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What Is a Parenting Plan in Illinois?

 Posted on December 29, 2017 in Child Custody

DuPage County family law attorneysThe Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) was modified extensively in 2016, and one of the major modifications was to establish the requirement for divorcing couples to have a parenting plan. Such a plan can be drafted cooperatively by the couple on their own or with the assistance of the court. The rationale is that if issues arise, the parenting plan worked out by both spouses may provide guidance in all but the most unusual situations.

Helping Parents to Share Responsibilities

A parenting plan is defined in the relevant statute as a written agreement that grants either “significant decision-making responsibilities,” parenting time, or both. A plan is required when both spouses will share parental responsibilities. If only one parent will have decision-making capabilities regarding the child, there is no need to seek the other parent’s input. To have one parent exclusively make all decisions for the child, however, is relatively uncommon rare; usually parents will share joint custody to at least some degree.

A plan will be created by the court if the parents cannot agree on the substance of a plan themselves, and both parents will be presumed to be fit unless evidence is brought to the court’s attention that proves otherwise. Many parents are able to present plans themselves—the idea of the court creating one pushes many couples to reach agreement for the sake of their children. But, even if an agreement is reached, the court has the final say in its applicability. The court has a duty to reject and require the revision of any parenting plan that does not serve the best interests of the child or children involved.

Typical Contents of a Parenting Plan

In order to be a complete and conscionable agreement, an Illinois parenting plan must include certain specific items. A schedule, or at least an approximate schedule, of parenting time and visitation is perhaps the most important part of the plan, but there are other decisions a couple must make, and to put them in the parenting plan in writing is an efficient way to ensure those promises are likely to be kept.

Other items Illinois generally requires in a parenting plan include:

  • A listing of each parent’s rights and responsibilities regarding decision-making for the child or children;
  • The responsibilities of each parent for meeting the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs;
  • Discussion of who will care for the child if the scheduled parent cannot, which may include the right of first refusal for the other parent; and
  • A procedure for dealing with breaches of the agreement, as well as any modifications that might become necessary.

It is important for divorcing parents to draft the most equitable plan possible, as the agreement will likely remain in effect for several years at the very least. Courts are traditionally hesitant to amend parenting plans too often because doing so tends to upset the way of life to which the child has become accustomed.

Need Help Understanding Parenting Plans?

Parenting plans can be decidedly difficult to understand, which makes them difficult to develop properly. If you need help getting a handle on this complex area of law, our DuPage County child custody attorneys can sit down with you and do our best to assist. Call us today to set up an initial appointment.


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