Following your divorce, separation, or breakup from your child’s other parent, you may have been granted a majority of the parenting time with your child. Your child may live with you most of the time, using your address for enrolling in school and participating in activities provided by the local municipality. It is easy for a parent in such a situation to presume that because he or she has more of the parenting time, he or she is also responsible for making most of the important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. This presumption, however, would be inaccurate as the law in Illinois considers parenting time and decision-making authority to be distinct concepts that are not necessarily dependent on one another.
Allocating Parental Responsibilities
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that parental responsibilities—formerly known as child custody—are divided into two primary considerations. The first includes significant decision-making authority for the child’s life. Such authority is roughly comparable to the previous understanding of legal custody, which concerned each parent’s role in deciding on important issues in the child’s life, including education, medical care, religious training, and extracurricular activities. Based on the best interest of the child and each parent’s strengths, decision-making authority can be granted to one parent, divided between both parents by area of concern, or shared equally between the parents.
The second primary parental responsibility consideration deals with the parenting time allocated to each parent, covering the previous understanding of physical custody. It is very difficult and often unreasonable for parents to share parenting time exactly 50-50. This means that in most situations, one parent will have more parenting time than the other. The parent with the majority of the parenting time will typically use his or her address as the child’s permanent address for registration in school and similar concerns.
Despite the appearance of having more parental responsibilities, a majority of the parenting time does not mean that the parent has any more authority than the other for making important decisions for the child. It is not uncommon for parents with unequal amounts of parenting time to share decision-making authority equally, and such allocations are taken very seriously by the court.
In fact, a recent ruling by an appeals court in Illinois highlighted the distinction between the two concepts. Stemming from an allocation of parental responsibilities proceeding in DuPage County, the case involved a mother who attempted to ignore—in the opinion of both the trial and appellate courts—the requirements of shared decision-making authority simply because she had more parenting time than the father.
Develop a Reasonable Parenting Plan
If you are involved in a dispute over parental responsibilities or parenting time for your children, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. The compassionate team at Pucci Pirtle is prepared to help you create a parenting plan that meets your needs and protects your child’s best interests. Schedule a confidential consultation at our office today.