Very few divorce agreements ever remain totally unmodified, and some of the most common modifications involve parenting time. For a variety of reasons, parenting time divisions are extremely likely to change, though in some cases it is possible to successfully oppose the change. Regardless of which side of a proposed change you are on, knowing how the law around parenting time works can always be helpful.
Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities
The law surrounding child custody in Illinois has recently undergone significant modification. In January 2016, a revamped Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) took effect, and made major changes to the issues of child custody and support (among others). The new terminology reflects the fact that sole or joint custody is no longer awarded to either parent. Instead, the “allocation of parental responsibilities” reflects the state’s wish for a more cooperative parenting approach. Rather than ceding custody to one parent or the other, responsibility for making various decisions on the child’s behalf is apportioned. The amount of parenting time does not necessarily mirror the amount of parental responsibility granted to you, though it may.
There are very few grounds for which a change in parenting time will be approved, but of the ones that qualify, all of them must be shown to relate to the best interests of the child. In Illinois, the best interests of the child must guide all decisions made regarding parental responsibility, parenting time, support, and similar considerations. While a court will endeavor to not put parents at intentional disadvantages, the child’s safety and security must come first.
How Can I Get More Parenting Time?
In Illinois, the most common way to seek more parenting time is to show that a substantial change in your circumstances—or the child’s—has occurred, and in order to serve the best interests of the child, a modification is necessary. It used to be necessary to show that such a “substantial change” had occurred by clear and convincing evidence, but since the modification of regulations in 2016, only a preponderance of the evidence is necessary. A preponderance of the evidence is a lower standard than clear and convincing, meaning that you are not required to show as much evidence in support of your petition as you used to have to present.
It is also possible to get more parenting time if certain other, less common events occur. Most courts, for example, will agree to a modification of your divorce agreement if it reflects the pattern of parenting time that has already been going on in recent months. If you have already been having, for example, one extra night with your child, and nothing negative has occurred, a court will likely see no reason to deny a request to formalize the new arrangement. A modification may also be granted if it is very minor or if the parties preemptively agree to the change.
Need Clarification on Parenting Time?
It is easier than one might assume to modify your divorce agreement in favor of more parenting time for you. However, it is still not an undertaking that should be managed alone. Our skilled Kane County divorce modification attorneys are happy to sit down with you and help you find the best way forward for your situation. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule a free initial consultation.