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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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DuPage County family law attorneysThanks to mounds of scientific research, the verdict on how to best help children after a divorce is clear: In most cases, children fare best when they have a healthy and consistent relationship with both of their parents. Ideally, that would include a lot of face-to-face time with the child, but not every divorced couple can stay in the same neighborhood, city, or state. 

Just a short few years ago, families who lived far apart had to rely on phone conversations to stay connected. In-person visits, though scheduled as frequently as possible, rarely made up for the lack of face-to-face contact that occurred between the parent and child during their separation. Science says that technology is already starting to fill that gap - and its effect is only expected to improve over time. 

Video Chatting, Texting, and Social Media Helps Parents and Kids Stay Connected 

Parent-child connections can be difficult to maintain after a divorce - and not just because of time or distance. In high-conflict situations (i.e. differing views on hot topic issues, such as discipline, religion, or values), parents may struggle to maintain civil communications. 

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Wheaton parenting time attorneysDivorce often marks the beginning of a happier, more evolved life for the formerly married parties. Some people discover their passion or find a new love. Others return to their roots for love and support, which may ultimately deepen their relationships with extended family and old friends. Whatever the scenario, divorce can ultimately change people for the better. Sadly, the same cannot always be said for the children of divorce.

Understanding Why Children Are So Vulnerable in a Divorce 

Children of divorce are often victims of circumstance with little to no decision-making power in the process. If their parents decide to sell the family home and both move into a smaller or cheaper place, the child may be forced to change schools. When parents struggle to get along or agree on specific, child-related matters (i.e. what religion the child should practice or where they should go to school) they may be caught in the middle of a long and contentious battle over parenting time issues or the allocation of parental responsibilities. 

In short, contentious divorce proceedings can leave a child feeling as though their entire life is hanging in the balance. Children may also begin to experience maladjustment issues, and if parents miss the warning signs, it can increase the risk of long-term mental health problems. 

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Wheaton divorce attorneysDivorce can be a painful and difficult process for all involved parties, but children are said to be at an exceptionally high risk of experiencing long-term consequences. Child experts believe their heightened risk of complications could be attributed to the sense of powerlessness that children often feel during the divorce process. 

Children typically have no say over whether their parents’ marriage continues. In fact, most are unaware that a divorce is even happening until the proceedings are well underway. They are also rarely given a say over the decisions that are made during the divorce process, yet many of them affect the child’s day-to-day life. Examples include where the child will live and go to school and the amount of time that they get to spend with each parent once the divorce has been finalized.

Thankfully, it is possible for loving parents to mitigate many of the issues that children may experience during and after the divorce process. The first (and perhaps most important step) is to ensure that you put your child at the center of every decision you make - especially if it will directly affect them in the months and years to come.

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Wheaton family law attorneysWhile some couples are able to completely end their relationship with a divorce, others must continue to interact with one another because of the children they share. This new relationship, a process that is more commonly referred to as co-parenting, continues (at least) until the child turns of age. How you navigate it - not just during the divorce, but long after - can make a massive difference in how your child adjusts to the new structure of their family. Increase your chances of success by using these five tips for successful co-parenting, and discover how a seasoned divorce lawyer can help improve the outcome in your Illinois divorce. 

1. Keep Your Child Out of the Divorce 

Though children are inevitably affected by the divorce of their parents, they should not be privy to all the details of the case. It is a personal and financial matter between adults who wish to end their relationship. The child’s relationship with each parent usually continues, however, so long as it is in their best interest (which it usually is). Allowing them to overhear details could taint the child's perception of the other parent, and that could ultimately create maladjustment issues for them. Alternatively, if you lean on your child and overshare details with them, you could potentially harm your child’s relationship with not just the other parent, but yourself as well. Avoid such issues by ensuring you keep your child out of the divorce as much as possible. 

Do not argue with your spouse when your child is nearby, avoid phone conversations when your child is around, and be sure to make sure your child is not within earshot when speaking to friends and family about the divorce. If asked directly about the divorce, be honest with your child but only share as much information as necessary. 

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Wheaton family law attorneysWhile even happily married parents can disagree over the best interests of their child, those who are going through a divorce are far more likely to argue excessively over the matter. Sometimes this is because there truly is a risk to the child’s well-being, but other times, it can be related to a vindictive or alienating spouse. Learn more about what happens in these situations, and discover how a seasoned divorce lawyer can help you mitigate against such issues. 

