Illinois Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The laws about Illinois parenting plans and agreements are found in Part VI of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

Here are some guidelines from the law to help you make your parenting agreement.

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Joint custody and sole custody

Joint custody means that both parents make decisions for the child and are involved in raising the child. The court will consider awarding joint custody if either or both parents request it or if the judge thinks it is best for the child.

The court will consider the following when deciding to award joint custody:

  • The ability of the parents to cooperate in matters that affect joint parenting the child
  • The ability of the parents to comply with a Joint Parenting Agreement and Order
  • The residential circumstances of each parent
  • All other factors which may be relevant to the best interest of the child

Joint custody does not mean that the parents have equal parenting time. The parents will need to decide where the child lives and how much time the child spends with each parent.

If parents do not have joint custody, they have a sole custody arrangement. With sole custody, one parent has the authority to make decisions for the child. The other parent has visitation with the child.

Joint parenting agreement

If either parent asks for joint custody or the court thinks joint custody is best for the child, the parents must submit a parenting plan called a Joint Parenting Agreement to the court.

Your Joint Parenting Agreement should include:

  • Each parent's powers, rights, and responsibilities for the personal care of the child
  • A parenting time schedule that shows when the child is with each parent
  • Each parent's rights and responsibilities in making major decisions for the child
  • Information about the child's education, religious training, and health care
  • A way that proposed changes, disputes, and alleged breaches will be resolved
  • A way that the parents will periodically review and make changes to the agreement

You can also include other provisions or information that will help you and the other parent understand your responsibilities and roles in raising your child.

Right of first refusal

The right of first refusal is when a parent must first offer the other parent the opportunity to take the child if the parent is leaving the child with a child-care provider.

If you include the right of first refusal in your agreement, you need to include the following:

  • The length and kind of child-care requirement invoking the right of first refusal
  • How the parents will notify each other and respond to notification
  • The transportation requirements
  • Any other action necessary to protect and promote the best interest of the child

You and the other parent can agree to include the right of first refusal in your parenting agreement or the court can order it. If the court orders it, the court will make provisions for the above information.

Factors that affect the child's best interest

The court will approve or order an agreement that is in the best interest of the child.

In deciding what is best for the child, the court will consider:

  • The wishes of the child's parent about custody
  • The wishes of the child about the custodian
  • The interaction and relationship of the child with the parents, siblings, and others
  • The child's adjustment to home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • The willingness of each parent to encourage a close relationship between the other parent and the child
  • The physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child's potential custodian
  • The occurrence of ongoing or repeated abuse, whether directed against the child or directed against another person
  • Whether one of the parents is a sex offender
  • The terms of a parent's military family-care plan if a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed

You should also consider these factors as you make your agreement.

Process to make the Joint Parenting Order

Your Joint Parenting Agreement is called the Joint Parenting Order after the court accepts it. A parent who doesn't follow the Joint Parenting Order is breaking the law and can be taken to court.

You and the other parent can negotiate a Joint Parenting Agreement together and submit it to the court. The judge will most likely approve your agreement and it will become the official Joint Parenting Order.

If you and the other parent cannot agree on your parenting agreement, the court may order you to attend mediation. In mediation, you and the other parent will work with a neutral third party to resolve your conflicts and make an agreement.

If you fail to make a Joint Parenting Agreement, the court will make one for you. The judge may order that an investigation be conducted before deciding on the agreement. The agreement that the judge decides becomes your Joint Parenting Order.

After your Joint Parenting Order is in place, you can't make any changes to it for two years.

Additional help

Cook County standard Joint Parenting Agreement

Sangamon County standard Joint Parenting Agreement

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Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting agreement documents and parenting schedules.

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