Parenting Plans in Illinois

Thu, 01 Aug 2013 14:31:55

Kelly Thamesphoto 1

What is a parenting plan?

It is an agreement that parents make outlining the custody of their children.  A typical parenting plan specifies parenting time (also known as visitation) and who has the responsibility for the major decisions regarding the child’s education, health care and religious training. Plans also specify the specific procedures that parties must follow when one or both of the parties want to change an agreement or when a dispute arises. The are also known as “Joint Parenting Agreements,” “Parenting Agreements,” or “Parenting Judgments”.

What should be included in a parenting plan?

Parenting Time, also known as a Visitation Schedule. This agreement should include the regular schedule, as well as when each parent has parenting time during school breaks, holidays and summer vacations. The plan should be detailed, defining when a holiday starts and ends, and who is responsible for transportation at the beginning and end of the non-custodial parent’s parenting time.

Payments. In divorce cases, financial matters are generally handled in what is known as a “Marital Settlement Agreement.” However, in cases where the parents were never married, financial matters should be addressed in a parenting agreement. This agreement should include activities, education, child-care, and medical and dental insurance.

Procedures for Changes and Notifications. A parenting plan is not static, as children get older and life happens, the parenting plan may become outdated. An agreement should provide guidance on how a parent will notify the other parent when there are changes in jobs, addresses, phone numbers, school activities and life events.

Residential Custody. The parenting plan should specify who is designated as the residential parent. This is the parent the child spends more than 50% of the time with. If the parents split their parenting time 50/50, one parent should still be designated as the residential custodian for school district purposes.

Legal Custody. The parenting plans should specify whether the parties have joint custody or whether one parent has sole custody. Joint custody requires the parties consider each other’s opinions on the major issues, such as healthcare, education, and religious training. Sole custody does not require agreement for the major decisions.

Right to Information. The parenting plans should specify that both parents have the right to school records, medical records, and notice of all parent-teacher conferences and extracurricular activities.

Dispute Resolution. Joint custody requires that the parties attempt mediation before resorting to litigation. The parenting plan should specify the procedure for resolving disputes to prevent litigation.

Removal. Parties agree on not moving the child out of state without consent of the other party or court order. Some parties negotiate a mileage distance for how far the custodial parent can move with the child before coming to court.

Basic Behavior. The parenting plan can include various instructions for how the parents and third parties must behave around the child. For example, the child should never be used as a messenger for conversations that should be had by the parents and the parents should never speak poorly of the other parent in front of the child and should not allow third parties to do so, either.

There are a lot of basic elements in a parenting plan that will be similar from agreement to agreement, much of it is an explanation of your legal rights and responsibilities. However, the details of your parenting plan will be negotiated and drafted to best suit your family’s individual circumstances.

We offer free consultations and can review your parenting agreement.  If it is now outdated or there has been a change of circumstances, you may need to file for a modification.

Presidential Seal

Decisions are made by those who show-up.

~~President Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing.

This is analogous to the practice of family law in that you’d be amazed at how many case outcomes don’t turn on some grand legal argument or some astonishing factual admission, nope, many, many cases are won or lost just by showing-up and actually participating in a case (or lost by not showing-up). We lawyers spend a lot of time analyzing case law and strategizing how to get the best results for our clients…that’s a what good lawyers do. But I’d estimate that 10%-20% of cases are won simply by one party taking initiative and one party doing nothing.

Here are some major rulings we have won on behalf of clients in the last year where we were all ready to win on the substance of the case but then the other party flopped, did nothing, and our clients won without even having to put up much a fight:

  1. Client Wins Custody Change When Former Husband Gives in at First Court Date. We recently represented a mother of two adolescent girls who were living primarily with their father. The father had remarried and was now living with a new wife and several additional step-children. Our clients two daughters had been depressed and one of them had even gotten involved in some cutting of her wrists…so pretty serious stuff. We thought we had a pretty good case although changing custody of children requires you to meet a pretty high legal standard. Well, we drafted a very thorough and probably 50 page Petition to Change Custody, served the father/former husband, scheduled a court date, and….instead of the 6-9 month battle we were expecting the father just GAVE-UP at the very first court date. Permanent custody changed to our client all at the first court date.
  2. Client Wins Removal of Son to Missouri. Client wanted to re-locate to Missouri with her high school aged son due to a job change by her current husband. And these cases even favor the non-custodial parent. But after some whining and criticism of our client/mother, the father and former husband barely participated in the court proceeding and ended up signing-off on an Agreed Order allowing our client to re-locate with the parties’ son to Missouri.
  3. Client Wins Custody Change When Former Husband Skips Court Dates & Doesn’t Do Alcohol Evaluation. Here our client won custody of her 12-year-old son after the father/former husband basically stopped participating in the child’s life and eventually stopped participating in the court proceeding. Again we drafted a thorough and probably 50 page Petition to Change Custody, served the father/former husband, scheduled a court date. Custody of the son was immediately changed on a temporary basis due to some allegations concerning alcohol abuse on the part of the ex-husband/father. Here the case proceeded for approximately 4-5 court dates over 6 months. But over time the ex-husband/father totally stopped seeing his son, did not complete a court ordered alcohol assessment, and eventually he missed enough court dates that our client was awarded the custody change without getting to a real, full-out custody trial.

