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DuPage County divorce attorneysOne of the hardest parts of getting a divorce is seeing the effects on your children, and even parents with the best of intentions can struggle to establish and maintain a post-divorce environment that serves the children’s best interests. One specific challenge that parents may face is maintaining consistent rules, expectations, and discipline when the children are dividing time between two households. Here, we offer suggestions that can help you avoid parenting mistakes and work on an arrangement that helps your children adjust and thrive.

Common Mistakes for Divorced Parents

As you adjust to your new co-parenting routine after your divorce, here are some unproductive approaches you may find yourself taking:

  • Avoiding discipline: You may find yourself tolerating poor behavior from your children because you do not want to come across as the mean parent, because you feel that you deserve it after putting them through the divorce, or simply because you lack the energy to provide discipline. However, this can teach your children that the behavior is acceptable and lead to worse behavior in the future.
  • Being overly strict: On the other hand, you may find yourself lashing out at your children or trying to enforce more strict discipline than you did before the divorce, especially if you feel your ex is not providing the necessary discipline. However, this can damage your relationship with your children and lead to a situation in which they do not enjoy the time spent with you.
  • Enforcing expectations inconsistently: It can be hard for divorced co-parents to uphold the same set of rules and expectations for their children, especially if they are not communicating regularly, and this can lead to confusion and instability for everyone involved.

Constructive Suggestions for Divorced Parents

If you find that any of these things are happening in your family, you can take action to improve the situation. One of the most important things you can do is to ensure that you and your ex have a shared understanding of your parenting plan, including the allocation of parental responsibilities, and that you communicate as much as possible about your children’s behavior. This can help you be more consistent in your approaches and avoid creating a situation in which your children resent one or both of you. It is also important that when you do discipline your children, you also make an effort to talk to them and listen to the feelings and concerns that may be driving their behavior. It is common for children to act out after a divorce, and while this does not mean their behavior is okay, it does mean that they might require extra care and attention.

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Naperville divorce attorneysA divorce can impact children at least as much as, if not more than, their parents. The emotional distress of the breakdown of the family is often difficult for children to cope with, and many of the decisions made in the divorce will have a direct effect on the children’s lives. With so much at stake, it is reasonable to wonder whether children have a say in what happens during the divorce process, or whether they are at the mercy of their parents and the court.

Including the Child’s Perspective in the Divorce Process

Fortunately, there are ways to ensure the child’s needs and preferences are considered in any decisions that affect them. Particularly regarding parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilities, an Illinois court will:

  • Focus on the child’s best interests. To determine whether a decision is in the child’s best interests, the court will consider many factors including the child’s needs, physical and mental health, relationships with both parents and any siblings, connection to their home, school, and community, and any history of violence or abuse in the family. While the child’s parents may already have their best interests in mind, the court will not make a decision solely based on the parents’ preferences.
  • Consider the child’s wishes. The court will often hear directly from a child regarding his or her preferences about parenting time and parental decision-making. If the child has reached an appropriate maturity level and is capable of expressing independent wants and needs, this input can factor significantly into the court’s decision.
  • Determine the necessity of representation for the child. While it is not necessary in every divorce case, the court may appoint a representative for the child if there are questions regarding the child’s best interests. This representative can be a guardian ad litem, who serves as a witness after investigating the case and interviewing the child and both parents. Alternatively, it can be a child representative who advocates for the child’s best interests using evidence-based arguments, or an attorney for the child who specifically represents the child’s perspective with a duty of loyalty and confidentiality.

Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney

The attorneys at Davi Law Group have the knowledge and experience necessary to answer any questions you may have about the effects of divorce on children and the legal rights they have throughout the divorce process. When we take your case, we strive to ensure that the children’s best interests are at the forefront of any decisions in which they have a stake. Contact a Naperville family law attorney today at 630-948-8926 to schedule a free consultation.

