There are a variety of reasons why a judge would modify parenting time. In Illinois, legal parental agreements are binding, but the court may modify parenting time at any time to protect the best interest of a child. A parenting time agreement may be modified due to changes in family circumstances, custody arrangements, child safety concerns, and maturing children.
How to Modify Parenting Time in Illinois
When an Illinois divorce includes children, terms are set in place by the court to protect the best interests of the children. The divorce decree will include specific guidelines in reference to the division of property and assets, spousal and child support, child custody and visitation, and parenting time. Once a divorce is final, and the parenting agreement is in place, the decree is considered legally binding, and both parents are expected to follow the guidelines.
In some cases, one or both parents may want or need to modify the parenting time agreement because of a change in family circumstances, a change in child custody, safety concerns for a child, or if a child no longer lives at home. When a divorce settlement or parenting time plan is no longer appropriate, one or both parents may alter the terms of their parenting time agreement through an Illinois child custody and visitation lawyer who can help with completing necessary legal forms, drafting a motion to modify the agreement, signing and notarizing the motion, serving papers with a hearing date to the other parent, attending mediation or a prehearing, and appearing in court for a hearing.
Illinois law allows the court to modify parenting time agreements when changes are in the best interests of the child or children. However, the burden of proof is on the party seeking the modification. Although there is no statutory requirement that the petitioning party shows a change in circumstances from the last order, the court will presume that the previous order was in the best interests of the child. If nothing has changed, a modification may be difficult.
Parental decision-making responsibilities may only be modified 2 years after the date of the final order unless there’s a reason to believe the child’s present environment may endanger his or her mental or physical health, or significantly impair emotional development. In these circumstances, the courts may need to consider a supervised parenting time. Before modifying any parenting agreement, the court will consider the best interest of the child.
What Circumstances Allow the Modification of a Parenting Time Agreement?
Over time, it’s likely that family circumstances and children’s needs will change. Changes in family dynamics may be caused by a variety of factors that impact a parenting time agreement. A physical move, work schedule changes, a child’s relationship with a parent, and aging children can all create the need for a modification. The past parenting time agreement may become difficult to follow or even unworkable for one or both parents. Circumstances that allow modification may include:
- The physical and mental health of parents and children
- The child’s relationship and interaction with parents and siblings
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The wishes of the child and each parent
- The amount of time each parent spent caring for the child within the last 24 months
- Parents and children’s daily routines and schedules
What Is a Substantial Change of Circumstances?
When determining a modification for a parenting time agreement in Illinois, the court looks at the substantial change of circumstances that have a significant impact on the modification. Substantial changes include the following circumstances:
If one or both parents have significant financial changes, a parenting time modification may be necessary to protect the best interests of the children. Financial changes may be caused by the loss of employment, loss or increase in wages for one parent, unforeseen medical expenses, and one or both parents’ remarriage.
In Illinois, a relocation of more than 25 or 50 miles automatically qualifies as a “substantial change in circumstances.” The court considers that a move of this distance would interfere with a co-parent’s ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child. If parents have joint custody or shared parental responsibilities, the parent seeking the move must make adjustments to the agreement.
When a parent moves across state lines, modifying a parenting time agreement can be complicated because every state has its own laws regarding child custody and visitation. Parenting across state lines will require legal advice from a lawyer because custody and visitation matters are usually heard in the state that’s determined to be the child’s home state, which is where the child spends most of his or her time.
Catastrophic Illness or Injury
A catastrophic illness or injury to a parent may cause loss of employment and income, significant medical expenses, and long-term rehabilitation that may prohibit parenting time with a child. If one or both parents suffer disabling injuries, the modification for parenting time may need to include nearby relatives and caregivers.
If one or both parents remarry, this constitutes a substantial change of circumstances. When a parent remarries, children may encounter significant adjustments due to changes in living quarters, changes in schools and extracurricular activities, changes in friends, and new stepparents and step-siblings.
Death in the Family
A death in the family of a parent or sibling can create a substantial change of circumstances that require modifications to a parenting time agreement. The death of a parent will mean major changes for children who need to relocate and rely solely on the other parent for all of their physical and emotional needs including shelter, food, sleeping arrangements, and transportation to school and activities.
An Unfit Parent
When one parent believes the other parent is unfit or doesn’t provide a safe environment for the child, a modification can be used for restricting parenting time when your ex is endangering your child. If a parent is suspected of child abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, or mental illness, the parenting agreement can be modified to include only court-ordered supervised visitation.
In some cases, Illinois courts may restrict or deny parenting time or deny parental rights. When can a parent be denied parenting time or responsibilities in Illinois?
If a parent commits a violent act such as hitting, kicking, or physically attacking a child, the other parent can file a civil lawsuit for child abuse against that parent.
If a parent is convicted of a sex offense against a minor child, that parent may lose his or her rights to parenting time and responsibilities.
If a parent resides with a sex offender, he or she must notify the other parent of the living arrangement. If the other parent is uncomfortable with the living arrangement, he or she can challenge that decision in court with a child custody lawyer.
Modifying the Parenting Time Agreement Without a Change in Circumstances
When modifying a parenting time agreement, the court will consider a number of factors to make sure a change is warranted, especially in cases when you can’t settle on a parenting plan in Illinois. The court may modify a parental agreement without a change of circumstances if the modification is in the child’s best interest and one of the following circumstances exists:
- The modification reflects the actual arrangements the child has been receiving for at least the last six months.
- The modification is necessary based on any facts the court did not have at the time it issued the original parenting time agreement.
- The modification is minor and does not contain complex issues or unresolved issues about custody or visitation between parents.
- Both parents agree to the modification.
In Illinois, courts have broad discretion in determining whether modifying parenting time is appropriate.