First, who is going to decide the major issues in your children’s lives, educational choices, medical decisions, their religious upbringing and what extra-curricular activities they engage in?
Like the vast majority of cases today, you are likely to agree that both of you will make those decisions together. But of course, that is not always the case. Let’s say the father or mother has been completely absent from the children’s lives until now or the other parent is severely impaired by addiction to drugs, alcohol or even gambling. You might want to insist you make those decisions or that you will at least consult him or her but you will have the final say. Custody is not just about with whom the children live. It is also about decision making.
Once the decision making is determined, you will need to set up a parenting schedule in writing. When do dad and mom spend time with the kids? Will it be every other weekend and one night a week or will it be one week on and one week off? Some parents agree to alternating every 3 to 4 days. This is for the two of you to determine with the help of your attorney and perhaps a counselor or therapist if necessary.
Not only do you need to set forth the regular parenting schedule but you should put something in there about holidays. Are you going to alternate Christmas every other year? Are you going to put in a number of holidays such as July 4th and even Halloween? That is up to you to decide.
There also needs to be a provision on moving away because a specific procedure has to be followed. The parenting schedule will most likely be affected in a big way if you move more than 25 miles away in the Chicago Metropolitan Area and more than 50 miles away in areas outside that area in Illinois. You will need to give written notice to the other parent and if he or she objects, the Court will need to decide if you can move.
If you can’t agree on a Parenting Plan, you will be sent to mandatory mediation but please keep in mind that the Parenting Plan is meant to be flexible because the needs of your children change as they age and the parents’ circumstances change as well.
At my firm, we do everything we can to assist you in arriving at a Parenting Plan that meets your kids’ needs and provides the least stress as possible on your family.