For many parents, the most difficult and important questions in divorce all relate to their children. Where will the children live? What responsibilities will each parent have? How will they divide their time with the children? What can they do to help the children grow up healthy?

Even when both parents agree to the larger ideas of shared responsibilities and parenting time, they may run into plenty of other questions and disagreements. After all, life is complicated, and there’s a lot to consider. A good parenting plan will address both parents’ wishes within the context of the child’s best interests.

14 Mandatory Considerations

By law, Illinois parenting plans must address 14 different topics. These include:

  • Decision-making responsibilities
  • Parenting time
  • A plan for approaching future changes to decision-making responsibilities and parenting time
  • Parental rights to medical, dental, and psychological records
  • Designation of primary parent for use with certain forms
  • Designation of primary address for school enrollment
  • Each parent’s home and work contact information
  • Relocation guidelines
  • A plan for approaching relocation disputes
  • Emergency notifications
  • Guidelines for communication between parents and children
  • Transportation for exchanges
  • First refusal rights for extended child-care needs
  • A plan for changes to the parenting plan in the face of future disagreements

In addition, parenting plans may include other items that address the child’s best interests or that foster cooperation between parents.

Is it possible to customize your parenting plan?

Yes. It is possible for parents to customize their parenting plans. There is a standardized form available online that runs quickly through all the required questions, but it’s not very flexible. The form literally encourages parents to fill in the blanks and check the different boxes for each of the different questions.

Still, parenting plans can address things the form does not. If it is helpful, a parenting plan can go into more detail about children’s schedules and activities. It can address daily routines, visits with friends, and the ages at which parents agree children can participate in certain activities. After it satisfies the minimum requirements, a parenting plan can go in many different directions to ensure the child enjoys as healthy and smooth an upbringing as possible.

Parenting plans and mediation

Mediation isn’t just a good idea for Illinois parents; it’s required. Except in rare cases, Illinois parents must attempt to settle their parenting concerns in mediation before taking them to court.

Accordingly, it can be useful to think of mediation as more than a matter of compromise. You can be more creative and more certain of the final shape of your parenting plan if you can finalize it in mediation.