If there is no previous Cook County court order you can file a Motion To Enter an Allocation of Parenting Responsibilities and Parenting Time. The court will consider what parenting time (formerly called visitation) you should be awarded based on the best interests of the child.
In the case of modifying an existing order, I always tell my clients, “As time goes by, you always get more time, you don’t get less time” but it’s certainly not automatic.
If an order for parenting time or visitation already exists, you cannot change the parenting time for 2 years unless there’s one of two situations present:
- “There is reason to believe the child’s present environment may endanger seriously his or her mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.” 750 ILCS 5/610.5(a). This is also known as “serious endangerment”
- “A showing of changed circumstances that necessitates modification to serve the best interests of the child.” 750 ILCS 5/610.5(a). This is also known as a “substantial change of circumstances”
You don’t need a substantial change of circumstances if you’re entering an order reflecting how the parenting time or visitation is actually happening over the last 6 months. You are only allowed to do this if the parenting time was happening this way with both parents’ consent.
You also don’t need a substantial change of circumstances if the change you’re asking for is “minor” and in the best interests of the child. “Minor” is a very vague term and a recent decision by the Illinois 4th district appellate court took a very narrow view of what “minor” means when the court considered a 6% change in parenting time as not being “minor” enough.
The two parents may agree to modify the parenting time and the court shall follow your agreement “unless it finds that the modification is not in the child’s best interest” 750 ILCS 5/610.5(d)
If there’s no agreement, the parties are required to attend mediation before the court will make a decision as to the change in parenting time and parenting responsibilities.
If the two parties still cannot come to an agreement after mediation then the court typically appoints a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or Child’s Representative to do an investigation as to what the child’s best interests are. The difference between a Guardian Ad Litem and a Child’s Representative is very minor but they both will go to your house, interview you, interview your child, even talk to teachers and friends to determine what is in the best interests of the child. The GAL or Child’s Representative will then make a recommendation to the judge regarding the final schedule of the child. The judge, in my experience, almost always follows that recommendation.
It is not wise to file a motion to modify without good cause. “Attorney’s fees and costs shall be assessed against a party seeking modification if the court finds that he modification action is vexatious or constitutes harassment. If the court finds that a parent has repeatedly filed frivolous motions for modification, the court may bar the parent from filing a motion for modification for a period of time” 750 ILCS 610.5(f)
Call my Chicago, Illinois law office to determine how you can change your parenting time and/or visitation.