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What Divorcing Parents Need to Know About Dividing Parenting Time

Posted on in Child Custody

elmhurst parenting time lawyerGetting a divorce with children can be difficult. The choice to end a couple’s marriage is likely to upend the lives of the entire family. As a couple determines how to separate various aspects of their lives, one key issue they will need to address will involve where children will primarily live and when they will spend time with each parent. Workable parenting time schedules will need to be created, and parents will also need to consider a variety of issues to ensure that they will be able to provide for their children’s best interests going forward.

While parents may be able to work together to determine how they will be able to meet their children’s needs, it is important to make sure all legal issues related to children are addressed correctly during the divorce process. To do so, a parent will want to secure representation from an attorney who has experience in these matters. The law firm of Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC works to help parents resolve disputes related to their children and put agreements in place that will protect their rights. We work to ensure that our clients will be able to maintain strong relationships with their children and that they will have the resources they need as they move forward following a divorce.

Understanding Physical Custody/Parenting Time

In divorce and family law cases involving children, issues related to child custody are generally divided into two categories: legal custody and physical custody. In Illinois, legal custody is known as the allocation of parental responsibilities, and physical custody is known as parenting time. The allocation of parental responsibilities involves the right to make decisions about important aspects of children’s lives, including their education, their health and welfare, the religion they will be raised in, and the activities they will participate in. Parents may agree that they will equally share in some or all of these areas of responsibility, although depending on the family’s situation, one parent may have primary or sole responsibility in certain areas. 

Parenting time is typically treated as a separate issue from the allocation of parental responsibilities. In fact, even if one parent will have sole legal custody, the other parent will still be entitled to have reasonable amounts of time with the children unless this would not be in the children’s best interests. Restrictions on parenting time will usually only be put in place if there is evidence that children’s physical or emotional health may be at risk, such as in cases where a parent has been accused of domestic abuse, has a history of substance abuse, or has been diagnosed with a mental illness or other health issues that affect his or her ability to provide proper care for children. 

During a parent’s parenting time, they will be responsible for providing care for their children. This may include a variety of responsibilities, including meeting children’s nutritional needs, assisting with bathing and grooming, handling bedtime and morning routines, attending to developmental needs such as language skills or toilet training, assisting with homework and other educational needs, assigning household chores, providing discipline when necessary, helping children develop important relationships with friends and family members, and providing moral and ethical instruction and guidance. A parent will also be required to protect children’s safety, ensure that they attend activities, and provide transportation when needed. They will also need to address children’s medical needs, and if necessary, they may make decisions about any emergency medical care that is required without consulting with the other parent.

Creating Parenting Time Schedules

When determining how to divide parenting time, parents have nearly endless options. If parents are able to reach an agreement on the amount of time children will spend with each parent, they can work together to create schedules that fully detail the days and times for parenting time. Some options for dividing parenting time include:

  • Weekend schedules - If children will be living primarily with one parent, they may spend time with the other parent on a regular basis, such as on certain weekends. In many cases, a parenting time schedule will have children stay with the non-custodial parent every other weekend, starting on Friday evening and ending on either Sunday evening or Monday morning. Children may also spend time with the non-custodial parent on one or more evenings during the week.

  • Equal time with both parents - If it would be best for children to spend equal amounts of time in each parent’s home, there are multiple ways that parenting time may be divided. The most common arrangements in these cases involve “2-2-3” schedules in which children spend two weekdays with each parent each week while alternating three-day weekends. In other cases, children may spend three days with one parent and four days with the other parent on one week, then alternate this schedule on the next week, or children may alternate seven-day weeks with each parent.

  • Long-term stays - In situations where parents live far apart, children may live primarily with one parent most of the time, and they may stay with the other parent during summer vacations, winter breaks, or other times of the year. A non-custodial parent may also make arrangements for themselves or their children to travel for the purposes of parenting time during certain weekends, holidays, or important days such as children’s birthdays.

In addition to daily parenting time, parents will need to determine when children will stay with each parent on holidays or other days and times that fall outside of the regular parenting time schedule. Most of the time, parents will be able to alternate holidays with their children each year. For example, one parent may have the children on Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, and Memorial day in odd years, while the other parent will have the children on Christmas, Independence Day, and Labor Day. The parents may then alternate these holidays in even years. 

