Custody & Visitation

Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

As of January 1, 2016, the new Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act changed the terms “Custody” and “Visitation” to “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities” and “Parenting Time.” Prior to 2016, Illinois made a distinction between sole or joint legal custody; now, except in extreme circumstances, the only custody is joint legal custody – now known as “Joint Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.”

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (Custody)

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities usually means that the parents have to decide together on important issues such as education, health-related matters, religious upbringing, or extra-curricular activities, for example. In other words, the divorced parents would make any major decisions regarding the children jointly. This assumes that the parents are willing and able to cooperate on decision-making regarding their children.

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities can also mean that one parent can be assigned as the sole decision-maker in certain areas, and the other parent as the sole decision maker in other areas. For example, one parent could be the sole decision-maker regarding the child’s extra-curricular activities, the other could be the sole decision-maker regarding healthcare, and both parents would have to make joint decisions regarding education and religious upbringing.

In a high-conflict divorce in which the parents cannot agree on anything, the court has the freedom to be creative regarding the division of responsibilities. For example, the dad could be solely responsible for decision-making for activities in even-numbered years, and then the mom would assume those responsibilities in odd-numbered years.

In most cases, true joint parental responsibilities in which both parents are equally involved is in the best interests of the children. However, there are exceptions to this rule. In extreme cases where one parent is in jail, or there’s been proven evidence of domestic violence, or one parent holds extreme views on medical or religious issues that could threaten the child’s physical or mental health, the court can assign sole allocation of parental responsibilities to one parent.

When it comes to allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois, you need an experienced custody attorney to protect your rights. Proudly serving the Dupage, Cook, and Will County areas, Dheanna Fikaris will negotiate – and, if necessary, fight – to ensure you have a say in all important decisions regarding your children.

With offices in Oakbrook Terrace, Fikaris and Associates has the experience to make your Illinois family law dispute as smooth and painless as possible.

Allocation of Parenting Time (Visitation)

When parents are going through separation and divorce, allocation of parenting time can be their number-one priority. Most parents are distraught at the idea of losing regular, meaningful contact with their children. Fikaris and Associates is committed to protecting our clients’ relationships with their children and safeguarding the emotional and physical wellbeing of the children throughout the divorce process.

Before January 2016, if an Illinois court granted one parent “primary residential custody,” the non-custodial parent would be granted “visitation” with their children. The new Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act no longer uses the terms “custody” and “visitation” – the family law statute now refers to “allocation of parenting time.”

Under this statute, if no allocation judgment has been entered, then your attorney must file your proposed parenting plan within 120 days of filing a petition. Although most couples are able to cooperate and create a parenting plan that works for their family’s unique needs and circumstances, some high-conflict couples are not able to agree on anything; in that case, they will go to court and let a judge decide what their parenting plan will be.

In allocating parenting time, the court must consider the best interests of the children as well as a number or other relevant factors, including:

  1. The wishes of each parent;
  2. The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences;
  3. The amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24 months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities;
  4. Any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect to the child;
  5. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and with any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  6. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  7. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  8. The child’s needs;
  9. The distance between the parents’ residences, the cost, and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
  10. Whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate;
  11. The physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child or another member of the child’s household;
  12. The willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
  13. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
  14. The occurrence of abuse against the child or another member of the child’s household;
  15. Whether one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so, the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment the offender has successfully participated in; the parties are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this paragraph;
  16. The terms of a parent’s military family-care plan that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed; and
  17. Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

In the State of Illinois, the parent with whom the children live most of the time is designated the “residential parent.” This is important for purposes of school registration.

Most Illinois courts require parents involved in a parental responsibility or parenting time dispute to participate in mediation to try to resolve their issues. If the mediation process is successful in creating a parenting agreement, the agreement will not be binding on the co-parents until a judge signs it.

The allocation judgment sets out how parenting time will work. For example, it could specify that the children will be with their mother Monday through Thursday night, and the father will have Friday, Saturday, Sunday with the children. It should discuss holidays, birthdays, graduations, and other celebrations. Where will the kids spend Christmas? What about if Father’s Day falls on Mom’s weekend with the kids? Can both parents attend the school play or a sporting event in which their children are taking part? It could detail how they’ll handle extracurricular activities – including which parent will be responsible for driving which kid to which activity regardless of who has the children on that day.

If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is complicated. Before presenting your proposed parenting plan to the court, Illinois parenting time attorney Dheanna Fikaris will help you think through as many scenarios as possible in order to avoid misunderstandings, aggravation, and disappointment down the road.

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