Modification of Existing Parenting Time Orders
Illinois family courts tend to follow guidelines and case precedent when issuing divorce decrees, especially absent any input from the spouses themselves regarding disposition of issues like parenting time. However, sometimes a parenting plan will need to be modified, and it is important to realize that there are certain requirements that must be followed before a change will be permitted.
Family Court Has Authority
The most important thing to realize going in is that only family courts may make definitive adjustments to divorce decrees - you are welcome to work out an agreement with your spouse as to parenting time or support, but these agreements do not have the force of law. A court will not abide by them unless you have these unofficial agreements added to your decree. It matters, especially if you and your spouse have a tumultuous relationship, because if you become engaged in a dispute and refuse to abide by your arrangement.
In Illinois, however, the law holds that unless the parties agree or there is found to be an immediate reason in the best interests of the child, any modification of terms may not be made before two years have passed. The rationale behind this is that unless it is a demonstrable emergency, it can be harmful to a child’s emotional and mental well-being to undergo too many changes to their living situation, and the arrangement arrived at initially must be given time to work before it can be amended.
Modifications If You Cannot Agree
If you and your spouse are able to agree on a parenting time modification, the court will likely certify your arrangement absent any glaring potential problems. If only one of you wants a modification, or if you cannot agree on the nature of the modification, the court will have to intervene, and they will do so with an eye to one thing above all else, at least when it comes to parenting time - the best interests of the child or children involved. Illinois state public policy is to ensure that children are kept as safe and healthy as possible, even if it may cause inconvenience or minor harm to parents.
The court will generally focus on a list of factors designed to evaluate exactly what may be in the child’s best interests. The factors are listed in the law, including the child’s own wishes, the degree to which the child is adjusting into the community, whether or not the parents can work together to make decisions, any history of violence or child abuse, and the mental, physical and emotional health of all involved. These factors are not the only ones considered - it is specified that the court may consider “any other factor [it] deems to be relevant.” Either way, the court will weigh these factors and modify the divorce decree accordingly.
Ask a Knowledgeable Attorney
Parenting time is one of the most hotly debated issues in divorces, and it is not at all uncommon for modifications to be necessary as children grow up, for the benefit of all. However, a modification must be made according to correct procedure. If you need help figuring out how to handle asking for a modification, the dedicated Kane County parenting time attorneys at Shaw Family, Law P.C. can assist. Contact our office today at 630-584-5550 to set up an initial consultation.