It is not easy to raise children, even under the best of circumstances. For parents who are divorced, separated, or unmarried, the situation can be much more difficult. In Illinois, the law encourages a divorcing couple with children to develop a comprehensive parenting plan so that each parent can fully understand his or her rights and responsibilities regarding the child. As time goes on, it is very important for both parties to remain compliant with the parenting plan and to keep the best interests of the child as their top priority.
Components of a Parenting Plan
According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, any parent involved in a proceeding for the allocation of parental responsibilities—previously known as child custody—is expected to prepare and submit to the court a proposed parenting plan. Each parent may create a separate proposal, or the parents can develop one together. The law provides more than a dozen considerations that are to be included in any parenting plan, including but not limited to:
- The allocation of significant decision-making for the child;
- A parenting time schedule or arrangement, including a designation of one parent as the parent with the majority of the parenting time for relocation and child support purposes;
- Each parent’s access to the child’s health and educational records;
- The child’s address for school enrollment purposes;
- Each parent’s home address and phone number;
- Each parent’s employer and work phone number;
- Provisions for communication and transportation;
- The right of first refusal, if desired, when child care is needed; and
- Provisions for mediating differences or amending the parenting plan.
Beyond the basic requirements, a parenting plan may also include any other details that will help the parents provide the best possible situation for their child.
Compliance Is Imperative
Once a parenting plan has been approved by the court, it carries the weight of a court-issued judgment, meaning that compliance with the plan is not optional. Consistent failure by either parent to maintain his or her responsibilities could result in the plan being modified by the court and a restriction of parental responsibilities and/or time with the child.
It is important to keep in mind that, in most cases, the court will not grant a modification of a parenting plan if one parent unintentionally violates the plan while acting in good faith. A modification is also not likely for a one-time event that does not demonstrate a pattern of non-compliance.
For example, your parenting plan may allow you to take a day trip with your child during your parenting time, with the expectation that you will drop the child off at the other parent’s home later in the evening. On the way back from your trip, your car breaks down forcing you to spend the night in a hotel several hours from home. Technically, you may be in violation of your parenting plan, but, if you maintained communication with the other parent and continued to act in good faith, there would likely not be any negative consequences. Conversely, if you regularly fail to drop your child off on time and refuse to communicate with your child’s other parent, the likelihood of a modification is much greater.
Parenting Plan Guidance
If you are considering a divorce or other situation in which you will need to develop a parenting plan, we can help. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney for assistance in creating an arrangement that meets your child’s needs while protecting your rights. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation at our St. Charles office today.