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Wheaton IL family law attorneyIn an Illinois divorce that involves children, parents are expected to reach a resolution on a parenting plan that defines the terms of how they will co-parent after the divorce. In some cases, the court must play a significant role in decisions regarding the parenting plan, including when there are major disagreements between the two parents. However, parents have the option of working together to create a plan that they both agree to, allowing them to retain more control over the resolution. A qualified family law attorney can help you create a parenting plan that protects the interests of you and your children.

What is a Parenting Plan?

Two of the most important components of a parenting plan are the parenting time schedule and the allocation of parental responsibilities.  The parenting time schedule should include the days that the children will spend living with each parent, as well as important details regarding transportation between homes, and in many cases, to and from the children’s appointments and events. The allocation of parental responsibilities outlines how the parents will contribute to decisions regarding the children’s activities, education, health, and other important matters.

Create Consistency in Your Parenting Plan

As you create your parenting plan, there are some important things to keep in mind, one of which is the value of consistency. A divorce will be hard on your children, so the more stability you and your spouse can create, the easier the transition will be for them. When establishing your plan, keep as many things in your child’s life consistent as possible. If your child has an extracurricular activity during the week, work that activity and any other regular events into the parenting plan. If your spouse picks up your child every day from school, continue that routine if possible. When changes do need to be made to the child’s schedule, communicate these changes with your spouse and make sure you both can commit to them.

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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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