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Modifying a parenting schedule

If you share custody of your children with a former spouse, you are likely familiar with two important concepts: decision-making and parenting time. The decision-making part of co-parenting includes having a say in education, medical treatments, religious practices, extracurricular activities and other important matters. The parenting time component covers when you see your kids. 

If you and your ex-spouse reached an agreement about decision-making and parenting time, you likely have a comprehensive parenting plan. Alternatively, if a judge settled a custody dispute, you probably have an allocation judgment. Either way, the document outlines how much time you spend with your children. For a variety of reasons, though, you may need to rework parenting time. 

When is it possible to modify parenting time? 

As your children age, your existing parenting schedule may become inconvenient. For example, your children may have school or extracurricular activities that conflict with your visitation schedule. On the other hand, you may develop conflicts that make sticking to your existing parenting time virtually impossible. Fortunately, to rework a parenting plan, you only need to prove a substantial change in circumstances. 

What is a substantial change in circumstances? 

Illinois law recognizes that if a parent moves more than 25 miles, there is a substantial change in circumstances that warrants revisiting parenting time. Of course, if you or your ex-spouse plans to move out of the state, you may have additional concerns to address. 

Do other circumstances allow for a modification? 

Typically, if you and a co-parent have a parenting plan, you must each abide by it. This, of course, does not always happen. If you have been using a different schedule for parenting time for at least six months, you can likely ask a judge to make the informal schedule official. 

Remember, in all custody matters, your children's most favorable interests are paramount. Nonetheless, if you need to modify parenting time, you may be able to convince a judge to approve your request. Note, however, that until he or she does so, you must comply with the existing parenting plan or allocation order.

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