Parents Disagree Over Child’s Football Career

In an unprecedented Pennsylvania divorce case, two parents are fighting over whether their son should be allowed to continue his football career. At age 17, he has already suffered three previous concussions. His mother has not questioned their son’s doctors, who say there is no reason why he cannot continue playing. His father says he is concerned that continuing to play could cause severe permanent damage. He is filing suit against the mother as a way to advocate for his son, but he fears that his concerns will be dismissed. 

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Illinois divorce lawyersScience has long shown that children are vulnerable to experiencing maladjustment issues, such as anxiety, in divorce. How can you detect such issues in your child, and how can you help them cope? Learn more in the following sections, including how the aid of an experienced family law attorney can improve the outcome of your case, thereby decreasing the odds that your child will suffer from anxiety during or after the divorce process.

Understanding the Prevalence of Anxiety in Children of Divorce

Any child can experience anxiety, but the risk is low for the general population. Traumatic life events, including divorce, can increase a child’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder. In fact, in one study that compared the rate of generalized anxiety among divorced Spanish children between the ages of 8 and 12 years of age against the same-aged children who had not experienced a divorce, the rate of generalized anxiety disorder among the children of divorce was notably higher. As such, parents are encouraged to mitigate against the factors that may cause anxiety in a child that is experiencing a parental separation or divorce.

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DuPage County divorce lawyersStudies have long indicated that children may be at risk for emotional, development, and behavioral maladjustment after a divorce. However, a lesser known study also suggests that children may also be at risk for academic maladjustment during and after the divorce process. How can parents mitigate against the issue, and what can an experienced divorce lawyer do to help? The following information explains further.

Academic Maladjustment and Divorce

Academic maladjustment – or difficulty in school – can take many forms after divorce. Some children may simply disengage altogether, which can cause a sudden drop in their grades. Others may start to withdraw socially, so they may stop attending extracurricular or after-school activities. Still, there are some who may start to display behavior problems at school, such as outbursts, bullying, or truancy. How a parent deals with this will depend greatly upon the type of maladjustment their child is experiencing, but so can an understanding of the reasons that academic maladjustment may occur during and after divorce.

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Illinois divorce lawyersParents know that divorce can negatively impact their children, which is why most will go to any lengths to protect them. Nesting divorce – an arrangement in which the children keep the home, and the parents rotate in and out – is one of the most recent strategies for minimizing the potential damage. Is it beneficial though, or is it more of a hindrance for young children?

Potential Advantages of a Nesting Divorce

Most children can benefit from a healthy and continued relationship with both of their parents after a divorce. Nesting divorce not only encourages this relationship, but it also carries that relationship out in a familiar setting. Parents can maintain schedules and minimize changes (i.e. school, home, friends, etc.) immediately after the divorce, which may also assist the child with the coping phase of a divorce. However, experts believe there may be areas where the purported benefits of nesting divorce are over inflated.

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DuPage County family law attorneysAs most adults know, happy endings are less common in real life than in storybooks, and even when one does come, it rarely looks quite like you envision. The Disney Channel is reflecting this in a new television series, Raven’s Home, a follow-up to the old hit show, That’s So Raven. Their goal? To show that divorce can be scary, especially for kids, but lots of families get through it, and some are stronger and better for it in the end.

Strong and Successful Co-Parenting

Raven and Devon were high school sweethearts, and they were attempting to make a long-distance relationship work when the original show ended. Now they have twin girls, have recently gone through a divorce, and everyone is trying to find their new version of “normal.”

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Illinois family law attorneysIt seems like, at every turn, parents are told that divorce will harm their children, perhaps irreversibly so. Yet, each year, some 1.5 million children go through the separation process. Are they all doomed, their fate forever sealed by the choices their parents have made? Will their immune systems take a hit? Can they ever recover, or will they be forever scarred by this one traumatic event? Rest assured: though divorce can have a negative effect on children, most do ultimately recover – and sometimes the outcome is far better than if their parents had stayed together.

Examining the Potentially Negative Effects of Divorce

Children, like adults, can experience negative emotions during divorce. A few examples include sadness, self-blame, anger, and confusion. Stress is also common among children of divorce, and it can lead to all sorts of negative effects, such as bedwetting, clinginess, problems in school, withdrawal from family or friends, and it may even lead to more illnesses since the immune system can be weakened by stress. However, these effects are generally temporary. Most children overcome them and, in time, find a new version of “normal.”

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divorcing parent, DuPage County divorce attorney, parenting plan, parenting agreement, allocation of parental responsibilitiesAs a divorcing parent, the pressures you face are amplified, as your responsibilities are nearly doubled due to the transitional needs of the entire family. Not only do you need to make living and financial arrangements for yourself while also looking after your physical and emotional health, you must make arrangements for any children you share with your spouse, too. A solid parenting agreement is essential when entering post-divorce life, as it will provide the legal blueprint for how you will continue to raise your child once you are separated.

