In Illinois, parents who are going through a divorce or a child custody dispute can come to an agreement about how parenting time and parental responsibility for their children will be handled between them. This agreement is referred to as a parenting plan. While the court does not have to be involved in the negotiations of the actual parenting plan, the court does have to approve the final plan and enter it as an order so it may be enforceable. Without the parents’ mutual agreement, the court is required to make the final determination as to parental responsibility and time sharing.
Since the parents presumably know what the children’s best interests are, the parents can sometimes be in the best position to set up a plan that works for the children and the parents. When negotiating and making final decisions on the parenting plan, the parents could agree to share parental responsibility for the children on equal terms, or for one parent to take on the majority of the parental responsibility. The parents can also determine where the children will spend holidays and school break periods.
In some cases, the parenting plan that the parents agree to could be what is referred to as a step-up parenting plan. A step-up parenting plan is one that grants a parent more rights or access to the children upon completion of certain actions. This kind of plan is usually proposed in cases where there are addiction issues with one parent, or if the children are very young. For example, step one of the parenting plan could be that a parent with a drinking problem seek counseling and stay sober for a certain period of time. A parent’s failure to comply with the required steps could lead to the parent losing time sharing opportunities or other consequences as outlined in the parenting plan.
A step up plan can also be a good way for parents to arrange for the future in such a way that they do not have to return to court for a modification of the parenting plan when certain changes occur. For example, the parents could agree that when a young child turns one year old, he can have longer stays at a non-custodial parent’s home.
Once a court approves a parenting plan, it is enforceable and the parties are required to abide by it unless the parents return to court for a modification.
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Mutually agreed upon parenting plans are a good way for parents to work on their co-operation in order to co-parent. If you would like to learn more about negotiating a parenting plan outside of court, and how a step-up parenting plan may work, you need to contact an experienced Naperville child custody and visitation attorneys at the Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC for more information.