Marriage involves a lot of plans – financial plans, estate plans, retirement plans, vacation plans, plans for the future. Divorce requires a lot of planning as well, and as of January 1, 2016, divorcing parents in Illinois will need to agree to a parenting plan.
As part of the sweeping changes to Illinois divorce law that went into effect at the beginning of this year, all divorcing couples with children will need to submit a parenting plan to the court. This requirement is designed to bring clarity and reduce conflict regarding the logistics of parenting together but separately.
What is in an Illinois Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan should address all of the major issues and decisions – both big picture and day-to-day — involved in raising a child. Under the new language of the revised law, parenting plans involve the allocation of “parenting time’ and “parental responsibilities.”
Section 602.10(f) of the revised Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/602.10) contains a long list of issues and subjects that “at a minimum, a parenting plan must set forth.” These include:
- an allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities;
- provisions for the child’s living arrangements and for each parent’s parenting time, including either;
- a schedule that designates in which parent’s home the minor child will reside on given days; or
- a formula or method for determining such a schedule in sufficient detail to be enforced in any subsequent proceedings;
- a mediation provision addressing any proposed reallocation of parenting time or parental responsibilities;
- each parent’s right of access to the child’s important records, including medical, dental, psychological, and child care records, as well as school and extracurricular records, reports, and schedules;
- a designation of the parent who will be denominated as the parent with the majority of parenting time (formerly known as the “custodial parent”);
- the child’s residential address for school enrollment purposes only;
- each parent’s residence and work address and phone number,
- a requirement for 60-days’ notice to the other parent of a change in residence;
- provisions requiring each parent to notify the other of emergencies, health care, travel plans, or other significant child-related issues;
- transportation arrangements between the parents;
- provisions for communications, including electronic communications, with the child during the other parent’s parenting time;
- provisions for resolving issues arising from a parent’s future relocation, if applicable;
- provisions for future modifications of the parenting plan, if specified events occur;
- provisions for the exercise of the right of first refusal, if so desired, that are consistent with the best interests of the minor child as to certain issues;
When Does a Parenting Plan Have to be Submitted?
A written parenting plan agreed to by the parties needs to be submitted to the court for approval within 120 days after service of a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities or the filing of an appearance, except for good cause shown.
What if the Parties Can’t Agree to a Parenting Plan?
There is a lot of ground to cover in a parenting plan, and despite good faith efforts, the practical and emotional complexities of parenting after divorce may make reaching an agreement challenging if not impossible. When that happens, “the court shall order mediation to assist the parents in formulating or modifying a parenting plan or in implementing a parenting plan…” 750 ILCS 5/602.10(c).
If mediation is unsuccessful in helping the parents agree to a plan, then each parent is to submit their own proposed plan to the court. The court will then make a determination as to how parenting time and parenting responsibilities are to be allocated based on the best interests of the child. Similarly, if neither party submits a proposed plan, the court will hold evidentiary hearings to allocate parental responsibilities.
As with most aspects of divorce, reaching a negotiated resolution of parenting issues is always preferable to protracted conflict that ultimately takes the decisions out of the parents’ hands and puts them in the hands of a judge. Illinois’ new parenting plan requirement is a pretty clear effort to help divorcing parents reach such resolutions as quickly and completely as possible.
Louis R. Fine – Trusted Chicago Divorce Attorney
If you are considering divorce and are looking for counsel, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. Together, we will turn the page so you can begin the next chapter of your life with clarity and confidence.