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What Issues Will a Parenting Plan Address During an Illinois Divorce?

 Posted on November 08, 2021 in Marital Agreements

Elmhurst family law attorney for asset divisionMost divorce cases involve a variety of complex legal issues and financial concerns. However, cases in which a couple has children can often become even more complicated. In addition to addressing their individual desires and financial needs, parents will need to determine how to handle child custody going forward. Since divorcing spouses will often disagree about these issues, they may need to resolve contentious disputes. Each parent will likely be concerned about where their children will live, when the children will be able to spend time with them, and how they will make decisions about how children will be raised. During their divorce, spouses will need to create a parenting plan that fully details the decisions made regarding these issues.

Matters related to your children are some of the most important issues that you will need to deal with during your divorce. To make sure you are making the right decisions and taking the correct steps to protect your parental rights and provide for your children’s needs, you can work with a skilled and experienced family law attorney. At the law firm of Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we provide our clients with strong representation, ensuring that they are fully prepared to address child-related issues correctly during the divorce process. We will work with you to make sure your parenting plan will meet your family’s needs and protect your children’s best interests.

Addressing Legal and Physical Custody

Divorcing parents will need to determine how they will share custody of their children after dissolving their marriage. If they are able to complete an uncontested divorce, they will negotiate a parenting plan that will be included in their divorce settlement. If they are unable to reach a settlement, and divorce litigation will be required to resolve any outstanding issues, they may ask a judge to make the final decisions and finalize the details of their parenting plan.

There are two major areas of child custody that will need to be addressed in a parenting plan. The first of these is commonly known as “legal custody,” but Illinois law uses the term “allocation of parental responsibilities” to describe these matters. This form of custody involves the right to make key decisions about children’s lives. Parents will need to determine how they will share decision-making responsibility, and these areas of responsibility are grouped into four categories:

  • Education - There are multiple concerns related to children’s schooling and education that parents may need to address. Parents may decide where children will attend school, including at the public schools in the school district where they primarily reside or at private schools. Parents may also need to address the forms of education that young children will receive, including whether and where they will attend preschool or kindergarten. Other educational issues may affect children of any age, and parents may need to decide whether children will receive tutoring or pursue any other forms of education that will help them succeed in school or pursue educational advancement.

  • Healthcare - The choice of a family pediatrician can be very consequential, and parents will want to make sure to use a doctor they trust to provide their children with quality care. Parents may also need to address a variety of other medical issues, such as the types of medications children will take based on recommendations from a doctor and surgery or other forms of treatment that may be necessary to address health issues. If children have disabilities or other special needs, parents will want to make sure they are receiving the proper ongoing care, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, or psychological treatment. Parents may also need to make decisions about children’s dental and orthodontic care.

  • Extracurricular activities - Children are likely to participate in a variety of activities, including those sponsored by their school or pursuits that are available based on their individual interests. Parents may be able to make decisions about the types of activities children will participate in, whether either parent will take part in these activities, and when children may need to travel to different activities as part of their regular schedules. Activities may include school sports programs, private athletic clubs, music or dance lessons, scouting, after-school clubs, or any other pursuits that children are interested in.

  • Religion - Parents may wish to decide where children will attend church, temple, or other religious services or activities, as well as whether they will receive different forms of religious training or education. 

A parenting plan will detail how the different types of decision-making responsibility will be allocated between the parents. All areas of responsibility may be shared equally between the parents, or a parent may have sole or primary responsibility in certain areas. For example, both parents may have an equal say in education-related decisions, but one parent may be given the right to make decisions about medical issues without being required to consult with the other parent. Regardless of how these areas of responsibility will be allocated between the parents, it is often a good idea to make sure a parenting plan encourages parents to discuss these issues with each other and work together to make the best decisions for their children.

The other area of child custody that a parenting plan must address is usually referred to as “legal custody” or “visitation,” but Illinois law uses the term “parenting time.” This refers to any times when children are in the care of either parent, including overnight stays at each parent’s home and short-term visits at home or in other locations. A parenting plan must include a schedule detailing how parenting time will be divided between the parents. In addition to addressing regular, day-to-day parenting time during the school year, a parenting plan should also address changes to parenting time schedules during school vacations, on major holidays, and any other days where parents may want to spend time with their children, such as the birthdays of parents, children, or other family members.

