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What Should You Include in Your Illinois Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a document that says who will make decisions for a child and how those decisions will be made. This often happens in a parental responsibilities case. These plans outline how you and the other parent will continue to care and provide for your children after you separate. 

It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan. The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children.

What to include in your plan:

  • Where the child lives
  • Time the child spends with each parent
  • How each parent gets information and records about the child
  • How the child is to be transported for parenting time

When filing one plan, both parents must sign the plan indicating they agree on all the terms of the document. If parents do not agree, they must file separate plans. The court will look at each detail of both plans to determine what’s in the best interest of the child or children. 

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.

Once both plans have been created and shared with the court to examine each parent’s responsibilities, the court can accept the plan and it becomes a Joint Parenting Order. After the Joint Parenting Order is in place, changes cannot be made to it for two years. 

If either parent does not follow the order, they are breaking the law and can be taken to court. The purpose of a court order for parental responsibilities is to protect both parents’ rights when it comes to the care and decision-making responsibilities of the child.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

There are three basic types of child allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois — joint allocation of parental responsibilities, sole allocation of parental responsibilities and shared allocation of parental responsibilities:

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities requires parents to cooperate in decision-making regarding education, health care and religious instruction. It does not mean that the children live with each parent for an equal amount of time. The parties will agree or the court will assign a residential parent. The non-residential parent will pay child support and exercise parenting time. The amount of time the children spends with the non-residential parent is addressed in a parenting time agreement or order.

Sole allocation of parental responsibilities is the term that describes the arrangement that gives one parent the responsibility for deciding everything related to the child’s welfare. It does not mean that the other parent is out of the picture. Parenting Time and parenting time can be the same in a sole allocation of parental responsibilities case as it is in a joint allocation of parental responsibilities case.

Shared allocation of parental responsibilities is a form of joint allocation of parental responsibilities. It is appropriate when the child spends equal time with each parent, the parents reside in the same school district and are able to join parents.

Parenting planning of your child can be a very emotional law topic. It can become complicated and require much interaction between the parents and the court. It’s in your best interests to hire an experienced attorney if you need assistance with parental planning issues.

Hiring Legal Help

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.

 

Child Custody During COVID-19 and The Holidays

Dealing with child custody issues is stressful enough. Dealing with child custody issues during the COVID holidays poses an entirely complicated dilemma. Here’s how keep the magic alive for your children and ensure that the 2020 holidays are your best yet.

Shared custody is raising COVID-19 concerns as kids travel between households for the holidays this year. Millions of children split their time between parents every week and even more so during the holidays, but concerns over pandemic safety can make that time even more stressful.

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
  • There may be a second wave and more shelter-in-place orders

These new and complex issues may be even more difficult if the courts backed up with cases because of the nationwide lockdowns this past year.

If you’re concerned about COVID-19 and your child’s holiday visitation schedule, then there are steps you can take to work it out with your co-parent, and then go directly to the court to ensure it is legally binding.

Parenting Time COVID Rules

Unless your specific court order prevents out-of-state travel or has other restrictions, then generally speaking, each parent may choose to travel during the holidays even during the pandemic, whether or not the other parent agrees. However, violating state travel laws, CDC and state quarantine guidelines and court-ordered visitation arrangements can potentially affect a custody case. Furthermore, personal issues may also arise when one parent feels safe with airline travel or interstate travel and the other parent prefers to stay at home and self-isolate.

First and foremost, if you chose to travel with your children during the holidays, check in advance for any quarantine restrictions. Following state-imposed guidelines while traveling and attending events during the holidays will help minimize or reduce any potential impact to your custody arrangement.

In Illinois, the Department of Public Health (IDPH) is offering recommendations on how to celebrate safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.  During a time when social distancing and limiting the number of people at gatherings is important, special considerations should be taken.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “While the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually, we know, for many, the holidays are all about family and friends, so we want to provide some tips on how to celebrate safer.”

The guidelines also say if you are hosting a holiday gathering, limit the number of guests and try to have as many activities outside as weather permits.

What this Means for Separated Parents

This is going to be a long winter for our country, businesses, schools, and families — no doubt. It will take a child-focused, selfless perspective by countless co-parents this holiday season in how to best approach visitation and traditions with families and children.

