When parents divorced in the past, it was common for the children to live full-time with one parent, usually the mother, while the other parent received visitation with the children a few times a month. In recent decades, research has shown that children benefit from maintaining close relationships with both parents following a divorce. The law no longer considers outdated notions of custody and visitation to be in your children’s interest.
Instead, the courts now allocate parental responsibilities to you and your spouse. According to the Illinois General Assembly, a parenting plan is a written outline of these responsibilities.
Parenting time refers to the time that your children spend with you, during which you are responsible for exercising caretaking functions. These include meeting a child’s physical needs, such as food, shelter and grooming, as well as more abstract functions, such as providing moral and ethical guidance, assigning and supervising chores or providing discipline as needed.
The law presumes that both you and your spouse are fit for the allocation of parenting time unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates otherwise. There are many factors that the court considers in deciding how to allocate parenting time with the objective of serving the children’s interests.
While you have parenting time with your children, you have the responsibility for making non-significant decisions affecting your children, i.e., routine decisions that are not of long-term importance. However, the court usually requires that you and your ex-spouse share responsibility for making significant decisions, i.e., those likely to remain important in your children’s lives for a long time. Significant decisions include those regarding your children’s:
- Extra-curricular activities
You and your spouse may create your own written parenting plan to submit for the court’s approval. If the court deems it to be in the children’s interests, it will likely approve the plan. Otherwise, the court will make its own allocation of parental responsibilities.