Court cases are very often won by the party who shows-up. We live in a society where people love to comment and criticize and complain, but then do nothing substantive to actually change the circumstances that they’re commenting/criticizing/complaining about. Take action! DO YOU WANT TO:

  • Give your kid a better life.
  • Improve your financial position by modifying child support or getting your kid the financial resources necessary to go to college.
  • Secure that parenting relationship that your Ex is trying to rip away from you.

Start your court case now; just do it! Click to Schedule above (top right) and take action now.

According to the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau, over 24 million children live apart from their biological fathers. That is 1 out of every 3 children. In 2002, it was reported nearly 40% of children in father-absent homes have not seen their father at all during the past year. And more than half of all children who do not live with their father have never been in their father’s home.

The sitting President of the United States addresses the very real problem of absent fathers each year:

“The single biggest social problem in our society may be the growing absence of fathers from their children’s homes because it contributes to so many other social problems… Without a father to help guide, without a father to care, without a father to teach boys to be men, and to teach girls to expect respect from men, it’s harder.” – President Bill Clinton, October 1995

President Clinton Father

“Over the past four decades, fatherlessness has emerged as one of our greatest social problems. We know that children who grow up with absent fathers can suffer lasting damage. They are more likely to end up in poverty or drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a child out of wedlock, or end up in prison. Fatherlessness is not the only cause of these things, but our nation must recognize it is an important factor.” –President George W. Bush, June 2001

Bush Father's Day


And some inspiring comments by our current POTUS:

“As fathers, we need to be involved in our children’s lives not just when it’s convenient or easy, not just when they’re doing well – but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling. That is when they need us most.” President Barack Obama, June 2009

“In the end, that’s what being a parent is all about – those precious moments with our children that fill us with pride and excitement for their future, the chances we have to set an example or offer a piece of advice, the opportunities to just be there and show them that we love them.” President Barack Obama, June 2011.

“Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.” – President Barack Obama, June 2008.

Obama strolls with Malia (left) and Sasha at the White House. obama-03

So, to the fathers already actively involved in their children’s lives, thank you, your efforts are appreciated. To the fathers ready to get involved and need help obtaining court ordered visitation or custody, give us a call at (312) 893-5888 or schedule a free initial consultation online.


What’s the catch? You must meet the 2 following criteria:

  • You are the parent of a child or children who are 17-18 years of age.
  • You or the other parent have been subject to a court-ordered child support obligation, divorce, or parentage order.

If you meet those two criteria there are 3 things you should be considering in the next month to save yourself some money and to help your son or daughter. Here’s the list of what ‘To Do’ and also common mistakes I see:

  1. Terminate Child Support in a Timely Fashion. According to Illinois law, child support should be terminated when a child turns 18, 19, or when a child is graduated from high school. In my experience 80%-90% of kids turn 18 and then graduate from high school sometime during the year that they are 18-years-old. Thus, high school graduation is the most common event requiring the termination of child support. Common Mistake:  Most people who are not our clients do not file to terminate child support soon enough. If your son or daughter is set to graduate from high school on say June 10, 2013, you should be filing your petition to terminate child support NOW! Courts don’t move quickly. Why pay a couple extra months (or years) of child support when you don’t have to?
  2. Pursue Support for Post-High School Educational Expenses. If your son or daughter is planning on attending any sort of post-high school training from a traditional college setting to any sort of vocational school this is absolutely an area where you or your child shouldn’t be stuck footing the bill by yourselves…the other parent has an obligation to financially support the child. The is even more critical when a child is mentally or physically disabled. Common Mistake:  In my experience this sort of financial obligation is not as well known as traditional child support and thus is not as likely to be pursued. Also, people wait and then miss-out on any contribution towards earlier periods of schooling…you can only recover these costs from the date you file and thereafter.
  3. Money for Summer. Granted my parents were not divorced, but I surely spent my summers during college back at home with the folks living off of their dime (for the most part). And in a typical situation where parents are not living together a child will spend the majority of summer living with one parent. From the very first summer after high school graduation to all those summers in-between each year of school…get the financial support that you and your child are entitled to from the other parent. Common Mistake:  In my experience this sort of financial obligation is not as well known as traditional child support and thus is not as likely to be pursued. Or even if a college expense contribution is made, these periods of “recess” are ignored even though they are part of the statute.

Act now because with the above items, time is money!


01. August 2013 by Kelly Thames
Categories: Child Custody, Child Support, Divorce, Modification & Enforcement, Paternity, Visitation | Leave a comment

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