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Oak Park IL family law attorneyDuring the Illinois divorce process, parents have an important responsibility to fill out a “Parenting Plan” document which states the details of parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilities between the two parties. Parents may cooperate in the creation of a single parenting plan, or each parent may feel the need to draw up their own plan during the divorce case. With either approach, once the divorce is finalized and a plan is approved by the judge, it becomes legally binding. However, if your circumstances change after the divorce, you may be able to modify the parenting plan.

When It May Be Necessary to Modify a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is not necessarily set in stone. If you, your former spouse, or your children go through major life changes after your divorce, a judge may agree to modify the plan. Here are a few situations that may warrant a modification.

  • One parent moves out of state.

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Oak Park family law attorneyIf you are getting a divorce from your spouse, you may have ill feelings toward that person. Your anger and resentment may be so intense that you want to bad-mouth your ex-spouse every chance you get. However, doing so will likely only serve to perpetuate a hostile situation. It can also be damaging to your children, and it can even affect the outcome of the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities.

The Downsides of Bad-Mouthing Your Former Spouse

Speaking poorly about your former spouse can be harmful to both you and your kids. Keep in mind that your ex-spouse is still your children’s parent. Just because you no longer get along with your ex, that does not mean he or she is any less of a parent to your children. Your children still love your ex-spouse and look up to him or her. It will be hurtful for your kids to hear you speaking poorly about someone they care about, and they may feel forced to take sides. Being caught in the middle like this is a lose-lose situation for a child, who will likely feel guilt and shame because they are unable to make both parents happy. Children may even feel that they are doing something wrong themselves, which can lead them to develop self-esteem issues.

Bad-mouthing your former spouse can also negatively impact your standing in disputes over the allocation of parental responsibilities. Illinois courts decide on these issues based on what is in your children’s best interests, and one factor that they consider is each parent’s willingness to support their children’s relationships with the other parent. If you show that you will remain hostile toward your former spouse and endanger these relationships, you may be granted less parenting time and decision-making authority.

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Oak Park divorce attorney parenting time

When a couple with children gets divorced, they must make several decisions regarding the children’s care and upbringing going forward. In most cases, both parents will be awarded a designated amount of parenting time (visitation) depending on the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) between them. A "right of first refusal" is a subject which arises when a parent intends to leave his or her child with a caregiver for a portion of his or her normal parenting time; that parent must first ask the child’s other parent if he or she can watch the child instead. Parents may reach an agreement on this subject in their divorce, but if they cannot agree, the court will consider whether to award one or both parties a “right of first refusal” in connection with caring for a child during the other parent's regular visitation time. 

Parenting Time 

A substitute caregiver for a child might be a babysitter, a second spouse, a family member, a close friend or a neighbor. Any involved parties should always consider first and foremost the child's best interest. When the court awards a “right of first refusal” in an Illinois divorce, the judge's award will typically clarify the following: 

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Oak Park, IL parenting plan lawyerIn 2016, the way in which Illinois courts determine child custody was changed substantially. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA ) now calls child custody “the allocation of parental responsibilities,” and visitation is now referred to as “parenting time.” Divorcing parents must fill out a “parenting plan” document which states each parent’s parenting time and parenting responsibilities, as well as certain child-related rights and requirements. Reaching decisions about these issues can be challenging – especially in the midst of a contentious divorce. In some cases, the court will make decisions about parental responsibilities and parenting time for the parents.

Resolving Parenting Plan Disputes

Illinois parenting plans must contain a number of provisions, including provisions that address the following:

  • How significant decisions about the child will be made;
  • A parenting time schedule that explains when the child will live with each parent;
  • How any future modifications to the parenting plan will be handled;
  • Transportation arrangements;
  • Each parent’s right to access information about the child, such as medical records and school reports; and
  • Several other child-related concerns.

Understandably, many divorcing parents have strong feelings about the provisions of the parenting plan. This can make it difficult for many parents to reach an agreement. Before the case is heard in an Illinois court, the parents are typically required to participate in family law mediation. During mediation, the parents work with a neutral mediator who helps them discuss the disputed issues in a constructive, non-adversarial way.  A skilled divorce lawyer may also help parents negotiate a parenting plan, without the need for court intervention.

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Oak Park, IL parenting time lawyer

If you are going through a divorce, you will need to make a variety of difficult decisions involving the separation of your life, your finances, and your property from your spouse. While this can be a lot to deal with, the situation can become even more complicated if you and your spouse have children, because both of you will need to address the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as child custody in Illinois), as well as parenting time (formerly known as visitation), and the decisions about these issues will be written down in an agreement known as a parenting plan, which will be part of your divorce decree. When creating a parenting plan, it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that your parental rights and your child’s best interests are protected.

Creating a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a legal document that addresses the responsibilities that each parent will have during a child’s upbringing. These responsibilities include making decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, healthcare, and extracurricular activities, and the authority to make decisions in each of these areas may be shared by the parents, or allocated to one parent. Furthermore, a parenting plan will specify where the child will live, the schedule of each parent’s parenting time, and the rules regarding transportation. It may also include the right of first refusal to ensure that a parent will be able to care for their child if the other parent is unavailable during his or her scheduled parenting time.

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