Following their divorce, many parents struggle to work with their former partners in raising their children. They often have trouble putting their differences aside and focusing on the needs of the child. Many others, however, find that cooperating with an ex-spouse is not only possible but represents a more efficient approach to post-divorce parenting. Cooperative divorced parents—frequently referred to as co-parents—take the necessary time to negotiate and develop a parenting plan, which may need to be tweaked and modified as time goes on and the needs of the family change.
Setting the Ground Rules
Illinois law places an expectation on divorcing parents to develop a proposed parenting plan regarding the care of their child. Each parent may submit one to the court or the two parties may work together on a plan that reflects both parents’ responsibilities and rights. If each parent submits a separate plan, the court must then decide how to allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time. If only one is submitted and agreed upon by both parties, the court will ensure that it is reasonable and protects the child before approving it.
A parenting plan is expected to include considerations regarding concerns such as:
- How significant decision-making responsibilities will be divided;
- The child’s living arrangements, including a parenting time schedule;
- Each parent’s right to the child’s medical and school records;
- Requirements for each parent if they wish to relocate to a new city or state;
- Provisions for the right of first refusal, if appropriate; and
- How the parenting plan may be amended in the future.
Making Needed Changes
Once the initial parenting plan is entered and becomes part of a divorce judgment, you and your family may quickly settle into a routine. At some point down the road, however, that routine may be upset by a series of life changes. These changes may be gradual, such as the declining health of one parent, or they may be more dramatic, such as a serious accident that affects a parent’s ability to work. It is important to ensure that your parenting plan is appropriately updated to reflect your evolving circumstances.
If you and the other parent agree to the needed changes, you can file your amended parenting plan with the court at any time. However, if you are not able to agree that change is needed or what those changes should be, you will need to prove to the court that there has been a significant change in circumstances for at least one party involved.
Let Us Help
When you are subject to a parenting plan or an order for the allocation of parental responsibilities—previously known as child custody in Illinois—making necessary changes may seem overwhelming. Fortunately, you do not have to proceed alone. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney to get the help you need. Call 630-377-7770 for a free, confidential consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.