Custody orders and parenting plans break down the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities via legally-enforceable documents. Some divorcing couples negotiate parenting plans at the end of their marriages, and even unmarried couples need to formally divide parenting time, financial responsibility and decision-making authority for their children.
Parents should do their best to follow the terms set in their parenting plan and to work with one another. However, it is common for parents to be dissatisfied with the terms as originally ordered and to want to formally change the terms of their arrangement by asking the court for a modification. When will the Illinois family courts grant a modification request?
Parents usually have to wait to make changes
Although there are some exceptions to this rule, the Illinois family courts typically expect parents to wait at least two years after the creation of a custody order before going back to a judge to ask for a modification. After a few years, family circumstances may have changed enough to warrant having a judge review the custody order and decide if updates are necessary to align a parenting plan with the best interests of the children.
With this said, parents can mutually agree to modify an order at any time and can work with an attorney to formalize their mutually agreed-upon adjustments.
When children are in danger, immediate action is possible
Although there is typically a two-year waiting period for modification requests, there is one exception to that rule. The courts will allow modification hearings at any point, even just a few months after the creation of a custody order, if there is documentation showing that the children are in danger in the current scenario.
When there have been instances of abuse or neglect while the children were with one parent and there are records affirming those problems, like police reports or medical records, the other parents can potentially ask the courts to adjust the custody order to protect the children from what is an unsafe situation.
Changes should be what is best for the children
If the situation does not involve some kind of immediate threat to the children, then the courts may only agree to a hearing when there has been some kind of significant change in circumstances, and even then, only when changes are necessary to uphold the children’s best interests. A parent starting a new job, children starting sports and other changes to family schedules and relationships may justify the request for a modification hearing.
Learning more about the rules that apply to shared custody arrangements can help parents more effectively advocate for their children alongside a dedicated legal professional.