For couples that have minor children (under age 18), developing a parenting plan is a necessary part of the divorce process. A parenting plan establishes each parent’s post-divorce rights and responsibilities, and having a comprehensive plan is essential for avoiding post-divorce disputes while ensuring that the couple’s children have consistency and stability in their lives.

In Illinois, there are specific requirements for developing a parenting plan during the divorce process. The Illinois Supreme Court has also approved a parenting plan form that couples (and their divorce lawyers) can use to guide them through the process. Even so, developing a parenting plan is rarely as simple as completing a form—and the form itself is very complicated—and both parents must be willing to compromise to develop a plan that serves their children’s best interests long-term.

Illinois’s Parenting Plan Law

The fundamental requirements for parenting plans in Illinois are established in 750 ILCS 5/602.10. Among other things, this section of the law establishes when parents must submit their proposed parenting plans during the divorce process, as well as what will happen if the parents cannot come to terms regarding their post-divorce parenting time and parental rights. The law requires that:

  • Divorcing parents must file a proposed parenting plan (either separately or jointly) within 120 after service or filing of a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities.
  • At a minimum, a proposed parenting plan must address the 15 specific issues outlined in 750 ILCS 5/602.10(f).
    If either parent (or both parents) fails to file a proposed parenting plan, the court will conduct a hearing to allocate parental responsibilities.
  • If the parents cannot agree on a proposed parenting plan, the court may require them to attend mediation, with the costs of mediation to be split between them according to Illinois law.
  • Final parenting plans must be submitted in writing for the court’s approval. In deciding whether to approve a parenting plan, the court will consider whether the plan reflects the best interests of the children involved.

Illinois’s Parenting Plan Form

The Illinois Supreme Court’s parenting plan form is designed specifically to meet the requirements outlined in 750 ILCS 5/602.10(f). While divorcing parents can use the form when it makes sense to do so, divorcing parents will often want to address issues that the form doesn’t cover as well. When going through a divorce, it is important to focus on your specific circumstances and develop a parenting plan that addresses your specific wants and needs. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you develop a customized plan that works for you—whether you are interested in equal parenting time, co-parenting, bird’s nest custody, or a more traditional child custody arrangement.

With this in mind, here is a brief overview of some of the key aspects of the Illinois Supreme Court’s parenting plan form:

1. Binding Parental Responsibilities

Once a court approves a divorcing couple’s parenting plan, the plan becomes binding. Under the parenting plan form, divorced parents will have several responsibilities—including (but not limited to):

  • Each parent must provide the other with 60 days’ advance notice of their intent to move.
  • Each parent must make decisions regarding routine discipline, minor medical treatment, curfew, chores, and hygiene during the parent’s parenting time.
  • Each parent must have access to their children’s school records, childcare information, activity schedules, medical records, and healthcare providers’ information.
  • Each parent must notify the other of emergencies, health care, travel plans, and other significant child-related issues “as soon as possible.”

2. Significant Decision Making

When filling out the parenting plan form, divorcing parents must decide whether one or both of them will have the authority to make “significant” decisions affecting their children’s lives. These decisions fall into four categories:

  • Education decisions
  • Health decisions
  • Religious decisions
  • Extracurricular/recreational activities decisions

3. Weekly Parenting Time Schedule

The Illinois Supreme Court’s parenting plan form gives parents the option to choose between a weekly schedule or a bi-weekly schedule for dividing their parenting time (parents can choose to add additional weekly schedules if desired). When using the form, divorcing parents must specify which one will have custody during each hour of the day from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, as well as which parent will have custody overnight.

4. Holidays and School Breaks

Along with establishing a weekly schedule, the parenting time form also requires divorcing parents to separately address holidays and school breaks. When using the form, parents must alternate between even and odd years (although there are other options available). The form also provides that when there is a “conflict” between parenting time rights (i.e., when one parent’s holiday falls on another parent’s regular parenting time or school break), the order of priority is: (i) holiday; (ii) school break; (iii) regular weekly schedule.

5. Right of First Refusal

Parents filling out the Illinois Supreme Court’s parenting time form must choose whether to include a “right of first refusal.” If one parent needs childcare during his or her regularly scheduled parenting time, a right of first refusal allows the other parent to provide care during this time if they choose to do so (and provided that they meet certain requirements).

Developing a Parenting Plan that Works for You and Your Children

Again, these are just some examples of key provisions of the Illinois Supreme Court’s parenting plan form—and the form does not cover all possibilities when it comes to developing a parenting plan during a divorce. When going through the divorce process, it is important to take the time necessary to develop a parenting plan that works for you and your children. If you and your spouse are in disagreement, your respective divorce lawyers can help you work toward coming to terms, and they can guide you through the mediation process if necessary.

Request a Free Consultation with Gurnee, IL Divorce Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen

Do you have questions about developing a parenting plan during the divorce process? If so, we invite you to get in touch. To request a free consultation with Gurnee, IL divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen, give us a call at 847-623-4002 today.