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The Parenting Plan

by Wes Cowell; updated 19 June 2018 -- suggest a correction.


When a divorce or parentage case is filed, the parents have 120 days to file with the court, jointly or separately, a proposed "Parenting Plan."  The parenting plan is a temporary device that will become a permanent arrangement that you'll be stuck with for at least the next two years.  Pay attention, be careful, and work with a lawyer.  Need advice?  Call, leave your info, or schedule a consultation.


120-Day Filing Deadline:  Illinois law (720 ILCS 5/602.10) requires the parents to file with the court a proposed "Parenting Plan" within 120 days from the date  the court papers are served on the Respondent (or the date the Respondent files his or her Appearance, if service of process is ignored).


Mediation Extension:  There will be a "status date" where the lawyers will explain to the judge whether the parties have reached a joint agreement on all issues of parental responsibilities.  That's all decision-making powers and all parenting time issues.  If the parties can't agree on ALL issues, the court will send them to mediation to work out the kinks unless "impediments to mediation" (a history of violence is the most common) exist.  At the conclusion of the mediation session, the mediator will report to the judge the points on which the parties agree and those points that remain unresolved.  That will set the stage for the judge to conduct a hearing and make a ruling deciding for the parents the things on which they could not agree.  


Agreed Extensions:  If the parents cannot agree on all points of a parenting plan, they may agree to give themselves an extension for one of three reasons:

  1. to continue mediation,

  2. to continue to work together outside of mediation

  3. for good cause (like, one parent has to travel so much for work that mediation efforts have been delayed).

750 ILCS 5/602.10(e)(1), (2), and (3).


An agreed court order must be prepared and presented to the judge to extend the time in which to submit the agreed Parenting Plan.


Agreed Parenting Plan:  If the parents can agree on all points, their agreement is written up, signed by the parents, and it is binding on the court.  That's right, the court MUST accept and approve your Parenting Plan so long as it isn't "unconscionable."  750 ILCS 5/602.10(d).

No Agreement -- Allocation Judgment:  If the parents cannot agree on a Parenting Plan, they each submit their own, separate, proposed Parenting Plan.  The judge then lines them up, approve the items on which the parents agree, and rule on the areas in which they don't.  When the judge has to line up the proposals and rule on un-agreed items, the document stops being a "Parenting Plan;" instead it is called an "Allocation Judgment."


FIFTEEN Elements to EVERY Parenting Plan:  The Parenting Plan may be as robust as parents wish.  At a minimum, however, it MUST include:

  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 schedule that designates in which parent's home the minor child will reside on given days; or

    • 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 at least 60 days prior written notice of the change 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:

    • the intended date of the change of residence; and

    • 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:

    • the length and kind of child-care requirements invoking the right of first refusal;

    • notification to the other parent and for his or her response;

    • transportation requirements; and

    • 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.

Court Rulings:  After the parties have had their 120 day window (plus any mediation extension) to work out a deal, and mediation has been completed, the court will resolve any remaining disputed issues with a mini-trial.  Nothing in the law requires that each parent be allocated decision-making responsibilities.  Sometimes the court awards 50 / 50 decision-making. . . and other times not so much.  These cases are difficult for the parents, for the lawyers, and for the judges:


In the first reported decision involving custody of a child (see  First Kings 3:16), Solomon, vested with plenary powers and unhamperred by precedent, rendered a judgment which has been cited through the ages as incontrovertible evidence of his great wisdom. Today, a trial judge is almost daily presented with custody problems which are far more complex.  

Elbe v. Elbe, 100 Ill. App. 2d 221, 226, 241 N.E.2d 328, 331 5th Dist., 1968).



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