Understanding Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities
Sharing parental responsibilities can be quite complicated for divorced, separated, or unmarried parents. Each parent may have an idea of how he or she thinks the child should be raised, and such ideas often differ—even between reasonable, well-meaning parents. Conflicting ideas about parenting can create confusion for the child, which is why it is so important for parents to work together to develop a parenting plan that clearly determines what role each parent will play in making significant decisions about the child’s life.
What Are Significant Decisions?
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act defines “significant decision-making” as “deciding issues of long-term importance in the life of a child.” The law also provides several considerations that are always considered significant decisions, such as:
- The child’s education, including the choice of school and tutors;
- Health and medical care, including physical and mental health care and choice of doctors;
- Religious upbringing, if appropriate, based on the wishes of the parent and past conduct regarding matters of faith or worship; and
- Extracurricular activities, including clubs, sports, activities, music lessons, and others.
Other concerns may be considered significant as well, depending on your unique circumstances.
Who Makes the Decisions?
In your parenting plan, you and the other parent can determine who will be responsible for significant decision-making. If you cannot reach an agreement, the court may step in and allocate the responsibilities as it sees fit based on your child’s best interest. You and the other parent could choose to make all significant decisions together. Similarly, you could also agree that each decision should be discussed between you with one of you retaining final decision-making authority in case of an impasse.
Another option would be for each of you to take on the responsibility for a different significant area. If one parent is a teacher, for example, that parent could be responsible for educational decisions while the other parent handles health care decisions. The last alternative is to give all significant decision-making authority to one parent alone, who could choose to seek the other parent’s input if he or she wishes.
Parenting Time Is Separate
It is important to keep in mind that allocating significant decision-making responsibilities and determining each parent’s parenting time are separate considerations. While one may affect the other to a certain extent, the amount of parenting time that a parent has does not automatically mean that he or she has an equal amount of decision-making authority. It is entirely possible for parents to share parenting time almost equally while all significant decisions are made by one parent. Conversely, one parent may have substantially more parenting time but equal authority over significant decisions.
We Can Help
To learn more about parenting plans and significant decision-making for your child, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-549-0960 to schedule a consultation at MFKM Law today. We will provide the guidance you need to protect your rights and promote your child’s best interests.