Father Holding Child's Hand

Making Your Parenting Schedule Work for You

A Parenting Plan Guide for Illinois Parents

As a divorced parent or a parent going through a divorce in Illinois, creating a workable parenting plan is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your child’s well-being and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Making your parenting schedule work for you can be challenging, considering you should also want to serve your child’s best interests and provide a framework for effective communication and decision-making.

Illinois Family Law Has Changed

Although you’ll probably hear these words in regular conversation, Illinois no longer uses the terms custody and visitation for legal purposes. To encourage more cooperation and civility, instead of “child custody,” the state uses “allocation of parental responsibilities,” and instead of “visitation,” courts will refer to “parenting time.”

As you navigate the complexities of the family law legal system, one of the most important goals is to create a plan that meets your family’s unique needs. When you work with an experienced family law attorney in Illinois, they can help you focus on your goals and move forward with a workable resolution everyone can follow.

A dedicated family law lawyer can also help you understand your rights and options and advocate for you throughout the process. Contact an Illinois family law attorney today for specific advice and counsel about your case.

Understanding Parenting Schedules in Illinois

Parenting Time & Child Visitation

A parenting schedule outlines the time each parent spends with their child and the responsibilities they share in their child’s upbringing.

Illinois courts consider several factors when determining parenting schedules, including:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s developmental needs
  • The parents’ work schedules
  • Geographic distance between homes
  • The child’s school and extracurricular activities
  • The division of responsibilities between the parents over the last 24 months

Common types of parenting schedules include 50/50 (equal time), 60/40 (one parent has the child 60% of the time), and 70/30 split time. Parents may also devise customized plans based on their specific needs and constraints, such as parents who are active military service members.

When parents can work together and keep their children’s needs in mind, they can create the best parenting plan for their family. If an agreement isn’t possible, the court will order a schedule that will probably not be the best alternative for everyone.

Always Consider Your Child’s Best Interests

When developing a parenting plan, it’s crucial to prioritize your child’s best interests above all else. Cooperative parents can devise their own parenting schedules for the court to approve.

However, if parents can’t agree on terms, the court will make those decisions for them. In allocating parenting time, Illinois courts will consider “all relevant factors” regarding a child’s best interest, their wishes, and the wishes of the parents, among many other factors.

As you develop a parenting schedule, it’s crucial to consider how the proposed schedule may impact your child’s daily life, including schooling, extracurricular activities, and social connections. By keeping your child’s well-being at the forefront of your decision-making process, you can create a plan that fosters stability, security, and healthy development.

Choosing a Parenting Schedule That Works for You

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting schedules, as every family’s situation is unique. Some common parenting arrangements include:

  • Alternating weeks
  • 2-2-3 schedules where the child spends two days with one parent, two days with the other, and alternating three-day weekends
  • 3-4-4-3 schedule, where the child spends three days with one parent, four days with the other, and then reverses the pattern the following week
  • One day every week and alternating weekends

Parents can also devise parenting plans based on their specific needs and goals, which may differ from a typical plan ordered by the court. Before settling on a plan, consider your work schedules, your child’s needs, and the feasibility of each arrangement. Be open to making adjustments as needed to ensure the schedule works well for everyone involved.

It’s Important to Have a Solid Communication Plan

Effective communication is key to successful co-parenting. In your parenting plan, outline how you and your ex-partner will communicate about your child’s needs, schedules, and any changes that may arise.

Decide on a primary method of communication, such as email, text messaging, or a co-parenting app, and establish guidelines for response times and emergency situations. Setting clear expectations and maintaining open, respectful communication can minimize conflicts and ensure that your child’s needs are met.

In addition to physical custody arrangements, your parenting plan should address how you and your ex-partner will handle major decisions regarding your child’s upbringing. Major decisions may include:

  • Education – Where will your child attend school? If a private school is chosen, who will pay for the tuition?
  • Healthcare – Which doctors may treat your child? Should they have elective surgery? What type of medications can they take?
  • Religious practices – Will your child be raised in a certain religion? Who will be responsible for bringing the child to religious activities?
  • Extracurricular activities – Which activities should the child join? Are contact sports acceptable? Who will pay the cost of participation?

One of the most complicated decisions may be whether you will share legal custody, referred to now as parental responsibility, equally or if one parent will have the ultimate say in certain parenting areas. Establishing a clear decision-making process can avoid future disputes and ensure that your child’s best interests are always prioritized.

Consider Your Child’s Financial and Child Support Needs

Child's Financial Support Needs

Your parenting plan should also address your child’s financial needs and how you will share expenses with your ex-partner. These issues will include calculating child support payments, which state guidelines typically determine by considering factors such as each parent’s income, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and any extraordinary expenses.

Also, when developing your financial plan, be sure to consider your child’s current and future needs, such as healthcare costs, educational expenses, and extracurricular activities.

A Good Parenting Plan Will Also Maintain Your Goals

As you create your parenting plan, weighing your long-term goals is also important. Consider how the plan will impact your ability to maintain a strong, healthy relationship with your child and your personal and professional aspirations.

A compassionate parenting plan lawyer can help you make compromises where necessary without losing sight of your core values and priorities. Remember that your parenting plan is not set in stone, and a skilled family lawyer can help you modify the plan as your child’s needs and circumstances change over time.

How to Modify and Enforce Parenting Plans in Illinois

If you find that your current plan is no longer working well, don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of a family law attorney to help you understand and navigate the modification process. Not all court orders can be modified, so speak with a knowledgeable family lawyer to learn if you can request a modification and what the outcome may be.

An experienced lawyer can also help you enforce your parenting plan if your ex-partner fails to follow the agreed-upon or court-ordered terms. In all cases, your family law attorney’s goal should be to work with you to protect your rights and your child’s best interests.

Contact an Illinois Family Law Attorney Today to Discuss Your Parenting Schedule Concerns

Creating a workable parenting plan can be a complex and emotionally challenging process, but you don’t have to go through it alone. At Manassa Law, our team of experienced Illinois family law attorneys is dedicated to helping parents navigate the intricacies of divorce and child custody/parenting matters.

We understand each parent has unique challenges and are committed to providing personalized, compassionate guidance throughout the process. Whether you’re developing a new parenting plan, seeking to modify an existing one, or need assistance with enforcement, our team is here to help.

Contact us today for a free consultation and take the first step towards creating a better parenting plan that works for you and your child.

Larry Manassa