A parenting plan outlines how you and the other parent will continue to care and provide for your children after you separate. Parenting plan modifications usually occur when there is a change in circumstances, such as one parent moving away, a child custody change, or a change in the visitation schedule.
If you have a parenting plan in Illinois, it includes a schedule which shows when your child is with each parent. Your schedule should include the daily living schedule, holidays and vacation time. When a parenting plan is finalized by agreement or a court decision, formal modification of that parenting plan requires court action. As a result, courts have developed a system for classifying child support and parenting plan modifications in order to establish a threshold for evaluation of any changes.
Here are some important things to know about parenting plans:
- Each parent must file a parenting plan within 120 days of asking the court for parental responsibilities;
- If the parents agree on parental responsibilities, including parenting time, they can file one parenting plan (signed by both parents) within the 120 days. If the parents don’t agree, they must each file their own parenting plans;
- If neither parent files a parenting plan, the court will hold a hearing to determine the child’s best interests; and
- The court will look at the parenting plans when it decides who gets parental responsibilities.
Grounds for Modification
A parenting plan should provide for a child’s changing needs, in a way to minimize the need for future modifications, but they are not always perfect for those involved. While the court, attorneys and parents try to create a Parenting Plan that provides a schedule for the parents to follow until the child turns 18, life sometimes creates obstacles for parents that make the parenting plan difficult or even impossible to follow.
Concerns over pandemic safety can make that time even more complex. Parents are facing unforeseen issues this year such as:
- The child having to travel to another part of the state, or another state altogether, to visit their parent
- One parent living in a COVID-19 hotspot
- One parent had COVID-19 or is currently experiencing symptoms
- One parent is not being careful about COVID-19 and could be putting the child in danger
- One parent does not feel the virus is a true health threat
- One parent is immunocompromised and in isolation
Despite the many challenges the pandemic has brought, your parenting schedule may be modified ONLY by the court. The court will only grant a modification if they find a “Substantial Change in Circumstance” or that that it is in the best interests of the children, known as “Best Interests.” The law states:
Sec. 610.5. Modification.
(a) Unless by stipulation of the parties or except as provided in Section 603.10 of this Act, no motion to modify an order allocating parental decision-making responsibilities, not including parenting time, may be made earlier than 2 years after its date, unless the court permits it to be made on the basis of affidavits that there is reason to believe the child’s present environment may endanger seriously his or her mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development. Parenting time may be modified at any time, without a showing of serious endangerment, upon a showing of changed circumstances that necessitates modification to serve the best interests of the child.
Modifying Your Parenting Plan
To make amendments to your parenting plan, follow these steps:
- If an agreement cannot be met, obtain the current parental responsibilities order so the judge can see the ongoing arrangements.
- Fill out your parental responsibility modification forms.
- File your forms with the court. Your family law attorney can assist with completing and filing your forms.
- Tell the other party about your petition and court date. You will need to complete:
- Motion to Modify Parental Responsibilities: This is critical and needs to be filled out carefully. Be sure to include as many details as possible. If you forget to ask for something in your motion, the court cannot give it to you. Remember to attach a copy of the Parental Responsibilities Order you are trying to change to your motion. If the parental responsibilities order is part of another order such as a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage or Parentage order, also attach a copy of that order to ensure it is complete.
- Notice of Motion
- Affidavit (Use only if it has been less than two years since the order was signed. This must state why you want the parental responsibilities changed so soon.)
- Child support forms: If child support is changing, you also need to complete additional forms. Child support will change if the parent receiving support is changing from one parent to the other.
- Go to the Hearing. The judge will make a decision and enter an order which will explain the decision.
Hiring Legal Help
You have the right to represent yourself in court. However, you are expected to follow the court’s rules and procedures. Most people who work in the courthouse cannot give you legal advice; meaning they cannot help you decide what to do, evaluate your possibility of success, or present your argument to the judge. Hiring an attorney highly experienced in family law will help you understand your legal options and create a plan for what comes next.
Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. We help clients put aside their grief and educate them about their options in child allocation of parental responsibilities.
We represent individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. If you require a review of your current parenting time schedule or parenting plan, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.