All parents in a divorce proceeding or a paternity action will have a parenting time schedule at the end of their case, which will be memorialized in a parenting plan or an allocation judgment. Parenting time, formerly thought of as visitation, refers to the specific days and times each parent will spend with the children. As your child grows and your circumstances change, it’s fairly common to need or want to change your parenting time schedule. Any change to your existing parenting time schedule is called a post-decree modification.
In Illinois a parenting time schedule may be modified if you can demonstrate a change in circumstances since the entry of the last parenting time order. You also must demonstrate that modifying the parenting time schedule would serve the child’s best interests. Section 610.5(a) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides in part: “Parenting time may be modified at any time, without a showing of serious endangerment, upon a showing of changed circumstances that necessitates modification to serve the best interests of the child.” 750 ILCS 5/610.5(a).
The court may grant a modification without a showing of changed circumstances if the modification is in the child’s best interests and any of the following are proven:
There is no hard and fast rule regarding the changes that are deemed sufficient enough to warrant a modification to your parenting time schedule. The key is that the change must in be your child’s best interests.
The first step may be to consult with a knowledgeable Oak Brook child custody lawyer regarding the facts of your case. How you proceed will depend on many factors, including whether you believe your child is safe under the current plan or whether there is a serious risk of danger to your child. If your child is in danger, an emergency temporary restraining order may be necessary and appropriate.
If there is no immediate danger, then the terms of your existing parenting plan or allocation judgment may require you to attempt to resolve your dispute with your child’s other parent before seeking court intervention. Many parenting plans require mediation before seeking court intervention. If mediation is inappropriate, has failed to yield agreement, or is not required, you may file a Motion to Modify the Parenting Time Schedule with the court that previously determined your parenting time schedule. The court may refer you to mediation (if that has not already occurred) or may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to help resolve the matter. If you and the child’s other parent cannot reach a mutual agreement, a hearing will be held on whether a modification is in the best interests of your child.
There are situations where you may need to enforce the terms of an existing parenting time schedule rather than move to modify it. If your child’s other parent is simply not complying with the terms of the existing plan, a Motion for Contempt may be appropriate before and/or in addition to a Motion to Modify.
Parental Responsibilities refers to the authority of a parent to make significant decisions on behalf of a child. Parental Responsibilities was formally thought of as Child Custody, however, the State of Illinois no longer uses that phrase. The general concept remains the same.
All Illinois Parenting Plans or Allocation Judgments will allocate Parental Responsibilities which encompass authority for making significant decisions for your child in the following four domains: 1) education; 2) religion; 3) medical; and 4) extra-curricular. Often, decision-making authority is shared equally, similar to joint custody. Decision making authority can be allocated in a number of ways vesting solely with one parent, akin to sole custody, shared equally requiring a consensus, or divided with each parent having responsibility for one or more area of decision making.
Modifying parental responsibilities is more difficult than modifying parenting time. There is a two-year prohibition on changing the allocation of parental responsibilities:
no motion to modify an order allocating parental decision-making responsibilities, not including parenting time, may be made earlier than 2 years after its date, unless the court permits it to be made on the basis of affidavits that 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.
750 ILCS 5/610.5(a). Modifications may be brought after two years if there is a showing of a substantial change in circumstances and that a change is in the best interest of the minor child.
If your parenting time schedule is no longer serving your needs and that of your child, it might be time to consider a modification. Matters involving child custody are always fact specific. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable Oak Brook child custody lawyer near you to determine the best course of action. Goodman Law Firm is experienced in handling child custody cases. Please contact our offices today to schedule a consult and find out how we can help you move forward.
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