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Divorce in Chicago can be highly challenging at an emotional level, especially for parents with young children. In Illinois over the decades, family law has evolved to focus on the well-being of the child, replacing the terms “child custody” and “child visitation” with “decision making” and “parenting time,” respectively. The state’s legal framework emphasizes the child’s best interests, empowering courts to consider all relevant factors in determining the ideal arrangements for the child’s health and overall welfare.

Illinois law strongly favors joint co-parenting, with most cases resulting in shared decision-making authority and parenting time. However, sole parental responsibilities (previously called “custody”) may be granted if it serves the child’s best interests.

At Swietkowski & Swietkowski, P.C., you will be connected with an experienced family law attorney in Chicago who is dedicated to protecting your rights as a parent, whether through court proceedings or reaching a mutual agreement with your ex. We understand the complexities involved in parenting plans and are committed to providing you with strong legal support every step of the way during this challenging time.

What Is “Parenting Time” in Chicago?

Under Illinois law, “parenting time” refers to the time a child spends with each parent, and it encompasses all aspects of the child’s life, including daily routines, recreational activities, and special events.

The term “parenting time” was introduced in Illinois through the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) and replaced the previous term “visitation.” The purpose of the change was to highlight the importance of both parents being actively involved in their child’s life and to promote a more equal and collaborative approach to co-parenting.

The concept of “visitation” often implied that one parent was the primary caregiver, while the other parent had limited time and involvement with the child. By using the term “parenting time,” Illinois law aims to create a more balanced and cooperative environment for raising children, with both parents sharing in the responsibilities and experiences of parenting.

What Factors Do Chicago Courts Consider to Determine Parenting Time?

Illinois and Chicago courts consider several factors to determine parenting time based on the best interests of the child, including:

  • The wishes and preferences of both parents 
  • The child’s wishes and preferences, considering their age, maturity, and ability to express a reasoned opinion
  • The nature and quality of the child’s relationship with both parents, including the level of attachment, affection, and any shared interests
  • The child’s adjustment to their current living situation, school, and community, and how any changes in parenting time may impact this adjustment
  • The mental and physical well-being of the child, as well as both parents, to ensure that the allocation of parenting time does not pose any risks to the child’s health or safety
  • Each parent’s ability to promote and support the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The level of conflict between the parents and their ability to cooperate in making decisions regarding the child’s well-being
  • The distance between the parents’ residences and the potential impact on the child’s daily routine, including travel time and logistics
  • Each parent’s work schedule and availability to care for the child
  • Any history of violence, abuse, or neglect by either parent
  • Any incidents of abuse against the child or another household member
  • The sex offender status of either parent
  • Any threat to the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health
  • The military status of the parents
  • The appropriateness of imposing any restrictions on parenting time
  • Any other factor the court deems pertinent to the child’s best interests in the specific case
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When Can You Modify a Chicago Parenting Time Order?

As children grow and family circumstances evolve, the existing parenting time schedule may no longer be suitable for the child’s needs. Children mature, parents relocate, switch jobs, or experience changes in their work routines. Relationships between children and parents may strengthen or weaken, and sometimes parents may not want to or be able to adhere to the current parenting time order. In such situations, it might be necessary to modify the parenting time arrangements.

Under Illinois law, courts can modify parenting agreements to better serve the child’s best interests. The responsibility of proving the need for modification lies with the party requesting it.. Courts will assume that the previous order was in the child’s best interest, and without any changes, it would be challenging for the parent seeking modification to justify why a change is now in the child’s best interest.

Circumstances warranting a modification may include:

  • Changes in the child’s needs: As children grow, their educational, social, and emotional needs evolve, which may require adjustments to the parenting time schedule.
  • Changes in parents’ living situation: A parent’s relocation, changes in employment, or other shifts in living circumstances may necessitate a modification in parenting time.
  • Safety concerns: If there is evidence of abuse, neglect, or other threats to the child’s safety or well-being while in the care of one parent, a modification may be sought to protect the child.
  • Parental noncompliance: If one parent consistently fails to adhere to the agreed-upon parenting time schedule, a modification may be requested to establish a more suitable arrangement.
  • Improved parental circumstances: If a parent who previously had limited parenting time has improved their living situation, addressed any issues that previously limited their parenting time, or demonstrated a willingness and ability to be more involved in the child’s life, a modification may be pursued to increase their parenting time.

If both parties in Chicago or in Illinois can agree on a new arrangement, the court must still approve it for it to be legally enforceable. If the parties cannot reach an agreement independently, the court may mandate mediation to resolve the issue. If mediation is unsuccessful, or if the court determines that mediation would not be useful, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem,  or a child’s representative, or in some instances, a custody evaluator. In each of these scenarios, the court aims to involve a neutral third party to help determine the most suitable parenting time schedule for the child’s best interests.

What Happens When Parenting Time is Denied by the Chicago or Illinois Courts?

The parenting time schedule that has been approved by a court order should never be unreasonably denied. A court order should always be followed. Sometimes parents may think that they can withhold parenting time due to unpaid child support or an unrelated disagreement.  This is not reasonable or justifiable. Withholding parenting time can be justifiable only if there is an immediate safety concern for the child.

If the other parent declines to drop off your child or permit you to collect them at the start of your parenting time, you have several options at your disposal: reaching out to the police or contacting your attorney. Although the police generally won’t intervene in the parenting time exchange, they can create a report outlining the incident. 

Additionally, your attorney can file a petition to hold the interfering parent in contempt of court. Upon filing the petition, the interfering parent must demonstrate to the court any justifiable reason for refusing to obey the court order and allow parenting time. If the court deems their actions as unjustified or without compelling cause, the parent may be found in contempt, potentially leading to sanctions such as covering your legal fees.

A petition can also be submitted to adjust parenting time based on the interfering parent’s unwillingness to nurture a healthy bond between the child and the other parent.

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Trust the Leading Parenting Time Attorneys in Chicago to Uphold Your Rights

At Swietkowski & Swietkowski, P.C., we will prioritize and will work to uphold your parenting time rights in the Illinois or Chicago courts. Our skilled lawyers will assist you with:

  • Establishing a favorable parenting plan. Our dedicated team diligently helps separating couples reach an agreement on parenting time effectively and efficiently.
  • Finding a solution that safeguards your parental rights. Our attorneys are committed to guiding you towards a resolution that upholds your rights as a parent for years to come.
  • Striving for a just agreement. We aim for compromise whenever possible, but rest assured that we will not hesitate to vigorously defend your parenting time and parental rights if necessary.

To talk to one of our skilled and compassionate Chicago parenting time attorneys, contact us online or call us at (773) 207-8983 and schedule your free consultation.