In January 2016 amendments were made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of the Marriage Act. (“IMDMA”). These changes instituted new terminology, words like “custody” and “visitation” have been replaced with terms like “parental responsibility” and “parenting time” to emphasize the relevance of both parents and avoid lessening the significance of the role of either parent.
Division of Parental Decision-Making Responsibilities
During a marriage most people make decisions together. When divorce becomes a reality, judges want to establish a division of decision making authority that will best serve the interests of the divorcing parents’ children. The preference is that parents share decision-making responsibilities. This used to be called joint custody. Joint custody meant parents shared decision making authority regarding their children in the areas of education, health care, and religious upbringing.
Before this year’s amendments to the IMDMA went into effect, parents either had to share authority in all areas, or one parent had to be given sole authority in all of them. Now courts can simultaneously allow parents to share responsibility in one or two of these areas and award sole responsibility in the other area or areas.
It still can be appropriate for a parent to have sole decision making authority in one or more of these areas. This can be warranted if the other party has exhibited misconduct or inappropriate behavior such as violence, alcohol use, drug abuse, mental instability.
In addition to allocating parental decision-making responsibilities, courts decide how much “parenting time” each parent should have. Many people might be more used to the old terminology of “custody” and “visitation” but however it is labeled, the decisions parents and judges must make are equally significant.
Parenting time can be established either by agreement or by a court order. In the first case both parents will come to an agreement regarding parenting time and the court usually does not interfere with the mutual agreement. If an agreement is not reached, the court will hold a hearing to determine a schedule for parenting time. While this is sometimes necessary it is not ideal for parents or children when a court has to impose a parenting time schedule on the divorcing parents and their children.
Temporary maintenance and child support requests will now be heard on a summary basis. This is intended to lessen the amount of arguments from attorneys and allow a judge to make quicker decisions regarding temporary support.
It is always recommended to obtain skilled legal advice when a court is going to make decisions regarding your parenting time and responsibilities. If you are looking to establish or modify a division of parental responsibilities or a parenting time schedule, an experienced lawyer can guide you and protect your interests, and those of your children, at a very critical time.