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Parenting time, parental responsibilities and your parenting plan

Illinois law no longer officially uses the term “child custody.” Instead, it recognizes two concepts: “parenting time” and “parental responsibilities.” These two aspects of parenting are separate, but they interact with each other.

In this blog post, we’ll give a brief introduction to the terms and what they might mean for your case.

Parenting time

Parenting time refers to situations in which a parent or guardian takes care of the child. This may mean living with the child, or merely spending the day with them. During these times, the parent has the responsibilities of feeding, clothing, housing or otherwise taking care of the immediate needs of the child.

Parental responsibilities

As any parent knows, taking care of a child entails making many decisions, both large and small. Parenting time concerns the smaller decisions such as what to wear, what to eat, how to spend a non-school day and more. But parents also have rights and responsibilities with regard to more significant decisions. Illinois law use the term “parental responsibilities” to refer to the ability to make more significant decisions.

Under Illinois law, these decisions include matters involving the child’s education, medical care, religious instruction and extra-curricular activities.

Why are these divided?

If you have read this far, you may be wondering why the law bothers with dividing parenting time and parental responsibilities. Don’t they go hand-in-hand?

The answer to that question is yes, to some extent. When parents are living together with their child, they decide on these matters together, but when they are not living together, they must divide both parenting time and parental responsibilities and formalize that division in a parenting plan.

A parenting plan can be agreed upon by the parents or ordered by the court. Typically, it allocates how much parenting time each parent will have with the child. It should also spell out parental responsibilities.

For instance, a parenting plan may provide that one parent lives with the child five days a week, and spell out the various drop-off and pickup times involved. It may also include matters of parental responsibilities, such as which parent is in charge of enrolling the child in school each year.

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