Going through a divorce is stressful, but it can be even more challenging when minor children are involved. Agreeing to a co-parenting arrangement is something many couples struggle with.
Before the court will finalize your divorce agreement, you must have an Illinois parenting plan in place.
If you need assistance with developing a parenting plan, Vantage Group Legal Services can help. Our subscription-based legal service pairs you with a skilled lawyer who can answer all your questions.
What Is an Illinois Parenting Plan?
The parenting plan document outlines who is responsible for making decisions for a child and how parents will make those important decisions.
“Parenting plan” is the official legal term in Illinois, but you may be more familiar with the term “child custody.” Illinois courts no longer use the term “custody” when referring to co-parenting plans and the allocation of parental responsibilities.
Who Must File a Parenting Plan in Illinois?
Anyone who has a child who is under 18 years old will need to file a parenting plan. To get started, one parent must file a petition for parental responsibilities with the court. You may file this petition on its own or in conjunction with a divorce, separation, or parentage action.
The person who files the petition is the petitioner, while the person served with the document is the respondent. Each parent must then submit a proposed parenting plan within 120 days of service. The parents may elect to submit their proposed parenting plan jointly if they wish.
Tips for Filling Out an Illinois Parenting Plan
Understanding what to put in each section of the form is crucial. Any mistakes could delay your case or cause the judge to rule against you. Here is some additional information on what each section must include.
Section 1: Parent Information
This section lists each parent’s personal contact information. You will also need to enter employment information for you and the child’s other parent.
Section 2: Children
You must list each child who will be covered by the parenting plan. If you have more than three children, include their information on the Additional Minor Children form.
Section 3: Rights and Responsibilities of Both Parents
If you use the standard form, you don’t need to fill anything out in this section. It already lists the individual responsibilities of each parent. If you choose to draft your own parenting plan, you may add additional agreements. An attorney can help you review and draft an agreement that meets your specific needs.
Section 4: Significant Decision Making
Under the Significant Decision Making section, you’ll need to decide whether one parent or both will make the choices listed in each of the following subsections:
a. Education decisions (including school choices);
b. Health decisions (including medical, dental, and psychological choices);
c. Religious decisions; and
d. Extracurricular and recreational activities decisions.
Be sure to select only one option under each sub-section.
Section 5: Parenting Time
This section is one of the most important. You will need to use the schedule to detail how much time each parent will have with the children. There are different sections for weekends, weekdays, school breaks, and holidays. You can decide whether holidays will stay the same or alternate every other year.
Section 6: Transportation of Children
Check the box to indicate which parent will handle transportation.
Section 7: Exchange of Children
Exchange of children means how drop off and pick up will be handled. You can decide on one of your homes or another mutually agreed upon place.
Section 8: Right of First Refusal
This section applies when one parent cannot take care of their child during their allotted time for a period of more than 24 hours. With the right of first refusal, the parent who will be away must first offer the time to the child’s other parent before arranging care through other means.
Section 9: Communication
The Communication section outlines rules when your child is visiting their other parent. The parent who doesn’t have the child at the moment can communicate with them only according to the terms of the agreement. In some cases, communication is not restricted, while other parenting plans stick to allotted times.
Section 10: Relocation of Minor Child
Relocating is a serious topic. This section is lengthy, but there’s nothing to fill out. It merely outlines the rules should this situation eventually apply to you.
Section 11: Designation of Children’s Custody and Residence for Other Purposes
This section wants you to note which parent will have your child most of the time. You also need to decide whose home to list as the child’s residence, which is used to decide on schools.
Section 12: Changing the Parenting Plan
You only need to initial this section, which outlines how to adjust the parenting plan as circumstances change.
Section 13: Resolving Disagreements
Disagreements are likely to occur. If you need to change the parenting plan or feel the other parent is not living up to the agreement, you may need to go back to court if you can’t reach an agreement. This section outlines what to do should a disagreement arise.
Things to Remember When Creating an Illinois Parenting Plan
Parents are free to come up with their own parenting plan together, but you must be in agreement on all the terms. If there is even one section you cannot agree on, the court will have to decide for you. Rather than risk a judge ruling in an unfavorable way to both of you, consider mediation. A neutral third-party mediator may be able to help you reach an agreement without litigation.
Children, especially younger ones, cannot decide who they want to live with. That is because their decision may not always be what’s best for them. An older child can express their wishes, and the court will consider their preference when making its decision.
Get Affordable Illinois Child Custody Help Today
When you need legal assistance in a divorce or custody-related matter, Vantage Group Legal Services can help. We offer an affordable subscription-based service that enables you get the legal assistance you need. You’ll work with a knowledgeable attorney who understands how best to address your legal issues.
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