Other Issues to Address in a Parenting Plan

In addition to fully detailing the decisions about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, a parenting plan should include terms that address:

  • Identifying information - A parenting plan must include the address of each parent’s residence, their primary phone number, and the addresses and phone numbers of their employers.

  • Access to records - Parents may both be given the right to access multiple types of records related to their children, including school records, medical and dental records, details of psychological treatment, and records and schedules of extracurricular activities. 

  • Residential address - The address of the children’s primary residence will be designated for the purposes of school registration. This will generally be the home address of the parent who has the majority of the parenting time, although parents may agree to list the other parent’s home as the primary residence to ensure that children can attend school in that school district.

  • Transportation - Parents can detail the arrangements for transporting children between their homes, such as by stating that a parent will drop off the children at the other parent’s home at the beginning of that parent’s scheduled parenting time. Other transportation arrangements may need to be addressed, such as stating who will be responsible for transporting children to certain types of activities.

  • Communication - A parenting plan can include rules for when children will be able to communicate with parents and the appropriate methods of communication. For example, parents may decide that a parent may have audio or video calls with children while they are at the other parent’s home, but only during certain hours.

  • Notifications - Parents will usually be required to notify each other if there are any health emergencies that affect children, as well as any other medical issues, such as the types of treatment children will be receiving. A parenting plan can also state that parents will inform each other of plans to travel with children, including the dates of trips, the locations where they will be staying, and contact information.

  • Right of first refusal - To ensure that children will always be cared for by one of their parents whenever possible, a parenting plan may state that if a parent will not be available during their scheduled parenting time, they will contact the other parent before making arrangements such as hiring a babysitter or having children stay with a family member. While the right of first refusal is not required in a parenting plan, parents may agree to include it. To avoid confusion, a parenting plan may detail when the right of first refusal will apply, the amount of prior notice a parent must give, and how transportation of children will be handled in these situations. 

  • Modifications - While either parent may request modifications of their parenting plan in the future, these modifications will usually only be appropriate if a parent or child has experienced a significant change in circumstances. A parenting plan may also include provisions for certain types of modifications that may be made in specific circumstances. Parents will usually be required to notify each other when they move to a new residence, and these notifications must usually be provided at least 60 days before the planned date of relocation. The parenting plan may also address how certain issues will be resolved if a parent’s relocation will require changes to the allocation of parental responsibilities or parenting time.

  • Dispute resolution - In most cases, a parenting plan will state that parents will use mediation to resolve a proposed modification of parenting time or parental responsibilities by a parent. However, other forms of dispute resolution may be used if necessary, or parents may be able to negotiate agreements on how their parenting plan will be modified to address changes in their circumstances.

Creating a Workable Parenting Plan

Parents are required to file a proposed parenting plan within 120 days after filing a divorce petition or a petition for the allocation of parental responsibilities. A parenting plan may be filed jointly or separately. Since a joint plan will only be filed if parents are in full agreement on all issues related to child custody, most of the time, each parent will file their own proposed parenting plan. 

When parents file conflicting parenting plans, they will need to determine how to resolve any disagreements about what should be contained in the final plan. In most cases, a court will order parents to participate in mediation, and they will work together with a mediator to find mutually agreeable solutions to their disputes. Once an agreed parenting plan is created, a judge will approve it, as long as they determine that it will provide for the children’s best interests. If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, these matters may be resolved as part of a divorce trial, and the judge will make the final decisions based on what they believe is in the children’s best interests.

Contact Our Elmhurst Parenting Plan Lawyers

The terms of a parenting plan are some of the most important aspects of a divorce decree. During your divorce, you will want to make sure you are making the right decisions that will allow you to provide for your children’s needs in the years to come. At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we can help you understand the issues that you will need to address during your divorce, and we will fight to protect your parental rights and make sure your children’s best interests will be provided for. Contact our DuPage County child custody attorneys at 312-605-4041 to get the legal help you need as you address child-related issues during the divorce process.




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