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What Factors Does a Court Consider in Allocating Parenting Time?

What Factors Does a Court Consider in Allocating Parenting Time?

By: M. Scott Gordon

If you are familiar with recent changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) that took effect on January 1, 2016, you know that the state is no longer using the terms “child custody” and “visitation.” Instead, those terms have been replaced, respectively, with “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” While parental responsibilities involve making significant decisions about the child’s upbringing—such as the child’s education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities—parenting time instead means “the time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child.”

What do you need to know about caretaking functions and the way the court allocates parenting time?

What Does the Statue Mean When it Refers to “Caretaking Functions”?

Under the statute, “caretaking functions” are defined as “tasks that involve interaction with a child or that direct, arrange, and supervise interaction with and care of a child provided by others, or for obtaining the resources allowing for the provision of these functions.” The IMDMA goes on to list examples of caretaking functions, which include but are not limited to:

  • Providing a child’s nutritional needs;
  • Managing a child’s wake-up times and bedtimes;
  • Caring for a child when she or he is sick or injured;
  • Attending to a child’s physical hygiene needs;
  • Providing for the child’s physical safety;
  • Providing the child’s transportation needs;
  • Helping the child with his or her development needs, including motor skills and language skills;
  • Providing discipline to the child;
  • Assigning and supervising chores;
  • Ensuring that the child attends school and completes his or her homework;
  • Ensuring that the child attends any necessary medical appointments; and
  • Providing moral and/or ethical guidance for the child.

Since the caretaking functions listed above are among the primary tasks involved in parenting time, what factors does a court consider when it allocates parenting time to a child’s parents?

Statutory Factors in Allocating Parenting Time

The IMDMA emphasizes that the court seeks to allocate parenting time in a manner that is in the child’s best interests. In order to develop a parenting plan which includes a schedule, the parents must work together and agree to time that the child will spend with both parents. When the parents cannot agree to a parenting plan, the court will then allocate each parent’s responsibilities and time / schedule. In so doing, it will consider a number of different factors, including but not limited to:

  • Wishes of the parents;
  • Wishes of the child (taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to have an individual preference);
  • Needs of the child;
  • Amount of time each parent spent on caretaking functions prior to the allocation of parenting time;
  • Prior agreement or conduction concerning caretaking functions of the child;
  • Child’s interactions with parent(s) and sibling(s), which could affect the child’s best interest;
  • Child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  • Distance between the residences of the parents;
  • Costs associated with transporting the child between the parents’ residences (and any financial or other hardship associated with it);
  • Child’s daily schedule(s);
  • Parents’ ability to cooperate with one another;
  • Willingness of the parents to encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent; and
  • Factors that could make the restriction of parenting time appropriate, such as physical violence against the child or in the home, or a parent’s conviction as a sex offender.

A Divorce Lawyer in Chicago Can Help

If you have questions about developing a parenting plan, or if you have concerns about how the court will allocate parenting time in your case, an experienced Chicago divorce attorney can help. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates today.