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1776 S. Naperville Road, Building B, Suite 202,
Wheaton, IL 60189
The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C.

DuPage County parenting plan attorneyIf you are getting divorced in Illinois, and you share children with your spouse, you will be required to create a parenting agreement or parenting plan. This agreement is a detailed description of how you and your spouse will share parenting duties after your divorce, and it will ultimately become a legally binding court order. The plan also contains important information about the parents’ rights and responsibilities. Forming a parenting plan that both parents agree to is often one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce involving children. If you are a parent who is getting divorced, reach out to a skilled child custody lawyer for help with your parenting plan.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Parental responsibilities refer to what was once called “legal custody” in Illinois. Major decisions about the child’s life, including decisions related to school, extracurricular activities, healthcare, and religion, fall under the umbrella of parental responsibilities. A parenting plan will need to describe which parent is in charge of these decisions. One parent may take on some or all of the decision-making responsibilities, or the parents may share these responsibilities.

Parenting Time Schedules

The time that a parent is directly responsible for the child’s daily needs is called “parenting time.” Parents are free to divide parenting time in a way that works for their unique needs. For example, one parent may take the child on the weekends, while the other parent takes the child during the week. Per Illinois law, the parenting plan must contain either a detailed schedule of how parenting time is allotted between the parents or a method for determining parenting time that is detailed enough to be legally enforceable.  Parents will also need to address how they plan to share parenting time on holidays, school vacations, and in other atypical circumstances.

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Wheaton, IL parenting plan modification attorney for parental relocationIf you are unmarried or divorced, and you have children, you may share parental responsibilities and parenting time with your child’s other parent. In situations like this, parents are subject to certain rules and procedures when they move. The laws in Illinois regarding parental relocation changed significantly in 2016. Now, if a parent wants to move, and the move meets certain criteria, they may need to get court approval. Whether you are unmarried, divorced, or plan to end your marriage soon, it is important to be aware of parental relocation laws.

Defining “Relocation” According to Illinois Law

Before the changes to Illinois family law, the parent who was the “primary residential parent” could move anywhere in the state without getting permission from the other parent or the court. However, if they wished to move outside of Illinois – even if the move was only a few miles away – they needed to take certain legal steps.

Illinois law has since been updated to be more consistent. Moving a short distance away does not require approval. However, when a move is significant, this is called a “relocation.” A relocation occurs when a parent with the majority of parenting time or an equal amount of parenting time:

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Wheaton divorce attorney for sole child custodyIn Illinois law, the terms “child custody” and “visitation” are no longer used. Parenting duties now consist of parental responsibilities and parenting time. This change was made in large part to present parenting tasks as a spectrum as opposed to one parent being the “custodial parent” and the other parent as merely “visiting” the child. However, there are still cases in which it may be in the child’s best interests for one parent to have most – if not all – of the parental responsibilities and parenting time.  

The Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

The term “parental responsibilities” refers to how parents will make significant decisions about the child’s life. Per Illinois law, significant decisions are decisions pertaining to:

  • Education

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Wheaton family law attorneyChild custody cases are often some of the most contentious family law disputes. When it comes to children, emotions typically run high. Parents may do or say nearly anything to get the child custody outcome they want. Sadly, it is often the children themselves that are most damaged in a combative child custody case. If your child’s other parent has accused you of abusing your child in an attempt to sway the outcome of your child custody dispute, it is crucial that you take steps now to protect your rights as well as the rights of your child.

Speak with a Lawyer Who is Experienced in Child Custody Disputes

Illinois courts always make child custody decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests. Being accused of child abuse or domestic violence can have a dramatic impact on your child custody case. If your child’s other parent has brought unfounded allegations of abuse against you, there are several things that you should do immediately. First, speak with a family law attorney who has experience handling situations like these.

Your lawyer will help you take the steps needed to fight the accusations and avoid worsening your situation. Your lawyer may recommend requesting a guardian ad litem (GAL) to be assigned to your case. A GAL is a specially trained attorney who investigates the facts of a child custody case and then makes a recommendation to the judge based on his or her findings. The GAL may interview you, your child, your child’s siblings, teachers, and other caretakers. The GAL may visit your home and the home of your child’s other parent and observe child-parent interactions. The court is not required to follow the GAL’s counsel but a recommendation from a GAL will carry considerable weight.

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DuPage County child custody dispute attorneyMany divorcing parents have strong opinions about how parental responsibilities and parenting time should be divided. Parents may disagree about the child’s primary residence, parenting time schedules, how major decisions about the child should be made, and much more. If you are a divorcing parent in the middle of a child-related dispute, or you suspect that you soon will be, you may have questions about how child custody decisions are made in Illinois. You may wonder about the impact that your child’s opinion could have on the outcome of your case. In Illinois, child interviews may be used to gather information about the child’s thoughts and opinions during a custody dispute. However, these interviews are only one element of the court’s decision-making process.

Disagreements about Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities

Although many family law cases address child custody in a general sense, Illinois law no longer uses the terms “child custody” and “visitation.” In the actual law, child custody is described by the “allocation of parental responsibilities,” meaning the parents’ decision-making authority, and “parenting time,” which is the actual time a parent spends with their child. Decisions about parental responsibilities, parenting time, and other custody-related issues must be stated in the parents’ “parenting plan.” If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to allocate parental responsibilities or parenting time, you may be able to negotiate an agreement with help from your attorneys or through an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation. However, if you still cannot reach an agreement, your case may go to court.

How Illinois Courts Make Decisions in Child Custody Disputes

If your child custody dispute cannot be resolved out of court, a judge will hear arguments from both parties and then issue a judgment about the unresolved issues. Illinois courts consider the wishes of the parents as well as those of the children in many child custody cases. Often, a special representative called a guardian ad litem (GAL) is assigned to represent a child’s best interests during a child custody dispute. The GAL may gather the child’s testimony during an interview and incorporate that information into his or her formal recommendation to the court. 

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