One of the most challenging aspects of being a divorced or unmarried parent is the idea of sharing parental duties with your former partner. Each person often has an idea of how a should be raised, and these ideas may vary—even when both parents are reasonable and have good intentions. Conflicting parenting ideas can lead to confusion and uncertainty on the part of the child, so it is important for parents to cooperate in creating a parenting plan that lays out each parent’s role in regard to making significant decisions that affect the child.
Defining Significant Decisions
According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), significant decisions include those related to “issues of long-term importance in the life of the child.” The IMDMA offers several examples of concerns that are considered to be significant decisions, including:
- The child’s education, including the choice of school and tutors;
- Health and medical care, including physical and mental health care and choice of doctors;
- Religious upbringing, if appropriate, based on the wishes of the parent and past conduct regarding matters of faith or worship; and
- Extracurricular activities, including clubs, sports, activities, music lessons, and others.
Depending your circumstances, other issues may be considered significant as well.
In your parenting plan, you and the other parent must decide who will be responsible for significant decision-making. If you cannot reach an agreement, the court may step in and allocate the responsibilities based on your child’s best interest. You and the other parent could choose to make all significant decisions together. Similarly, you could also agree that each decision should be discussed between you with one of you retaining final decision-making authority in case of an impasse.
Another option would be for each of you to take on the responsibility for a different significant area. If one parent is a teacher, for example, that parent could take care of educational decisions while the other parent handles health care decisions. The last option is to give all significant decision-making authority to one parent alone, who could choose to seek the other parent’s input if he or she wishes.
The Effect on Parenting Time
It is important to remember that significant decision-making responsibilities and each parent’s parenting time are separate issues. While one may affect the other to a certain extent, the amount of parenting time that a parent has does not automatically mean that he or she has an equal amount of decision-making authority. It is possible for parents to share parenting time almost equally while all significant decisions are made by one parent. On the other hand, one parent may have substantially more or less parenting time but equal responsibility for significant decisions.
Call Us for Help
If you have questions about your parenting plan and significant decision-making responsibilities, contact an experienced Wheaton family law attorney. Call 630-871-1002 for a free consultation at Andrew Cores Family Law Group today and get the answers you need.