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How to Create an Illinois Parenting Plan

One of the first steps in creating an Illinois parenting plan for Chicago or Des Plaines is to gather relevant information about your children, such as their school schedules, extracurricular activities, and other needs. This information helps you, your lawyer, and your ex create a plan that is in the children’s best interests.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

When a marriage that involves minor children ends, joint custody and parenting plans are common. The plans have multiple goals, including reducing conflicts, promoting cooperation between parents, and providing stability and structure for the children involved. The plans also serve as legal documents that can be enforced if either parent does not follow the terms.

Parents often agree on an Illinois parenting plan ahead of time, rather than having a judge come up with a plan that might not work. The parenting plan eventually becomes part of the divorce decree and details how the parents share child-raising responsibilities.

The plan deals with issues such as parenting time (including holidays and vacations, beginning and ending times, and transportation logistics) and decision-making responsibilities. If you and your ex cannot cooperate on raising the children, regardless of why, a parallel parenting plan may be necessary. This type of plan outlines how the two of you will raise your children without having contact with one another.

If you and your ex are able to cooperate (or cooperate to some extent), you are likely looking at a plan that involves co-parenting.

When Do You Need a Parenting Plan?

Divorce is a common situation requiring parenting plans, but it is not the only one. Others include:

  • Separation: A parenting plan helps establish clear guidelines for child custody and visitation when the parents do not live together.
  • Unmarried Parents: This plan can formalize custody arrangements and address issues such as decision-making authority and visitation schedules.
  • Modification of Existing Orders: If circumstances such as parental relocation, a change in a parent’s work schedule, or the child’s needs change after an initial parenting plan is established, you may need to modify the current plan and submit it to the court for approval.
  • Court Orders and Legal Requirements: In many jurisdictions, a parenting plan is a legal requirement when parents are involved in custody or visitation disputes. Courts want to ensure the parents consider the children’s best interests. The parents can use mediation or alternative dispute resolution to agree on a plan.

What Should Be Included in a Parenting Plan?

Specific details vary based on your unique situation, but common elements to include in an Illinois parenting plan include:

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities/Decision-Making Authority

This section deals with which parent(s) make decisions related to the children’s education, health care, religious upbringing, extracurricular activities, and more. It outlines whether major decisions will be made jointly or independently.

Parenting Time Schedule (Visitation)

This part establishes a detailed schedule of when the child is with each parent, including weekdays, weekends, holidays, vacations, travels, and school breaks. It includes specifics about pick-up and drop-off locations, times, and responsibilities. It can even cover how the child’s belongings will be transported from one home to the other as well as any issues related to sharing clothes, toys, and possessions.

Communication and Access

How will the parents communicate with the child when the child is with the other parent? This section explains whether the parents will use phone calls, video chats, or other forms of contact, and verifies whether both parents have access to the child’s school and medical records.


Both parents may cooperate to set joint guidelines for behavior management. This section of the parenting plan addresses rules and expectations and can ensure consistency and stability for the children.

Right of First Refusal

When one parent cannot take care of the child during the parent’s allotted time, the other parent has the first opportunity to care for the child under the right of first refusal. This is not required in parenting plans, but many parents like to have it.

Other critical aspects of a parenting plan should cover any relocation provisions, how the parents will resolve disputes with each other, and how the parents will divide any expenses (references to child support may be made here).

Steps to Take When Creating a Parenting Plan in Chicago

When creating a parenting plan, gather information about the kids’ lives (their activities, school calendar, etc.), your schedule, and the other parent’s schedule. Sometimes, the parents each make their own plans and then compare them and meet in the middle. Your lawyer can advise you on the best approach for your situation.

Regardless of how you specifically develop your plan, remain as open and respectful as possible with the other parent. Keep your children’s best interests in mind at all times.

How to File a Parenting Plan in Illinois

The requirements and procedures for creating a parenting plan may vary depending on your individual circumstances and the Chicago or Des Plaines court in which your case is filed. For example, if you are also learning how to file for visitation rights in Illinois, you may have to file visitation and parenting plan paperwork in a certain order.

Generally, each parent files a plan within 120 days of asking the court for parental responsibilities. The parents can file a joint plan signed by both if they agree on the plan.

The court reviews the plan to ensure it meets the best interests of the child standard. It is incorporated into the final court order once approved. Otherwise, the parents file their own plans, and the court holds a hearing to determine the child’s best interests.

If you are handling your divorce case without attorneys, it is a good idea to have a child custody lawyer review your parenting plan before you sign it. Parents sometimes regret the decisions or concessions they make and realize they were not in the best interests of their children.

Little boy in stripes with toy cars on the floor. illinois parenting plan

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois. 

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