Commencing January 1, 2016, Illinois implemented new ‘custody’ laws, now known as: allocation of parental responsibilities. The move towards the change in language was decided in order to change the way we think about custody, moving away from an adversarial mentality.
Getting Started: With the new laws, whenever a divorce or parentage case is filed, the parties have 120 days to file jointly or separately a “Parenting Plan.” A Parenting Plan can include anything the parents feel need to be put on paper in order to satisfy their child’s best interests. There are fifteen (15) minimum elements that must be included in every Parenting Plan. These elements are:
- Decision-making responsibilities: The Parenting Plan must have a section that designates which parent or parents will be assigned to making significant decisions for the child. The four significant decisions are education, medical, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing.
- A Parenting Schedule
- A mediation provision. This section is not required when only one parent has sole-decision making for all of the significant responsibilities for the children.
- Access to the child’s mental, dental, and psychological records, child care records, school and extracurricular records, reports and schedules; unless expressly denied by a court order.
- Designation of one parent who has the majority of parenting time.
- Designation of the child’s residential address for school enrollment purposes.
- Each parent’s home address and telephone number.
- Residential Move: this section requires a parent who is changing residences to give 60 days advance written notice to the other parent. The written notice must include the date the parent will be moving and the new address. If this notice is impracticable or a court ordered otherwise, then the moving parent must give notice at the earliest practicable time.
- Requirement of each parent to notify the other of emergencies, health care, travel plans, or other significant child-related issues.
- Transportation arrangements for pick-up and drop-off.
- When and how the parents are able to communicate with the child when it is not their allocated parenting time.
- Future Residential Move: how to resolve these issues in the future, if applicable.
- Future Modifications: how these modifications will be handled if specified events occur.
- Exercise of Right of First Refusal. The Right of First Refusal is a parent’s right to have the child during a time period that is not allocated for that parent, if the other parent is unable to have his or her schedule parenting time for work or other commitments. This provision will set out how this right can be invoked, how much notice and response is needed, transportation, and any other provision related to the exercise of the right of first refusal necessary to protect and promote the best interest of the minor child.
- Any other elements that would address the child’s best interest, or that would facilitate cooperation between the parents.
Mediation: If the parties cannot file a proposed Parenting Plan in 120 days, the new laws require the parties to attend mediation. If at the conclusion of mediation, no agreement has been made, the parties may choose one of three extensions: continue with mediation, continue to work together outside of mediation, and for good cause. An agreed order must be prepared and presented to the judge in order for the extension to happen.
Agreed Parenting Plan: If the parents agree, the parties will sign the plan and it will be binding on the court.
No Agreement: If the parents cannot agree, a judge will approve the items that the parties do agree on, and then make a ruling on the areas the parties do not agree on.