Distinctions Between Parental Authority and Parenting Time

parenting, DuPage County family law attorneyAre you subject to an agreement regarding parental responsibilities with a former partner due to a divorce or a breakup? If so, it is important to understand what type of responsibilities you have what your rights may be as far as your child is concerned. Too often, parents make assumptions about the law that are not correct, leading to confusion and misunderstandings about their roles in the lives of their children.

Separate Considerations

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that a parenting plan for divorced or unmarried parents should address two primary areas of concern. If the parents cannot reach an agreement on such a plan, one will developed by the court based on the best interests of the child. The two basic considerations are significant decision-making authority and parenting time. While they may be related to a minor extent, the law allows each consideration to be made separately.

Important Decisions

Significant decision-making responsibility refers to each parent’s authority to make important decisions that will affect the child over an extended period of time. These decisions generally include the child’s education, health care, religious affiliation, and extracurricular activities, but may be extended to cover other subjects as well. Your parenting plan may grant decision-making authority to either parent or to both parents equally. The plan may also split the significant concerns between the parents to take advantage of each parent’s strengths.

Time With Your Child

The second consideration addresses parenting time, previously called visitation. While one parent is typically given a majority of the parenting time, some situations allow for a more balanced split than others. You may spend time with your child three days per week or on two weekends per month, but your parenting time is not necessarily indicative of your authority over your child.

Appellate Court Example

In a recent ruling, an appeals court in Illinois upheld the idea that decision-making authority and parenting time are separate concerns. Court documents indicated that, following a divorce a couple agreed to a parenting plan that gave each parent equal decision-making authority while granting the mother the majority of the parenting time with their children. Several years later, the mother attempted to legally change the children’s last name without consulting their father, contending that she had the right to do so because she spent the most time with them. The appellate court disagreed and pointed out that a name change is a significant decision. According to the terms of the parenting plan, the father should have been included in making that decision; thus, the court blocked the mother’s petition to change the children’s surname.

Let Us Help

If you believe that your parental rights have been compromised, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. We will review your case and help you understand your available options. Call 630-409-8184 for a confidential consultation at the Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C. today.

 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=0

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2016/2ndDistrict/2160594.pdf

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