Crafting a Child Visitation Schedule in Illinois

Jonathan Merel

Most parents envision having an active relationship with their children – full of good times, laughs and fond memories. Rarely do people plan on being single parents or imagine going through the process of splitting time with their children with their former spouse. Many individuals whose marriage ends in a divorce or have a child out of wedlock never expected it. Whether you are in the process of a divorce or a parentage case for child custody in Illinois, a very important task may be establishing a child visitation schedule.

A child visitation schedule or parenting time, as it is commonly referred to, is the amount of time the non-residential parent spends with the minor child. Parenting time arrangements are unique to each family. The objective of establishing a parenting schedule is to maximize parental involvement and allow the child to thrive from having as much interaction with both parents.

Section 607 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that the non-residential parent is entitled to reasonable time with the child (unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health).  “Reasonable time” is very open-ended, and as such, may be interpreted in a variety of ways. The prospect of parenting time and specifically delineating the amount of parenting time each parent will have with the child(ren) often causes contention between the parties.

There is no exact science to establishing a child visitation schedule in Illinois. Rather, guidelines are used, which often coincide with the minor child’s age, development and relationship with his or her parents. The younger the child is, typically less time is initially spent away from the primary caregiver.

In addition to setting a weekly parenting schedule, attorneys at The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel can assist in developing a holiday parenting schedule. The holidays can be a difficult time and it is best to plan far in advance and know which parent will have the child(ren) for each specific holiday throughout the year. Although, if given a choice, most parents would like to spend every holiday with their child(ren), by developing a holiday parenting schedule, both parents are able to plan for the year ahead and make arrangements for the child(ren) when it is his or her year to celebrate with them.

It is not advisable to enter any agreement before consulting a family law attorney if you have any doubts regarding how well or if the child’s other parent will follow the agreement. A child visitation schedule can be set in stone for as little or as long as each parent agrees to. Often times, it is ideal to reevaluate the parenting schedule as the children reach different age milestones and their needs change.

It is important to note that regardless of any child visitation schedule, parties are always free to adjust their parenting time if they are able to come to an agreement outside of court. Many parents find that in regards to parenting time, as with many other things, trial and error often dictates many of the nuances associated with carving time out and schedule changes that might not have initially been transparent when the agreement was entered into. However, it is important to never withhold parenting time or unilaterally decreasing time from the other parent. Doing so can jeopardize any withstanding agreements and cause the other parent to seek relief from the court in order to enforce the current parenting schedule.

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