First and foremost, you must remember that child custody agreements in Illinois, and in every other state, are legally binding. As long as a parent is following these state guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions, most judges will not alter custody orders to prevent one parent from traveling with the children.

While it’s tempting to want to ask that you have your children for the entire holiday season, you should not be angry or upset with your ex-partner if you are denied this due to the schedule set by the court. This year, it is highly suggested that people who live together celebrate together, rather than mixing households. Consider hosting a virtual holiday get together or check in with your kids and mailing your gifts instead. We know it hurts to not be able to visit your children for the holidays, but if it means risking your own life to do so, it’s worthwhile to heavily consider the alternatives.

If you believe a holiday visitation or celebration could place your child and your family at a heightened risk for COVID-19, you should communicate this fact to the other parent and/or your attorney. Offer some safer options and attempt to be as flexible and compassionate as possible. Always try to set emotion aside and as parents, choose what is best for your children and your family as a whole.

Final Thoughts

This is going to be a long winter for our country, businesses, schools, and families — no doubt. It will take a child-focused, selfless perspective by countless co-parents this holiday season in how to best approach visitation and traditions with families and children. Most of all, keep in mind who the holidays are the most special for: your children.

If you need legal assistance to modify a child custody or parenting time agreement to reflect new choices that better keep your family safe, contact the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group. We represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule.

 

Making a Parenting Plan for Thanksgiving

If this is your first Thanksgiving as a divorced or separated parent, there could be a lot of confusion wondering how to create a fair parenting plan. If the holiday periods haven’t been defined in the custodial arrangements yet, make sure that you are creating a plan that is fair and takes the best interest of the children into consideration.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday November 26th. A time designed for family gatherings, it’s a tough spot for many recently-divorced or separated parents.

Because Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend are times when both parents want to be with the child or children, you want to make solid arrangements for this holiday in your holiday schedule. The obvious answer is to divide up the holidays, but it’s often hard to imagine how the holidays could be split in a way that feels fair to everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the options for splitting custody for Thanksgiving and other important holidays.

Alternating Holidays

For many parents, it makes sense to take an odd/even approach to the holiday season. For example, one parent could have the child/children for Thanksgiving on odd years, but Christmas for even years. The other parent would have the children for Thanksgiving on odd years and Christmas on even years. This way, each parent has their children for some of the big holidays every year, and they never go more than one year without their child for any given holiday.

Fixed Holidays

An an alternative choice by parents during the holidays is a fixed holiday schedule. This takes a more simple approach of assigning a certain holiday, every year, to a certain parent. While this could cause some form of conflict for those to want to alternate the holidays, it works well for separated couples with different religions. For example, if one parent is Jewish, they will have the child(ren) over Hanukkah, and if the other parent Christian, they will have the child(ren) over the Christmas holidays. However, this does leave holidays like Thanksgiving up for debate where individuals of almost every religion celebrate throughout the United States.

Split Holidays

Split holidays are a great idea if both parents live close together as the child(ren) can spend Thanksgiving (or any holiday) with BOTH parents at different locations. The only thing to decide upon is the time. For example, one parent can have custody the day prior and the first half of Thanksgiving day, then the other parent has custody the second half of the Thanksgiving and the following day. For obvious reasons, if the parents’ homes or holiday celebrations are too far apart, it can get more complicated.

Double Holidays

Finally, some parents may choose to run “double holidays” where they both have a day of celebrations, just on different days. Parents can simply let the custody schedule play out as is, letting whichever parent would normally have the child on the official holiday date celebrate that day, and the other parent can celebrate with the child on their next scheduled visit. Alternatively, parents can designate a date for the second holiday – one parent celebrates Thanksgiving on the 26th and the other celebrates on the 30th. In this scenario, parents could alternate years so that they each get the official holiday every other year.

Final Thoughts

The prospect of formulating a custody calendar is a daunting task for many recently divorced or separated parents.  Working directly with your co-parent to create your joint custody schedule and holiday custody plan is a great way to keep the peace. Your schedule will be unique to your family dynamic and must be sensitive to each of your personal schedules, but most importantly, putting the welfare of the children should always come first and foremost.

Parenting Time Rights with Masters Law Group

From allocation of parental responsibilities to legal separation matters and parenting time rights, Masters Law Group focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children.

We understand parenting time of your child is a very emotional law topic, especially during the holidays. Masters Law Group represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. Are you facing a family law issue involving the children? Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.