How is Parenting Time Determined in Illinois?

Whenever two parents are getting divorced or no longer are in a relationship, the question of parenting time will need to be addressed. In most cases, each parent will have the right to see their child; however, it must be decided how the two parents will share time with their child.

If the two parents can agree on a parenting time schedule, the court will review the plan and consider whether it should be approved (which typically happens in the vast majority of cases). If the parents cannot agree or if the court rejects a submitted schedule, the court will then have to decide how parenting time will be allocated.

How the Court Allocates Time

In the past, Illinois family courts focused only on the best interests of the child when determining how parenting time would be shared. However, in 2016, the law in Illinois changed, and judges are now required to examine a number of factors in addition to the best interests of the child. These factors are intended to result in a schedule that works for everyone involved – both parents and the child.

Factors considered when allocating parenting time in Illinois now include the following:

  • The time each parent wants to spend with the child;
  • How the child feels, if the child is mature enough to provide reason to support their wishes;
  • How much time each parent has spent taking care of the child in the past two years;
  • Whether the parents had previously agreed on a caretaking arrangement;
  • How the child interacts with each parent and members of each household;
  • The child’s ability to adjust to their home, community, and school;
  • The physical and mental health of each parent and the child;
  • The needs of the child;
  • Whether each parent is willing to put the child’s needs first;
  • The practicality of an arrangement based on the distance between each parent’s home and daily schedules;
  • The parents’ ability to work together to make the plan work;
  • Each parent’s willingness to foster a meaningful relationship with the child;
  • Any threat of violence to the child, abuse against the child, or sex offender status of a parent;
  • Any other factor that the court decides is relevant.

Other “relevant factors” can include almost any information the court has regarding the behavior of the parents. In contentious situations, parents may make many accusations against the other to the court about alcohol use or other flaws to try to get additional parenting time.

How I Help Clients in Seeking their Parenting Time Goals

Because there is a presumption in Illinois law that both parents are qualified to spend parenting time with their children, and because courts consider that children benefit by spending significant parenting time with each parent, only in extenuating circumstances (such as physical or sexual abuse or when a parent poses a direct threat to the welfare of a child) will parenting time be denied (or supervision of the parent be required). Thus in most cases the question will not be whether a parent is entitled to parenting time, but rather the amount and schedule or parenting time.

Determining parenting time schedules can sometimes be difficult.  As an experienced Rockford divorce lawyer, I help my clients focus on their objectives and then use creative problem-solving in helping to reach agreement with counsel for the other spouse. It’s important for both parents to understand that in almost all cases it is much better for the spouses to reach an agreement concerning the best parenting time schedule for them rather than to leave such schedule up to the court (who will not necessarily know about a specific time and other constraints on parents or have the same vested interest as the parents in determining what parenting schedule will work the best).

Please call me so that I may learn about your parenting time needs, and so that I can then speak with you about how I and my firm can help you.

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