Modifying the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities- Part Two: Decision-Making

As discussed in Part One of Modifying the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, many people are familiar with the terminology “custody” and “visitation” when thinking of child-related issues in dissolution and parentage matters. However, those are outdated terms. As of January 1, 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) began using “allocation of parental responsibilities” instead. Parental responsibilities include parenting time and significant decision-making responsibilities. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the definitions for “parenting time” and “significant decision-making” prior to filing any pleadings seeking a modification of an existing Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment. The definitions can be found in 750 ILCS 5/600.

To modify an existing Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment specifically regarding decision-making responsibilities, you must first refer to 750 ILCS 5/610.5.

Generally, a Motion to Modify Decision-Making Responsibilities may not be filed earlier than two (2) years after the Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment was entered. However, if a party believes that the child’s present environment may seriously endanger the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development, then party may file a Motion to Modify. The motion must be supported by affidavit.

If a Motion to Modify Decision-Making Responsibilities is filed after the two-year mark, as mentioned above, the court will modify the existing Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment if doing so serves the best interests of the child.  The Court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that a substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or of either parent. This means that you must provide convincing evidence to the Court that proves the change in circumstances warrants a modification of the existing Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment, so that the child’s best interests are properly served.  Remember that the substantial change in circumstances must have occurred after the entry of the existing Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment. Also, the substantial change in circumstances must not have been anticipated prior to the entry of the existing Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment.

Pursuant to Section 610.5(e), there are a few exceptions to the requirement of showing changed circumstances. Just as discussed in Part One, the parents may agree to modify the existing Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment. As long as the proposed modification is in the child’s best interests, it is likely that the Court would grant the modification request.

Another exception is when the modification request reflects the actual arrangement under which the child has been receiving care, without parental objection, for the six (6) months immediately preceding the filing of the Motion to Modify.

If you are interested in seeking a modification to your existing Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment it is recommended that you speak to a qualified attorney.

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