Modification of Parenting Time
Over time, the needs of children change, and so do the circumstances of their families’ lives. Children grow older. Parents move, change jobs, and their work schedules change. Sometimes, children grow closer to one parent, and sometimes they drift apart from the other. It may even be the case that one or both parents haven’t been following the parenting time order currently in place. As a result, the parenting time schedule that had been best for the child in the past may now be unworkable. In such cases, modification of parenting time orders may be necessary.
Illinois law allows parenting time schedules to be modified by the court whenever the modification would serve the best interests of the child or children. The burden of proof is on the party seeking the modification. Although there is no statutory requirement that the petitioning party show a change in circumstances from the last order, generally speaking, this is a practical requirement. Courts will presume that the previous order was in the best interests of the child. If nothing has changed, it will be difficult for the parent seeking the modification to articulate why the modification is best for the child.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement regarding parenting time, court must still approve of the agreement in order for it to be legally enforceable. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on their own, in most cases, the court will require the parties to attend mediation in an effort to resolve the issue. If mediation is unsuccessful, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem, attorney for the child, child’s representative, or in some cases, a custody evaluator. In each of those cases, the court would be seeking the participation of a third party in order to determine the visitation schedule that serves the child’s best interests.
The “best interests” factors are roughly the same for allocation of decision making as they are for parenting time, and can be summarized below as follows:
- The wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
- The wishes of the child as to parenting time;
- The amount of time each parent spent caring for the child in the last 24 months;
- Any prior agreements, whether formal or evidenced by the parents’ course of conduct;
- The child’s interaction and interrelationship with the parent(s), siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
- The child’s adjustment to his home, school and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- The needs of the child;
- The distance between the parents’ homes, the parents’ daily schedules, the child’s daily schedule, factors relating to the cost and / or difficulty transporting the child from one home to the other, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
- Whether it would be appropriate to impose any restrictions on parenting time;
- Any physical violence of threat of physical violence by the child’s parent, whether directed against the child or another person;
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
- Any incidents of abuse against the child or another member of the household;
- Whether either of the parents is a sex offender; and
- The military status of the parents
In addition to those factors, the court can also consider any other factor that it deems relevant to the best interests of the child. Accordingly, the courts have broad discretion in determining whether or not a modification is appropriate.
If you require a review of your current parenting time schedule or parenting plan, you should speak with a knowledgeable to assess your options and determine the best strategy for your case. At Kollias & Giese, P.C., we know that every family has different schedules, and that what works best for one family may not work best for yours. We have decades of experience negotiating and drafting a wide spectrum of custody and visitation plans for clients throughout the greater Chicago area. In cases where restrictions are appropriate, we have experience successfully litigating such cases to ensure the safety of the children.