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Disabled Parents and “Parenting Time” in Chicago

Disabled Parents and “Parenting Time” in Chicago

By: M. Scott Gordon

In case you are not familiar with some relatively recent changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), “parenting time” is the legal term that replaced “visitation” in child custody cases. As a matter of fact, Illinois law no longer discusses “child custody,” either. Instead, the term “child custody” has been replaced with “parental responsibilities.” So, what does parenting time mean under the law, and can judges limit the parenting time of a disabled mother or father?

How Do Courts Allocate “Parenting Time” Under Illinois Law?

As the statute explains, parenting time refers to “the time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child.” What are caretaking functions according to the law? This is important to know since a parent’s ability to perform these functions may impact the allocation of parental responsibilities. The statute defines caretaking functions as “tasks that involve interaction with a child or that direct, arrange, and supervise the interaction with and care of the child provided by others.” The IMDMA lists a number of examples of caretaking functions, including but not limited to:

  • Providing a child’s nutritional needs;
  • Managing a child’s wake-up and bedtime routines;
  • Caring for the child when she or he is sick or is injured;
  • Attending to the child’s hygiene needs;
  • Providing transportation for the child;
  • Directing a child’s developmental needs;
  • Disciplining the child;
  • Providing moral and ethical guidance for the child; and
  • Helping the child to develop relationships with family members and peers.

Would a parent’s disability impact his or her ability to provide caretaking functions for a child such that it could impact an allocation of parenting time? The statute makes clear that, in the event both parents cannot come to an agreement on a parenting plan, the court will allocate parenting time according to what is in the child’s best interest. The court can take into account numerous factors in deciding what is in the best interests of the child, including the “mental and physical health of all individuals involved.”

Does this mean that a parent’s disability can be taken into account when allocating parenting time? In brief, if a parent’s disability has a substantial impact on his or her ability to provide caretaking functions, the court can take it into account when allocating parenting time.

History of Discrimination Against Parents with Disabilities

As an article from the American Bar Association explains, there is a long legal history across the country of discrimination against parents with disabilities when it comes to allocating child custody (or parental responsibilities) and visitation (or parenting time). In the past, courts have suggested that allocating visitation to a parent with a disability may not be in the child’s best interest. Of course, this is not always the case. However, given the history of discrimination against parents with disabilities, it is extremely important for those parents to have an experienced advocate on their side.

If you have a disability and are currently going through a divorce, you should discuss your case with a Chicago family law attorney as soon as possible. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates to learn more about how we can assist with your case.