Parents may also make arrangements for when children will live in each of their homes during school vacations. Since winter vacations usually last two weeks, children may stay with each parent for one week during these breaks. During summer vacations, parents may make arrangements for children to stay with each parent for extended periods, such as one to two weeks, allowing them to make travel plans or engage in other activities. Spring break typically lasts for one week, and parents may agree that children will spend half of this time with each parent, or they may alternate that week each year.

Other special days may also need to be addressed. It may be important for parents to spend time with children on birthdays, so they may make arrangements for each parent to see children on these days, regardless of which parent is scheduled to have parenting time. Parents may also agree to have children stay with them or spend time with them on their own birthdays or the birthdays of extended family members such as grandparents or cousins. 

Addressing Other Issues Related to Parenting Time

In addition to detailing the schedules for parenting time, the parenting plan created during a couple’s divorce may include multiple other terms that will apply to the parents. A couple may agree on certain rules that will be followed, such as the types of discipline that will be appropriate or when and how one parent may communicate with children during the other parent’s parenting time.

It is also important to ensure that parents understand how they will handle transportation arrangements for children. A parenting plan may specify when and where parents will drop off or pick up children. For example, parents may agree that each parent will always pick up the children at the other parent’s home at the beginning of their scheduled parenting time, or they may choose to meet at a public location when making transfers. They may also choose to address transportation arrangements at other times, such as specifying when parents may pick children up or drop them off at school or whether either parent will be responsible for driving children to sports games or other activities.

The right of first refusal is another issue that may need to be addressed in a parenting plan. If these terms are included, they will address situations where a parent will not be able to provide care for children during periods of scheduled parenting time. Parents may agree that if a parent will be unavailable for a certain amount of time, they will be required to offer the other parent the opportunity to provide childcare before they make arrangements to have children stay with other family members, hire a babysitter, or seek out other childcare options. While the right of first refusal is not required, parents may choose to include it, and they will need to be sure to understand the situations where this right may be invoked, how they will communicate with each other when addressing these matters, and how transportation arrangements for children will be handled.

Resolving Disputes About Parenting Time

Parents are usually encouraged to work together to reach agreements about how to divide parenting time and other details addressed in their parenting plan. However, there are some situations where parents may reach an impasse in their negotiations, and a family court judge may need to determine how these issues will be resolved. When a judge reviews a case, they will look at multiple factors to determine what would be in children’s best interests. These factors include:

  • Each parent’s wishes, including whether their stated desires are made in good faith with the intent of providing for their children’s best interests

  • The wishes of the children, with consideration to their level of maturity and their ability to express their desires

  • The relationships between parents and children, as well as relationships between children and other people involved in their lives, such as stepsiblings, extended family members, or anyone else who lives in the parents’ homes

  • Issues affecting the health of the parents or the children, including whether there are any physical health issues that affect parents’ ability to care for children, any mental health concerns, and any special needs for children that parents will need to address

  • Parents’ previous agreements and course of action, including each parent’s level of involvement in caring for children in the two years before the divorce or child custody case began

  • The parents’ willingness to put children’s needs and interests ahead of their own, as well as their ability to work together with each other to parent their children and their willingness to encourage children to have positive relationships with both parents

  • How the distance between parents’ homes and their ability to cooperate may affect transportation arrangements for children

It is important to note that a parent’s conduct during their marriage or divorce that is not related to their relationship with their child will not be considered when making decisions about parenting time. For example, if a couple’s marriage is ending because one spouse engaged in infidelity, this usually would not be a reason for that parent to have less parenting time. However, if the parent has become more focused on their relationship with their new partner and has failed to meet their parental responsibilities as a result, this may affect decisions about parenting time.

Contact Our DuPage County Parenting Time Lawyers

If you are a parent who is going through a divorce, you will want to make sure all issues related to your children will be addressed correctly. Our skilled Elmhurst child custody attorneys can help you negotiate a parenting time schedule that will meet your needs, and we will ensure that the terms of your parenting plan will provide for your children’s best interests. Contact us today at 312-605-4041 to get the legal help you need during your divorce.

Sources:

https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=8300000&SeqEnd=100000003

https://www.custodyxchange.com/locations/usa/illinois/parenting-plan.php

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