The health and well-being of a couple’s child should always be a top priority when ending a relationship or going through a divorce
. During this process, a parenting plan
will be created to make decisions and establish rules that the parents should follow regarding issues such as the allocation of parental responsibilities
and parenting time
. Parents can save a lot of time and money by working together and addressing these matters prior to facing a judge. However, if a couple cannot come to an agreement, the judge will be required to make legally binding decisions that would reflect the best interests of the child.
The allocation of parental responsibilities, which was formerly known as child custody in Illinois, refers to the right to make decisions about a child’s upbringing. Illinois law recognizes four areas of parental responsibility: education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. Unless both parents agree in writing about how to divide these responsibilities, the judge may allocate certain areas of decision-making authority to one parent or have both parents share the responsibility. In most cases, it is beneficial for children to have both parents participate in making decisions about how they should be raised, so a parent may need to have justifications as to why he or she believes certain areas of responsibility should or should not be shared.
Determining Parenting Time
Illinois law states that parents are presumed to be fit and that they have the right to have reasonable amounts of parenting time (formerly known as visitation) with their children. Unless there is evidence that spending parenting time with one parent would put a child in danger, there may not be any restrictions on parenting time for either parent. Ideally, parents should work together to determine a parenting time schedule that gives children a good amount of time with each parent, but in some cases, the judge may need to allocate parenting time based on what is in children’s best interests.
Factors a Judge May Consider
If parents cannot reach an agreement about matters related to their children, the ultimate decision may be left up to the judge in their case. When determining how to allocate parental responsibility and parenting time, the judge may consider the following factors:
The child's needs
The child's relationship with each parent
The child's adjustment to life at school, home, and the community
The parents’ and child's wishes
Each parent’s amount of parental responsibilities prior to the separation, as well as the amount of time each parent spent caring for the children
Whether or not one of the parents is a convicted sex offender
The distance between the parents’ homes, coupled with the cost and difficulty of going back and forth
Whether or not any parenting time restrictions are necessary
The mental and physical health of everyone involved
Any prior physical violence or threats towards the child or another household member
Additionally, any factors deemed relevant by the judge may be included in the deliberation. Before allowing the court to make a major decision on your behalf, it is highly recommended to speak to an experienced lawyer. Separating on good terms and establishing a pattern of trust for your child could result in a much happier future.
Contact a Wheaton Child Custody Attorney
Children’s stress and anxiety may decrease if they can see their parents working together with the goal of putting the children’s health and happiness first. If you are able to work with your former partner to reach a decision that benefits your child, this may result in a better outcome then letting an impartial third party decide on how your family’s affairs will be handled. However, if you and your ex-spouse cannot agree upon a parenting plan, our experienced DuPage County divorce lawyers can advise you on the best course of legal action. For a free consultation, please call our office at 630-871-1002.