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Wheaton divorce attorneysMost parents are aware that divorce could negatively impact their child; it is why so many are hesitant to call it quits on their marriage. Still, studies show that a tumultuous home environment is more damaging to a child. As such, parents are encouraged to understand how and why a divorce might cause issues for their child. It also helps to have a plan in place.

Understanding the How and Why

Although divorce can negatively affect all children, the biggest risk seems to apply to those who are “well off” prior to the split. More specifically, adolescents whose mothers have a college education were found to be most impacted by parental divorce in a recent study conducted by Sondre Aasan Nilsen of the Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE) and the University of Bergen, Norway, and colleagues. On average, their GPAs were 0.3 points lower than peers with intact families from the same socioeconomic class. Previous research has also indicated that well-off children are less likely to attend college after a parental divorce.

Perhaps children from lower socioeconomic classes show less impact, simply because they are already less likely to excel in school or attend college, or maybe well-off children are ill-prepared for divorce because they have not suffered as much disappointment and heartache as children from lower socioeconomic classes. Whatever the cause, it is middle-class parents (and above) who most need a plan for minimizing the risk of poor academic performance in their child.

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Wheaton family law attorneysAlthough divorce can be difficult for all involved parties, children tend to suffer the most. Much of this is due to their position in the situation. They do not have any control or choice; they must simply deal with the fact that their family has fractured and try to adjust. Learn how you can help them through the process by reviewing these three things that your child wants you to know. 

They Need to Express Their Emotions in a Healthy Way 

Parents are often afraid to talk too much about their divorce. Some even go so far as to avoid the subject entirely, perhaps out of fear that their child may not be able to handle the difficult situation. Unfortunately, ignoring the problem does not help the child. If anything, it could cause them to bury their feelings. 

A lot of children also blame themselves for the divorce. As a result, the child may be at risk for depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, and other maladjustment issues. Thankfully, by giving your child a safe space to express and talk about their emotions, you can reduce their risk of such problems. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersDivorce can be painful and confusing for any child, but most of them do eventually adjust. In contrast, children with special needs sometimes struggle to comprehend the reason why their family is fracturing. Worse yet, all the changes in their lives may cause them to regress or suffer from mental, emotional, or behavioral problems. Thankfully, parents can help ease the transition for their special needs children by carefully protecting their interests. 

Start with Communication 

When divorcing with a special needs child, communication is critical - and not just with your child. You also need to communicate with your spouse in a healthy, non-combative way. It is also important for you to effectively communicate with your attorney so that they can help you in drafting a parenting plan to suit your child’s specific needs. 

Implement Change Slowly (and Change as Little as Possible) 

Change can be difficult for children with special needs, and depending on the situation, it can lead to regression and other issues. Slow and gradual change can reduce the risk. It may also be possible to eliminate some changes. For example, parents might want to consider bird nesting - or, at the very least, keeping the child in the same home - until they have adjusted to the first set of major changes in their lives. 

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DuPage County parenting time attorneysDivorce can be difficult for children at any time of the year, but the holidays tend to be especially trying. Thankfully, parents can usually mitigate much of the stress, simply by being loving, responsible parents. Need some tangible solutions for your family? Try these tips for keeping everyone (yes, even your ex) happy during the holiday season. 

Make Sacrifices but Avoid Being a Martyr 

Children should never have to make sacrifices for their parents. Instead, it should be the parents making sacrifices for the sake of their kids. Whether it is giving up time with them to allow time with your ex’s family or simply avoiding altercations and arguments when your spouse is being combative, putting in extra effort can go a long way toward ensuring your child feels both happy and loved during this holiday season. Just be sure to avoid the martyr syndrome; your child does not need to know the efforts you have made. Instead, simply let them reap the reward. 

Get Into the Spirit of Giving 

The holiday season is all about giving. So, whether it is allowing your ex to keep the kids on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to avoid an argument (and working it out later) or simply taking your child to choose a gift for their other parent, the more you give, the less stressful the season will be for your child. 

