When a couple has one or more minor children, their divorce is more complex than a divorce between a couple with no children or a couple whose children are grown. This is because when there are minor children in the picture, child custody is part of their divorce. Child custody, a term that has been replaced by “parental responsibilities” in Illinois, refers to all aspects of raising children, such as the responsibility of providing a home for them and the right to make critical decisions on their behalf.
A parenting plan is a comprehensive document that outlines every ruling on a couple’s child custody plan. When parents can work together cooperatively, whether they are married or unmarried, they may create their own parenting plan – but this plan is subject to court approval to ensure that it is in the children’s best interests. When parents cannot work together to create an appropriate plan, the court will determine what is best for their children.
A parenting plan is divided into two components: parenting time and parental responsibilities. Parenting time is the time the child spends in each household. Parents may share it, or one parent may have sole physical custody of the child. In the latter type of case, the child’s other parent often has visitation or parenting time with the child, which may be supervised if the court deems it to be necessary.
Parental responsibilities refer to the right to make decisions on the child’s behalf, such as where the child will attend school, the relationships the child will have with extended family members, and the child’s religious upbringing. Like with parenting time, the court typically grants parents shared parental responsibilities unless there is a reason why it would not be in the child’s best interest for his or her parents to both have this level of input on his or her upbringing.
To develop a parenting plan, the court considers a variety of factors about the couple’s lifestyle and their children’s needs. It may use input from a guardian ad litem or a child custody evaluator to make its determinations. The factors the court considers include, but are not limited to:
Parents can help the court develop a parenting plan by providing documents that illustrate their lifestyles and children’s needs, like copies of the children’s academic or medical records.
As a parent, your parenting plan is an important part of your divorce or parentage settlement. To learn more about what to expect from the parenting plan development process and how to adjust to your life with a parenting plan in place, contact The Law Office of Gina L. Colaluca, LLC today to set up your initial legal consultation with us, during which we will go over your case’s specific details and determine realistic expectations for you and your children.