Several things have changed in Illinois Divorce Law as it relates to child custody laws beginning in January 2016. As a result of the new custody laws, a quick guide for parents, including information on time allocated to children of divorced parents, is provided here as a convenient reference.
PART ONE – NEW DIVORCE/CUSTODY CASES
Parental Allocation – Not Child Custody
Formerly known as Child Custody, the State of Illinois now recognizes the term Parental Allocation when referring to parental decision-making and also the time allowed with children in a divorce situation. See below fora quick guide to the new updates in Illinois law that will help you as you decide parental allocation with the new procedures and requirements that must be followed when filing a petition.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: Decision-Making
Formerly known as “legal custody,” the Court will now refer to this arena of divorce or parentage cases as parental allocation of decision-making responsibilities. Although it’s quite a mouthful, the premise is simple. The Court decides if or how the parents will share decision-making responsibilities over the following four major areas:
- Religion – A Court can only allocate responsibilities here when it was clear that the parents had a prior agreement or practice on this issue.
- Extracurricular Activities
In most situations, where the Court would have previously determined that the parents should share “joint legal custody,” the parents will likely each have an equal say-so in these 4 categories. If the case called for more of a “sole legal custody” arrangement, the new system will essentially provide that only one parent will have the decision-making responsibilities for all of these 4 topics. More interestingly, the Court can also customize which decisions are shared jointly and which may be decided by just one parent. For example, one spouse could be a teacher and the other a doctor. The Court can order that the parents have equal say on religion and extracurriculars, but then say that the doctor has sole authority over medical decisions and the teacher has sole authority over educational decisions. The goal being that the Court wants to allocate parental decision making in a way that makes the most sense for the child and likely conformed to how decisions were being made in the household while the couple was still together.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: Parenting Time
Formerly known as “visitation,” the second step in parental allocation cases will be allocating parenting time between the parties. Many factors are considered by the court when deciding a parenting time schedule, all of which are in the best interests of the child(ren). These topics include:
- Wishes of the parents and child(ren)
- The amount of care given to the child(ren) within 24 months prior to petition filing
- Any prior agreement reached by the parents that relates to caretaking functions of the child(ren)
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, community
- The mental and physical conditions of all involved
- The child’s needs
- The distance between the parents’ homes, the child’s school, individual schedules and parental cooperation with the arrangement
- Appropriate restrictions
- Physical violence, threats of physical violence and domestic violence of either parent directed against any household member
- Restrictions on parenting time
- Willingness of each parent to place the needs of the child first
- Living conditions of each parent: if a parent is a convicted sex-offender or living with a convicted sex-offender
- IF a parent is employed in an branch of the armed service and if a military family-care plan is complete prior to deployment
- Other factors that the court deems relevant to parental allocation decisions
The Court issues a mediation order when each party in a divorce has yet to resolve allocation of parenting time and guardianship. This document orders each party to participate in mediation to resolve all areas of parental allocation. In most local counties, the parties will be required to complete four hours of mediation, unless the mediator files a report discharging them from mediation prior to the four hours being completed.
A Parenting Plan must outline items such as an allocation of decision-making responsibilities, to include education and health, child’s living arrangements, religion and all extracurricular activities. These plans will resemble the Joint Parenting Plans or Agreed Orders previously used by parties to memorialize their agreements on custody, visitation and support issues. But, the intent is to make these agreements more structured, more detailed, and more useful in guiding parents on how to resolve child-related issues in the future as the child grows.
Parenting Plan Requirements
A proposed Parenting Plan must be submitted by both parties, either together or separately, within 120 days of filing a petition. If no parenting plan is submitted, the Court has to conduct a hearing and mediation will be ordered. If there is an agreement, the plan has to be signed by both parties. More importantly with the amendments to the law, if the parents agree to a Parenting Plan, the Court MUST sign it unless the agreement is found unconscionable by the Court. If there is no plan, each parent has to complete and sign a plan within 120 days of the appearance.
Understanding such a comprehensive and complex rewrite of the Illinois divorce laws is no easy task. For assistance with understanding the new laws regarding Parental Allocation in Illinois, please contact Sherer Law Offices. Our attorneys can provide you with the most recent information and guidance with Parental Allocation procedures and requirements, and answer any questions you may have when considering what is best for you and your family.