A Parenting Plan (also known as an allocation judgment) is a legal document that outlines your rights, duties and responsibilities for your children following your divorce. Divorcing couples with children will need to agree on the terms of a Parenting Plan before their divorce is granted. If they cannot agree, then a trial will be held and a judge will decide the terms of your Parenting Plan for you. It is usually in your best interests to reach an agreement with your spouse that is carefully drafted to address your family’s unique needs as opposed to leaving the decision up to a judge who knows very little about your family.
The key elements necessary for a valid Parenting Plan are set forth by Illinois family law in Section 602.10 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”). They include the following:
Typically, the two most important factors to divorcing parents are: the allocation of 1) significant decision-making authority and 2) parenting time. Collectively these two elements comprise what was previously called child custody. (The concept of child custody was abandoned by the Illinois legislature in 2016. Nevertheless, it’s sometimes helpful to think of decision-making authority as what was legal custody and parenting time as physical custody).
Significant decision-making authority refers to the ability to make decisions for your child in the domains of healthcare, religion, education, and extra-curricular activities. Decision-making authority can be allocated jointly to both parents (meaning they must be in agreement to take any action) or allocated individually to either parent.
Parenting time is the schedule for the days and times you spend with your child. It encompasses both regular parenting time (what happens daily or weekly), holiday parenting time (what happens on holidays) and summer vacation parenting time (under what circumstances can you travel with your child.) Parenting Time allocations can be simple or complex, but are ideally tailored to a families’ unique preferences, schedules, work demands, and needs. Setting a parenting time schedule can be contentious as parents adjust and cope with the reality of not seeing their children daily. This is especially true when there are concerns about a parent’s fitness or allegations of abuse or neglect.
The Parenting Plan will serve as a roadmap for when you can spend time with your children, what decisions you can make for them, and how you will handle future disputes. A considerable amount of time, effort and thought should go into preparing a Parenting Plan that meets your needs and the needs of your children. If you have questions about child custody or creating a Parenting Plan contact us today to schedule a consultation. Our team of legal professionals are ready to help you secure a favorable Parenting Plan for your and your children.
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