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DuPage County parenting agreement lawyerThe issue of child custody—officially known as the allocation of parental responsibilities under Illinois law—is often among the most difficult concerns to resolve in a divorce. Parents who have spent years raising their children together may suddenly be arguing over the role that each of them will play in the lives of their children. A dispute over parental responsibilities can quickly become a very stressful and emotional situation for both the parents and the children. In some cases, extended family members are affected as well.

Every case is unique, and parents facing such a dispute should not make any assumptions about the level of responsibility that they will be granted. Instead, they should keep in mind a few important factors that may influence the outcome.

The Importance of Both Fathers and Mothers

In the past, mothers were often the primary caretakers of the children in a marriage, and were therefore commonly awarded primary or full custody of the children in a divorce. Today, things are largely very different. Evolving social norms and the realities of life have led to an increase in families in which both parents work, and more fathers play a prominent role in the day-to-day lives of their children. Such changes are being reflected in court decisions as well, as family court judges tend to lean toward shared parenting arrangements whenever possible.

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Wheaton IL child custody attorneyMany parents’ primary goal during divorce proceedings is to ensure they maintain a close relationship with their children. Illinois law recognizes the importance of both parents remaining in their children’s lives, and has recently moved away from the term “custody” to the “allocation of parental responsibilities,” which emphasizes the importance of the parents coming to an agreement. However, disputes about children can still sometimes be bitter, and it is important to understand your rights as a parent if you find that your relationship with your children is being challenged.

Parenting Time Rights in Illinois

Unless you have been convicted of certain crimes, or otherwise deemed to be a threat to your children’s physical, mental or emotional health, you are legally entitled to parenting time—formerly known as visitation—with your children. For your former spouse to deny this is actually against the law. However, the form your parenting time takes may vary, and it may not be exactly equal to that of your ex, depending on factors like your work hours and where you live in location to where the other parent is located. For example, a parent who lives in a rural area several hours’ flight away from where the other parent and children live may receive less frequent in-person parenting time than a parent who lives 15 minutes away in the next town.

The watchword in determining parenting time rights and schedules is “reasonableness.” A schedule that is unreasonable to one or both parties, or to the children, can lead to significant problems in the future. Illinois works hard to ensure the ideal of reasonableness is upheld so that both parents have as much time as possible with their children. Illinois even offers a special provision called the “right of first refusal,” which allows a parent the first opportunity to take care of the children if the other parent needs child care for a period of time. This right is somewhat unique, having only been adopted in a handful of states up to this point. 

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Throughout the divorce process, if you have children, you and your co-parent will need to devise a parenting plan that clearly defines the allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time schedules, and other child-related issues. In the state of Illinois, the standard used to determine many of these concerns is referred to as “the best interests of the child.” When decisions are made regarding custody of children of divorcing or separating parents, their best interests have the greatest bearing on the end result. While Illinois has a strict set of guidelines elaborating on those “best interests,” these issues may be open to interpretation, especially since the circumstances surrounding each child custody case are unique. In some cases, determining how much of a say children should have regarding what is in their best interests can be difficult.

3 Ways to Accept Your Children’s Opinion of Their “Best Interests”

Although “the best interests of the child” are critical, parents may not take children’s desires into account when addressing these matters. Here are some ways to make sure you, your co-parent, your attorney, and the court maintain a clear understanding of your children’s best interests and how their wishes may affect your case:

  1. Reject the idea that young children have no understanding of what is good for them. Many social scientists and other experts believe that the so-called “age of reason” for children is seven years old. By that age, they are able to make decisions and judgments based on their own ideas, observations, opinions, and insights. With this in mind, if your children are around that age or older, but they tend to shy away from the spotlight, consider enlisting the assistance of social workers or other similar professionals who can observe the child and interview them to understand exactly how they feel about everything, including the impending divorce itself.

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Posted on in Child Custody

DuPage County family law attorney divorcing while pregnantMost divorce cases involve a variety of complex issues, but there are some situations that may leave spouses wondering about their rights and how they can protect themselves going forward. One concern that some divorcing couples may face is determining how to proceed when they are expecting a child. Emotional and psychological issues notwithstanding, there are many challenges that may arise when getting a divorce while a spouse is pregnant.

Legal Issues Involved When Divorcing While Pregnant

A spouse’s pregnancy can greatly complicate the divorce process. Some of the issues that may need to be addressed in these cases include:

  • No Simplified Divorce—Although some married couples can get a simplified divorce, this option is not available if the spouses have children together or are expecting a child. This means the divorce proceedings will be more involved, and they may take longer to resolve.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Wheaton child custody attorney for parenting plansIf you are going through the divorce process and working with your spouse, your respective lawyers, and/or the judge to determine how to allocate parental responsibilities, you will want to give serious thought to the development of an effective parenting plan that protects your children’s best interests while maintaining your rights as a parent. Here are some things to consider when devising such a plan:

How Do You Create the Right Parenting Plan?

The right parenting plan can make things a whole lot easier for everyone, including both parents and children. However, developing a fair parenting plan that is beneficial for everyone involved can be challenging. In fact, parents often cannot agree on the terms of the parenting plan, and the court may need to intervene and make decisions about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, which might not be nearly as beneficial to those involved. In most cases, it is recommended to work with your lawyer and the other parent to create an effective and agreeable parenting plan. When creating your parenting plan, you will want to keep the following issues in mind:

  1. Always Consider Your Children’s Best Interests—You must put yourself in your children’s shoes. With every term you put in the plan, consider how it will affect your children. If you think a certain stipulation will stress your child out or cause undue emotional turmoil, then you will want to rethink its objectives. There could be better ways to achieve the same goals that will not be as traumatic to the children. Also, if your child is particularly mature, you may even want to ask them their opinion. You would be surprised at how good they are at knowing what is in their best interests.

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