Over the last few months, courts across Illinois have been adjusting to the sweeping family law amendments that were passed last summer and took effect on January 1, 2016. While some of the changes were essentially procedural, others were aimed at improving the way in which parents and the courts approach divorce and child-related concerns. One area that was significantly affected was that regarding responsibilities for a child of divorced, separated, or unmarried parents, once known under the law as child custody. Now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities, the amended law addresses the rights of each parent regarding decision-making for their child and how parenting time decisions are to be made.
Two Parts to Parental Responsibilities
The newly revamped Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act has essentially eliminated the phrase “child custody,” as well as the concepts of sole custody and joint custody of a child. These ideas have been replaced by a more personalized approach that determines each parent’s rights and responsibilities based on their own unique circumstances. Parental responsibilities, under the new law, are divided into two primary considerations: significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time.
Making Significant Decisions
The amended law presumes that divorcing parents—or parents otherwise in need of an order for parental responsibilities—will cooperate in developing a plan for raising their child. In creating a plan, the parents must determine which of them will be responsible for making significant decisions regarding the child, including education, medical care, religious training (if applicable), and extracurricular activities. One parent may be responsible for all significant decisions, they may be divided, or the parents can agree to make all such decisions together. A court will only take action and allocate responsibilities if the parents cannot or will not do so of their own accord.
It stands to reason that parents who share significant decision-making responsibilities should also each have allocated parenting time—previously called visitation—with the child. But what about a parent who has no authority over significant decisions? According to the law, parenting time is not dependent on decision-making authority, just as, prior to the statutory changes, a non-custodial parent still had visitation rights. A parent “who is not granted significant decision-making responsibilities for a child is entitled to reasonable parenting time with the child.” Parenting time can be limited or revoked if the parent is found to present serious physical, mental, or moral danger to the child.
Protecting Your Rights
If you are involved in a dispute regarding parental responsibilities or parenting time, an experienced Kane County family law attorney can provide the assistance you need. Contact Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., today to schedule your free initial consultation. We know how important your child is to you, and we are equipped to help you remain an active part of his or her life. Call 630-377-7770 for an appointment.