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New laws have taken effect in Illinois that replace certain definitions concerning family law and how divorced, separated, or otherwise unmarried parents spend time with their children. Senate Bill 57 became law as of January 2016 and contains significant changes about how and when visitation is allocated, which may affect you.

To start, terms like custody, visitation, and access have been removed from the lexicon of family law courts and have instead been replaced with the terms “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” By changing the language used by parents, lawmakers hope to foster a higher degree of cooperation between parents as they raise their children in separate households.

Under the new law, neither parent is designated as the “residential custodial parent” however, a parent may be designated as having the residence for the school district where the child may attend school. The changes also do not automatically grant equal time amongst parents. What is important to understand is that the courts give parents opportunities to work out these arrangements with each other before the court becomes involved.

Factors deciding parenting time in Illinois

In the event that parents are not able to agree on their own parenting plan, the courts may have to step in and implement a plan, taking into account the best interests of the child. The plan will designate which parent or parents will provide various caretaking functions for the child. Caretaking functions that are considered in Illinois include:

  • Managing the child’s nutritional needs, bedtime and wake-up habits, healthcare, hygiene, the child’s physical safety, and extracurricular activities;
  • Taking care of the child’s development needs like language, motor functions, and emotional wellbeing;
  • Disciplining, teaching manners, assigning chores, and other behavioral issues;
  • Making sure the child attends school and participates in remedial courses if necessary;
  • Helping the child develop interpersonal relationships with classmates and family;
  • Taking the child to necessary medical appointments;
  • Providing moral and ethical guidance; and
  • Ensuring alternatives for child care exist, either with family, professional child care, or a babysitter.

In cases where parents cannot agree to their own parenting agreement, courts may order the parties to attend mediation. If mediation fails, the courts may order a Guardian ad Litem or GAL to be appointed to investigate both parents, their homes, the children, and other people involved in the children’s lives. Another possibility is to appoint a Doctor level Psychologist to conduct a “Custody Evaluation” which also includes an investigation involving both parents, the children and other people involved in the children’s lives. Both a GAL and a custody evaluator will make a recommendation to the court regarding the best interests of the children, however, both processes involve the children directly and are costly, both financially and emotionally.

Can parenting time be reevaluated?

Illinois laws do allow parents to petition courts to modify parenting time as long as it is in the best interests of the child.

Downers Grove attorneys are able to assist you today

If you are looking to draft a parenting plan, modify a parenting time agreement, or petition the courts for increased parenting time with your child, contact the experienced Downers Grove attorneys of Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C for a consultation about your case. “Our law office serves clients throughout Naperville, Wheaton, Downers Grove, Lombard, Lisle, and Aurora.”

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