“The Parent with Majority of Parenting Time”: Is it worth fighting over?

Among the many changes to Illinois family law which took effect in 2016 is that the terms “custody” , “visitation”, and “residential parent” are no longer used. Instead, we refer to “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” These changes were intended to establish more appropriate, less harsh terms for family law issues.

While this change of terminology may have helped lessen the feelings of “winners” and “losers” in family law disputes, the statute still requires that the Court designate “who will be denominated as the parent with the majority of parenting time for purposes of Section 606.10″.

750 ILCS 5/606.10, entitled “Designation of custodian for purposes of other statutes,” provides:

“Solely for the purposes of all State and federal statutes that require a designation or determination of custody or a custodian, a parenting plan shall designate the parent who is allocated the majority of parenting time. This designation shall not affect parents’ rights and responsibilities under the parenting plan. For purposes of Section 10-20.12b of the School Code only, the parent with the majority of parenting time is considered to have legal custody.”

Consequently, the dispute over which parent has “the majority of parenting time” designation may arise even when the parents have relatively equal parenting time.

If there are two children, one common practice to resolve the matter is to designate one parent per child as the one with the “majority of parenting”. However, if there is one child or an odd number of children, parents may have more difficultly resolving this issue.

The issue may not be worth fighting over provided litigants ensure that any judgment or parenting time agreement states that “the designation shall not affect parents’ rights and responsibilities under the parenting plan.” Such language can help clarify that the “majority of parenting time” designation is not intended to give one parent an advantage but rather simply satisfy the statutory requirement.

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