FAQ on Child Custody

If you and your child’s other parent are separating, you probably have many questions about how that will affect you and your child.

At Mitchell Highlander, LLC, we welcome the opportunity to help you respond to your concerns. For over a decade, we have helped parents resolve all sorts of custody and parenting time issues.

Call 618-803-4022 to discuss your specific situation with an experienced lawyer. From offices in Maryville and O’Fallon, we serve clients throughout Madison County, St. Clair County and Bond County.

What is the role of a formal parenting plan?

If you are on fairly good terms with your ex, you may be able to negotiate a joint parenting plan to be submitted to the judge for approval. The plan lays out a specific parenting schedule, including holidays, vacations and other special occasions.

Even if you and your ex aren’t able to agree on such a plan, you still need to make a proposal for one. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) requires each parent to submit a proposed parenting plan. Parents must file this plan within 120 days after filing for or receiving a petition concerning custody.

This petition is often connected to a divorce proceeding, but it can also apply to unmarried parents.

What happens if a parent wants to relocate with a child?

When a parent has been awarded a majority of or equal parenting time, he or she cannot relocate arbitrarily.

Under Illinois law, a parent awarded the majority of or equal parenting time must give notice to the other parent. If the other parent objects, the parent seeking to relocate must file a petition with the court, seeking permission for the move.

The law specifies specific distances that a parent can move without having to get approval from the other parent or the court. In most parts of Illinois, including Madison and St. Clair counties, this distance is 25 miles outside of the state and 50 miles in the state of Illinois.

When can you modify a parenting plan based on changed circumstances?

If you and your ex agree on a change in the plan, you can ask the judge to legalize that at any time. This is done by filing court papers.

If you and your ex don’t agree, however, you will have to wait two years before you can seek a change in the allocation of decision-making responsibilities.

The only exception to this time limitation is child endangerment. Endangerment could include abuse, excessive alcohol or drug use, or other risky behavior.

The allocation of parenting time can be modified at any time there is a substantial change in circumstances and a modification is necessary to serve the best interest of the minor child. What constitutes a change in circumstances varies widely, but can include:

  • the age of the child
  • a parent moving
  • a change in a parent’s work schedule
  • a child’s extracurricular activities
  • behavior by a parent that negatively impacts a child

Once the substantial change has been established, the court will evaluate whether a modification of parenting time is in the child’s best interests.

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