Allocation of Parenting Time
The 2016 changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the “Act”) appear to be the Illinois legislature’s acknowledgment that, in most households, both parents work, and children are becoming busier with school and extracurricular activities. This changing demographic requires each parent to accept more responsibility when it comes to their children. The Act now presumes that all parents are entitled to parenting time. When determining parenting time, formerly known as visitation, a judge will consider, among other elements, the level of involvement of each parent during the two (2) years immediately before a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities was filed. 750 ILCS 5/602.7(b)(3).
Along with the presumption that every parent is entitled to parenting time comes consequences for this presumption. Now, parenting time is not only a right, it is also a responsibility. A significant change to this section of the Act is the category described as “abuse of parenting time.” If a parent fails to exercise the parenting time allocated to him or her, the court has authority to use its contempt powers. This new addition to the Act will likely cause more litigation about parents who do not show up for their parenting time, or for parents who refuse to make a child available for the other parent’s parenting time.
Also, the Act now includes a section for the parent who has not been allocated any parental responsibilities. There is a presumption that a parent has a right to parenting time, unless it would “seriously endanger the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.” 750 ILCS 5/602.8(a). The Act redefines a “restriction” on parenting time as “any limitation or condition placed on parenting time including supervision.” (Emphasis added) 750 ILCS 5/600(i). The important addition is “or condition.” Now, if there is any argument over parenting time and a parent wants to impose a condition on another parent’s parenting time, that parent must show endangerment. This is yet another change to the Act that will likely lead to more litigation.
The Act was significantly revised to provide more controls and limitations on “relocation.” See 750 ILCS 5/600(g). The term “relocation” or “removal” means one parent’s moving a child’s residence away from his or her current residence and away from the other parent. Before the revisions to the Act, the parent requesting the removal could move the child anywhere in the State of Illinois without a court order; but a parent wanting to move with the child across state lines could not do so without a court order. For example, a parent could move his or her child from Chicago to Champaign, 140 miles downstate, without seeking the court’s permission, but would have to seek court permission to move the child 24 miles away to Indiana.
Fortunately, the Illinois legislature recognized that the old rule was not fair. Now the Act provides that a parent can move up to 25 miles across state lines or 50 miles within the State of Illinois without a court order. However, if a child and the parent seeking the removal live in the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, McHenry or Will, then the parent and child can only move up to 25 miles from the child’s current residence without a court order. 750 ILCS 5/609.2(h). Back to the example previously used, the parent wanting to move twenty-four (24) miles to Indiana with the child would now be able to do so without a court order; but the parent wanting to move to Champaign would not be able to do so without a court order. However, if the child moved with a parent to Indiana, the Illinois would continue to be the child’s home state.
It is important to remember that every case is different with varying circumstances and facts. Because of the potential for complicated and emotional issues for minor children of divorcing parents, it is best to choose an experienced attorney to advocate for yours and your children’s interests. With assistance from an experienced attorney, the parties can sometimes reach an agreement on a proposed parenting plan which in turn can avoid inconsistent and unpredictable allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. At Conniff Law Offices, our attorneys are experienced in family law with years of combined experience in divorce and allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Contact one of our attorneys today to see if we can help you determine what choices will be best for you and your family.