Illinois Laws Regarding Divorce Parenting Plans

Beginning January 1, 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) experienced some significant changes—mostly with how courts deal with the issues of children in a divorce. One of the changes to the IMDMA introduces the term "parenting plan." The IMDMA defines parenting plan as a "written agreement that allocates significant decision-marking responsibilities, parenting time, or both." Prior to the amendments to the IMDMA, parenting plans were commonly known as "custody judgments," "custody agreements," or "parenting agreements."

The IMDMA has now set forth procedural steps relating to parenting plans. The goal of the new IMDMA is to bring the issue of custody (allocation of parental responsibilities) to quicker resolution and to encourage parents to determine custody and parenting issues on their own and limit the court’s involvement in making those decisions on the parents’ behalf. In a divorce proceeding involving children, a proposed parenting plan must be filed with the court within 120 days of the filing of the divorce petition, the 120-day window may be extended by the court for good cause shown by either party. The court will require that the parties attend mediation to assist the parties in formulating, implementing, or modifying a parenting plan in the event the parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own.

A parenting plan must be set forth in writing and signed by both parents and must set forth, at a minimum, the following:

  1. an allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities;
  2. provisions for the child’s living arrangements and for each parent’s parenting time, including either: (A) a schedule that designates in which parent’s home the minor child will reside on given days; or (B) a formula or method for determining such a schedule in sufficient detail to be enforced in a subsequent proceeding;
  3. a mediation provision addressing any proposed reallocation of parenting time or regarding the terms of allocation of parental responsibilities, except that this provision is not required if one parent is allocated all significant decision-making responsibilities;
  4. each parent’s right of access to medical, dental, and psychological records (subject to the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act), child care records, and school and extracurricular records, reports, and schedules, unless expressly denied by a court order or denied under subsection (g) of Section 602.5;
  5. a designation of the parent who will be denominated as the parent with the majority of parenting time for purposes of Section 606.10;
  6. the child’s residential address for school enrollment purposes only;
  7. each parent’s residence address and phone number, and each parent’s place of employment and employment address and phone number;
  8. a requirement that a parent changing his or her residence provide written notice of the change at least 60 days prior to any other parent under the parenting plan or allocation judgment, unless such notice is impracticable or unless otherwise ordered by the court. If such notice is impracticable, written notice shall be given at the earliest date practicable. At a minimum, the notice shall set forth the following: (A) the intended date of the change of residence; and (B) the address of the new residence;
  9. provisions requiring each parent to notify the other of emergencies, health care, travel plans, or other significant child-related issues;
  10. transportation arrangements between the parents;
  11. provisions for communications, including electronic communications, with the child during the other parent’s parenting time;
  12. provisions for resolving issues arising from a parent’s future relocation, if applicable;
  13. provisions for future modifications of the parenting plan, if specified events occur;
  14. provisions for the exercise of the right of first refusal, if so desired, that are consistent with the best interests of the minor child; provisions in the plan for the exercise of the right of first refusal must include: (i) the length and kind of child-care requirements invoking the right of first refusal; (ii) notification to the other parent and for his or her response; (iii) transportation requirements; and (iv) any other provision related to the exercise of the right of first refusal necessary to protect and promote the best interests of the minor child; and
  15. any other provision that addresses the child’s best interests or that will otherwise facilitate cooperation between the parents.

In situations where the parents are unable to reach an agreement on a parenting plan and mediation is unsuccessful in reaching a resolution, the court will conduct a trial and resolve all parenting issues based on the best interests of the child.

For more information about parenting plans or other child custody and divorce issues, please contact Amil Alkass, a Partner with the Lavelle Law, Ltd. Family Law Practice Law Group at (847) 705-7555 or aalkass@lavellelaw.com.