can tear apart the lives of children, so it’s important to put a plan in place that makes the transition to two separate households as smooth as possible. For this reason, divorcing parents must come up with a parenting plan that outlines how both parents will continue to care and provide for their children after separating.
Because parenting styles differ and issues that arise are sensitive and life-changing, an experienced family law attorney can help you through this difficult time. The seasoned and compassionate Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., always focus on our clients’ needs and feelings, and we work to resolve planning issues and problems in the most effective and efficient manner. We offer a free consultation to find a plan personalized to fit the needs of your individual family situation.
How to Make a Parenting Plan
In making your plan, you should include all elements that are essential to cover your children’s physical, emotional and social needs, plus the needs and considerations of both parents. Basic plan essentials should include:
- Parenting time schedule – In Illinois, parenting time is the new term for what used to be called visitation. Your plan should lay out the time your children are with each parent. Include their daily living schedules, holidays, and vacation time. Your children may spend most of their time with one parent, or they may split their time with both.
- Parental Responsibility – This the new term for custody and refers to the decision-making issues for the child. Your plan should state which parent will have most of the decision-making responsibilities in the major life areas including education, medical and health situations, extra-curricular activities, and religion. If these responsibilities are split between the parents, your plan should lay this out as well.
- Exchanges — Decide where exchanges take place, who drives the children for exchanges, and how both parents will communicate about schedule changes and rescheduling.
- Parenting guidelines – These are rules that both parents agree to follow as they raise their children. Guidelines may deal with discipline, food and diet, bedtime routines, tobacco and alcohol use, who lives in the household, etc.
- Traveling — designate how much vacation time each parent has and include provisions about traveling and relocating if parents move a long distance apart.
- Financial information — Include financial information about child support, claiming children as a dependent for taxes, and handling reimbursement for extra expenses.
- Revising the plan — Lay out how both parents will revise the plan if it becomes necessary or desirable and a way to resolve disagreements about revisions to the plan.
In setting up your plan, consider factors such as the following:
- The wishes of both parents
- The wishes, issues and individual needs of the child, depending on age and maturity
- The relationship between each parent and the child, and the responsibilities of parents before the separation
- The involvement of each parent in the child’s recreational and extracurricular activities
- The strengths of each parent and how they wish to share parenting responsibilities
- Your children’s relationships with each other and whether your children need individual time with each parent
- The interaction between the two parents and any other adult who may significantly affect the child’s interests
- 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
- Any adjustments a child must make in communities, schools, and homes
- Complying with Illinois guidelines and laws.
Temporary Plans and Schedules
If your divorce is just starting, you should come up with a temporary parenting plan stating where your child will live and be cared for during the divorce proceedings. This plan will last until the divorce is finalized; if it works, the plan may become the basis for the eventual permanent parenting plan.
Temporary parenting plans should have the same information as permanent ones, but they focus on the immediate needs of the months until the divorce is final.
It is best if both parents work together to make a temporary plan to file with the court. If you agree, your plan will usually be approved by the judge. If you cannot agree, you will need to have a hearing where the judge will determine the temporary plan.
Long Distance Plans
When parents live far apart, they need to have a long distance parenting plan that focuses on specifics about that situation. This should include:
- Schedule — Show the primary residence of the child and when the child visits the other parent, including regular visits, holidays, and vacation time. The amount of visitation depends on the needs of the child, the distances involved, and what works for the parents.
- Communication information — Show how your child will stay connected to the non-residential parent and how parents will communicate with each other about visitation.
- Airline provisions — If flying is necessary, decide who will pay for tickets, make travel arrangements, and how to notify one another of when children are dropped off and picked up at an airport. Have provisions as to when children can fly by themselves or who will accompany them if they are too young.
- Driving provisions — Include provisions about who is responsible for driving the child, meeting places for exchange, paying for costs of travel, where a visiting parent will stay, how many days in advance the other parent will be notified of a visit, etc.
If parents live in different states, it needs to be determined which state has jurisdiction over custody arrangements before making your parenting plan and visitation schedule.
Changing Your Parenting Plan
If you need to modify your parenting plan and schedule, it is best if you can work with your child’s other parent and come to an agreement for the changes. The court will usually accept your plan if you agree.
If you can’t agree, you will need to go to court and file a child custody modification or a petition to change the custody order. Both parents must then attend a custody hearing, and the judge will decide whether to accept a modified plan.
Changes in circumstances that warrant a modification include moving, changes in parents’ work schedule, changes in the family situation, children’s ages, social needs and schedule changes, and any history of abuse or violence.
Contact Us For Help
Illinois divorce law is complicated and changing, and the facts and circumstances of each case are different, so it makes sense to seek legal counsel to represent your interests in setting up your parenting plans. The skilled Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. can advise and guide you through every step in the process.
We offer a free consultation to discuss your individual issues and answer your questions. For your free initial consultation with an experienced and compassionate DuPage County divorce lawyer, contact us online or call 630-305-0222 or 312-388-7882. We handle cases throughout Illinois and can schedule a consultation at our office.