Getting Organized

Although the pressure may be overwhelming as you address the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation), there are a few ways to to help streamline the parenting plan process and ensure you start off on the right foot. Here are some key steps to drafting an effective parenting plan:

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DuPage County family lawyers, enforce parenting timeA court will make a determination of parenting time regarding minor children as part of a divorce, and both parents are expected to meet their obligations under the order. The occasional deviation from the schedule is understandable as life gets hectic for one parent or the other. However, continued incidents that deviate from the parenting time order can become a problem.

Abuse of allocated parenting time is inconvenient and discourteous, and it is also against the law. Still, it is possible to pursue enforcement under Illinois law. You may be able to proceed in a civil court to enforce parenting time, but—to give more “teeth” to the court’s order—you can also seek criminal penalties against the non-conforming parent. Talk to an Illinois parenting time lawyer about the two different options.

Enforcement in Civil Court

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DuPage County family law lawyer, Illinois law on visitationIllinois lawmakers recognize that grandparents and non-parent relations can play a big role in a child’s life, so the General Assembly enacted a law that allows individuals to seek visitation under certain circumstances. In general, a person must file a petition in court; however, it is not necessary for there to be a pending case for divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities in order to initiate proceedings. A family law attorney can assist you with the process if the situation warrants visitation by non-parents, but some general information can help you understand your options.

Illinois Statute on Visitation by Non-Parents

The law regarding the visitation petition limits eligibility to grandparents, great-grandparents, step-parents, and half- or step-siblings. Once the individual passes the relationship test, there are additional requirements:

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DuPage County family law attorneys, child's best interests, Illinois lawIn 2016, a number of changes were implemented to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act—changes that cover divorce and child custody issues. One of the sections that was overhauled deals with the allocation of parental responsibilities as they relate to decision-making.

In general, the law provides that the court will determine these obligations according to the child’s best interests and it enumerates a total of 15 factors that a judge should consider when making a decision. Because the law deletes a few sections from the prior one, and incorporates new criteria, it is worth taking a look at the seven new provisions for allocating parental responsibilities in Illinois.

Cooperation

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shared parenting time, DuPage County parenting time attorneysGoing through a divorce can be incredibly difficult for all parties involved. However, a divorce takes a special toll on the children of a failing marriage. Custody battles can get nasty, but in the end the judge is supposed to make decisions that are the best interest of the children. More and more frequently, judges are finding that shared parenting time is what is best for the children involved.

Previous Trend

In the past, split custody between parents was common. Children would live with one parent while the noncustodial parent would have “visitation” and spend a much smaller amount of time with the children. Experts and judges believed that it was better for the children to have a stable home and see the noncustodial parent occasionally. Yet this would often turn into a situation that was colloquially called “Disney Dad”—when the noncustodial parent had a relationship with his children that centered on fun activities instead of a typical parent/child relationship that included both fun times and serious times, stressful times, and other aspects of everyday life. Now, courts and experts are moving in a different direction.

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Illinois Eliminates Child Custody and VisitationIn the beginning of the year, Illinois got rid of the family law terms “custody” and “visitation.” Now the law that governs who children will live with after a divorce and who has the power to make decisions for the children, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, uses the terms “parenting time” and “allocation of parental responsibilities” instead. Though these terms have been in use since the beginning of the year, many people still may be confused about what the change means and the reasons for the change. This article discusses what the changes mean for couples struggling with child custody and visitation issues.

Definitions of the New Terms

While the terms “parenting time” and “allocation of parental responsibilities” are similar to “visitation” and “custody,” they actually divide up parenting concepts in different ways. Custody generally referred to who the children lived with and also who had the power to make decisions on behalf of the children. Visitation meant the legally protected right of the parent who the kids do not live with to spend time with the children. Now, instead of having one parent who the kids live with and who makes decisions, parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities divides the rights in a different way.

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DuPage County child custody attorneys, allocation of parental responsibilitiesOn January 1, 2016, Illinois family law went through a major overhaul, and changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act went into effect. One major change was the way child custody was divided. Prior to the change, there was child custody and visitation; however, now the law discusses parental responsibility and parenting time.

What is Parental Responsibility? 

In the past, custody was divided into two concepts: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody referred to with whom the child lived. Legal custody referred to the individual who made the important decisions for the child. Examples of decisions included extracurricular activities, health decisions, and religious observance. Now, the term parental responsibility is used and is similar to legal custody—it defines who gets to make the decisions for the child. 

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