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Wheaton custody lawyersWhen a child's parents decide to divorce, they must determine who will have decision-making power over certain aspects of their child’s life, such as where they will go to school or church. This component of a parenting plan, now known as the allocation of parental rights (formerly known as custody) is made based on the best interests of the child. Learn more about this phrase and its meaning in the following sections, and discover how a seasoned family law attorney can help you with developing a sound and comprehensive parenting plan to fit your family’s needs.

Best Interest of a Child - The Basics 

In the simplest of terms, the best interest of a child is the standard that the courts used to make parenting plan determinations. It assesses what might be “best” for the child, based on their needs. Studies have consistently shown that children tend to fare best after a divorce when they have the continued support and connection with both parents, so several states have made a 50-50 parenting plan the default. In all other states, a variety of factors are used to determine how parental responsibilities should be allocated between the divorcing parties. 

Factors Used to Determine a Child’s Best Interests 

Because the best interest of a child is based on their specific needs and situation, numerous factors may be used to make determinations regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities, including: 

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Illinois parenting plan attorneysWhen married parents decide to divorce, they must develop a parenting plan that addresses both the allocation of parental rights (formerly known as child custody) and parenting time (formerly known as visitation). The details of that plan are used to draft a legal document that is then registered with the courts.

Once entered, parenting plans are considered a legally binding agreement between the two parents; failure to comply could result in severe and costly consequences. As such, it is critical that divorcing couples fully understand the differences, limitations, and nuances of both parenting plan components. Learn more with help from the following sections. 

Allocation of Parental Rights 

The allocation of parental rights determines the amount of decision-making power that a parent has in their child’s life, particularly when it comes to “hot button” issues like education, medical care, and religious practices. It is important to note that a parent does not lose their right to have a say in their child’s life if they do not receive an equal or greater allocation. Instead, the other parent simply has the “final say,” and they are able to make smaller, day-to-day decisions without having to consult the other parent. 

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llinois parenting time lawyersAccording to studies on divorce, children tend to adjust best when they have the continued love and support of both parents. While many divorcing couples understand this and strive to ensure that the child has time and a connection with both parties, some struggle to find common ground. In such a scenario, the courts may be forced to decide where the child will live and go to school, but what happens between the filing of paperwork and the finalization of divorce?

Prioritizing the Best Interests of the Child 

Divorce can bring out the worst in people. Not only do they have to completely rearrange their lives, but they are also dealing with a perceived loss, which can lead to feelings of grief. If unmanaged, grief can lead to feelings of anger and resentment toward one’s spouse. Those emotions can be further amplified if one feels that their spouse is responsible for the divorce, or is trying to “take the child away.” There are other scenarios that can create strife in a divorce as well, such as a party feeling like they are losing their child, or that they are not getting enough time with them. 

Though these feelings typically subside over time, the actions taken while they occur can have a life-long impact on the child. Words said can cause the child to feel as though they are wrong for missing their other parent or wanting to spend time with them. Children may also become frightened or worried that the other parent will stop loving them or disappear. As a parent, it is your job to help your child deal with and combat these negative feelings and emotions by ensuring the child has a healthy and continued relationship with both of their parents. Work hard to prioritize their best interests and find a healthy way to deal with the feelings of loss and grief that may arise during the divorce process. 

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Illinois family law attorneysIn a divorce, the safety and well-being of children are prioritized by the courts. As such, accusations of abuse and parental alienation are treated as serious matters. Learn how abuse and alienation claims are handled by the family courts, how it may impact your parental rights, and what you can do to improve your chances of a positive outcome in your Illinois divorce

Immediate Effects of Abuse and Alienation Claims 

Once a claim of abuse or alienation is made, your rights may be immediately impacted. You could be subject to supervised visitation, meaning you cannot see or spend time with your children unless another adult or court-appointed supervisor is present. Depending on the situation, you may even be restricted from speaking with your child over the phone. 

Though claims may be unfounded, the courts require that an investigation take place before your rights can be fully returned to you. Typically, this means you will need to speak with a social worker or your child’s Guardian Ad Litem. They may also speak to your child’s friends, neighbors, teachers, and other persons of interest in your child’s life. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersDivorce has seen a lot of changes since its peak in the United States. Whereas courts used to almost always award custody to the mother, with fathers being afforded very few rights, the system now recognizes that children need and deserve the love and support of both parents. Developmental and behavioral studies on children have been integral to these changes, but parents themselves have helped to pave the way as well. 

Divorcing Parents Have Created a New Trend 

While some divorce cases involving children remain acrimonious, the majority of parents recognize that their child is extremely vulnerable to behavioral and emotional trauma during parental separation. Moreover, parents are becoming more knowledgable about the negative effects that a bitter divorce can have on the future and overall development of their child. As a result, many are intentional about the way they conduct themselves during the divorce process. 

Those who struggle to get along often seek out legal support. Parents have also worked to come up with ways to minimize strife and conflict in their divorce cases (i.e. communicating through text or email and minimizing conversations over the phone and in-person). They avoid saying negative things about the other parent in the presence of their child, and they foster a healthy and continued relationship between their child and their former spouse. As a result, divorcing parents are paving the way for a better future for their kids. 

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