Oftentimes parents going through a divorce are unable to distinguish between the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Provisions in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act that govern the issues of allocation of parental responsibilities are separate and distinct from provisions in the Act that govern parenting time.
Assume with me for a minute that Fred and Wilma, of the town of Bedrock, have come across “rocky times,” and no longer wish to remain married. Fred and Wilma have one child together, whose name just so happens to be Pebbles. Wilma has been a homemaker throughout the marriage, and has also been Pebbles’ primary caretaker; however, Fred has been a devoted father deeply involved in all aspects of Pebbles’ life from changing her diapers to going to “rock concerts,” to attending Pebbles’ school functions.
Fred says upon entry of the divorce decree, he would like to have an allocation of parental responsibilities of Pebbles, so that he may have “equal parenting time.” Wilma, on the other hand, says she cannot communicate effectively with Fred any more, and often times disagrees with him on many issues, such as the choice of Pebbles’ doctors, the Church or Synagogue he wishes to attend with Pebbles, the school's Pebbles will be attending, and her social activities.
Fred’s attorney would be wise to explain to Fred that Section 602.1(d) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act specifically states that, “allocation of parental responsibilities does not necessarily mean equal parenting time.” In this case, allocation of parental responsibilities would not be a viable option, because an award of allocation of parental responsibilities requires the parties to enter into a joint parenting agreement. A joint parenting agreement requires both parties to discuss all major issues concerning the minor child, such as her educational upbringing, the medical doctors the child will see, the Church or Synagogue the child will attend, as well as the child’s after school social activities. allocation of parental responsibilities also requires parents to meet with a mediator if they disagree on any of these decisions. Since Wilma has been the primary caretaker for Pebbles, and because Fred and Wilma do not agree on many issues involving Pebbles, it is likely that Wilma will end up with an allocation of parental responsibilities; however, Fred should not be discouraged, because based upon the involvement he has exhibited throughout Pebbles’ life, Fred will be entitled to a liberal parenting time schedule, regardless of the fact that Wilma may end up with allocation of parental responsibilities. Based upon Fred’s prior involvement in Pebbles’ life, it is reasonable to expect that he will have parenting time with Pebbles every week, including no less often than alternating weekends, dinners with Pebbles in the evening once or twice each week, permission to attend all of Pebble's after school social activities, alternating all major holidays for parenting time, receiving one week of Christmas vacation, and up to one-half of the entire Summer as Fred’s parenting time schedule.
In summary, in the unfortunate event of a divorce between two loving parents who are devoted to their child or children, both parents should be certain to distinguish between the contentious issue of allocation of parental responsibilities and the separate and distinct issue of parenting time.
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