one parent has been the primary caregiver while the other parent had somewhat minimal involvement and both parents want that to continue, then the parenting plan could reflect the continuation of that pattern. This dynamic in the written plan could genuinely reflect the child’s best interests if it offers stability for the child and means quality time with both parents.

However, parents should not assume they will not qualify for more time merely based on what used to be the case. If a parent wants more time and can make that happen, he or she can try to discuss a parenting plan reflecting that.

Factors Used to Determine the Child’s Best Interests

Illinois law typically presumes that both parents are fit enough for unrestricted parenting time. If this is not the case, the parenting plan can reflect that. Overall, many factors contribute to the child’s best interests. Common ones include these:

  • How much time each parent spent in the past two years care taking for the children
  • The child’s age and any needs
  • Any sibling relationships
  • The parents’ wishes for parenting time and the child’s wishes if applicable and as age-appropriate
  • The child’s place at home, school, and the community
  • The parents’ mental, emotional, and physical health

Actual physical violence or threats of physical violence from one parent can also play a role. The court also examines how willing the parents are to put the child’s needs before their own, and how capable the parents are of encouraging a relationship with the other parent.

The Importance of Communication and Co-Parenting Guidelines

There are many types of co-parenting relationships. No matter the co-parenting style, communication is important. It usually benefits the child when one parent can tell the other about issues the child is having, such as sleeping troubles, social problems, or problems at school. Otherwise, a parent might struggle during his or her week to understand what is going on with the child.

Communication is often necessary for logistics such as pickups, too. The Illinois parenting plan should explain how communication will occur and how much notice parents need to give each other for changes.

Guidelines and boundaries are necessary, too. Children often feel secure when they can call the other parent at any time, but that does not mean the other parent should constantly be calling.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Mediation is one method of alternative dispute resolution in Oakbrook Terrace, IL. Parents can use it to craft parenting plans and avoid a contested divorce. Parenting coordination, arbitration, collaborative law, online dispute resolution, and therapy are other methods that could be helpful.

What are the benefits of an uncontested divorce? If you are unsure yet whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested, it may be helpful to know that uncontested splits can better set the stage for productive and collaborative co-parenting relationships. Such divorces also tend to mean less strain for the child and quicker resolution.

A contested divorce can be extremely stressful and expensive. ADR can be an excellent way to work out parenting disputes and avoid the strain of a court battle.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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