The statute defines a parenting plan as a written agreement that allocates significant decision-making responsibilities (formerly custody), parenting time (formerly visitation), or both. Under the statute, both parents must file a proposed parenting plan within 120 days after filing a petition to allocate parental responsibilities. If the parties cannot agree upon a parenting plan, the court must eventually send the parties to mediation to help facilitate an agreement. As a result, the law encourages the parties to try to work out any issues involving their children by agreement. Since the law is designed to help the parties agree on these issues, what happens if you agree to something in a parenting plan, but change your mind later? Better yet, what happens if you agree to something in a parenting plan, but you and your former partner discover it doesn't really work for you or your schedules anymore? The good news is parenting plans can be modified. The bad news is they can only be modified under certain circumstances, and some of these circumstances are difficult to prove. Therefore, if you are going to enter into a parenting plan with your former partner by agreement, it is pertinent that you truly agree to the provisions set forth in the parenting plan.
Modification of parenting plans is determined under Section 610.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Under this section of the Act, the parties can simply modify their parenting plan by agreement. For instance, if you and your former partner discover that the parenting schedule doesn't really work with your schedules anymore, you could agree to change the schedule to something that does work for the both of you. This seems simple enough, but only works if you and your former partner are on the same page. If you and your former partner do not agree upon the changes, then changing your parenting plan becomes more difficult, depending on what part of the parenting plan you are trying to change.
Under Section 610.5 of the Act, if you want to modify the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities within two (2) years of the parenting plan being entered by the court, you must show that “there is reason to believe the child's present environment may endanger seriously his or her mental, moral, or physical health, or significantly impair the child's emotional development.” This can be very difficult to show because courts will not reallocate significant decision-making responsibilities to the parties within two (2) years of their agreement being entered unless the child is truly in some kind of serious danger. After the two years has passed, a court can modify the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities if the court finds that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the entry of the parenting plan and it would be in the child's best interests to make the change. Therefore, even if the two years has passed, you cannot simply modify your parenting plan because you don't like it anymore. Rather, you must show something has changed and that, because of this change, your parenting plan should be modified to serve the best interests of your child. If you want to modify the parenting time schedule, whether within two years or after two years of the entry of the parenting plan, all you have to show is that the circumstances have changed since the entry of the parenting plan and that the requested change to the parenting time schedule would be in the child's best interests.
If you feel you have grounds to modify your parenting plan and would like to speak to an attorney regarding the modification, feel free to contact our office for you free consultation.