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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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Illinois divorce attorneysPeople often see kids as resilient, but the truth is, they are no different from other people. They may struggle to cope with difficult situations. Such is often the case in a divorce. Determine if your child may need therapy to cope with your separation by looking for the following signs. 

Difficulty in School and Social Life 

Children who are depressed and out of sorts may find it difficult to concentrate in school, or they may begin to lose interest in their social life. Watch for slipping grades, poor behavior, and an overall disinterest in social activities. They may also avoid their friends. Alternatively, your child’s social circle may begin to change; they may start to hang out with delinquents or kids who drink and do drugs. A chance to talk about their feelings may help to improve the situation, but if you are concerned about your child’s safety or future, it may be time to seek professional help. 

Regression and Behavioral Issues at Home

When children go through a difficult or traumatic event, they may display regressive behaviors, such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting. Alternatively, your child may start acting out at home. Some become aggressive and lash out at their parents or siblings. Others may steal, lie, or attempt to manipulate. Most of the time, these behaviors will subside with time, but if they are severe or persist, you may need to seek counseling for your child. 

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Wheaton parenting time attorneysDivorce can bring out the worst in people - and that includes parents. Unfortunately, the stakes of divorce tend to be higher when there are children involved. They can suffer from maladjustment issues, a strained relationship with their parents, and even poor academic performance when the proceedings are not carefully managed.

Thankfully, there are tools and resources that parents can use to mitigate such issues during a divorce, even if the parents themselves cannot seem to get along. Learn more with help from the following sections. 

Start with a Solid Co-Parenting Plan 

The first step to protecting your child in a divorce is ensuring you have a solid co-parenting plan, moving forward. Determine how often your child will be with you, and how often they will be their other parent. Also, consider matters like who will drop your child off at school. Who will pick them up? Who can provide the best accommodations of your child over the weekend? Holidays, birthdays, and summers with your child should also be carefully considered. 

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Illinois parenting time attorneysChildren, although seen as resilient, can suffer greatly during a divorce. Thankfully, attentive and loving parents can ease the transition to improve their child’s outcome. Learn more about how to help your child cope during your impending Illinois divorce, and discover how a seasoned attorney can ease the process so that you have more time to focus on your child’s needs.

Place Your Child’s Interests at the Forefront 

Loving parents are generally pretty attentive to the needs and well-being of their children, but during a divorce, life can feel pretty out of sorts. Add in a dose of guilt, depression, or even just the stress that a divorce may cause, and it is easy to see why parents sometimes lose sight of what might be best for their kids. Parents may also become preoccupied with “winning” the divorce - and not necessarily because they want to get even with their spouse. Some simply struggle with the idea of splitting the time they have with their children. 

To avoid such issues in your divorce, start by first examining your situation, rather than your feelings. Consider what your child needs most. Is it stability? Perhaps they would adjust best if allowed to stay in their current neighborhood, rather than having to move and change schools. Now consider which parent may be able to best meet your child’s daily needs. Now consider how you ensure your child has their other needs met - specifically time and a connection with the parent that cannot meet their daily needs. Use all of this as a foundation for your parenting plan. 

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Wheaton family law attorneysStudies have long shown that divorce can impact the academic performance of children, but a new research project provides even more insight into the types of families that are more likely to see such issues after a divorce. Learn more in the following sections, and discover how our seasoned attorneys may be able to help improve the outcome for your children. 

Study Examines Academic Issues in Children After Parental Divorce

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, examined the families and socioeconomic demographics of 11,512 children and 4,931 children to determine their risk of divorce. Researchers then cross-referenced the data and compared it to the educational outcomes of the children who ultimately experienced a divorce, as well as those who did not. Children from families that had a low risk of divorce saw a greater risk of poor academic performance and an increased risk of not completing their education. 

Specifically, the children from families with a low divorce risk were 6 percent less likely to graduate from high school, and approximately 15 percent less likely to graduate from college. In contrast, children who came from families with a high risk of divorce suffered almost no academic deficit after the separation of their parents. 

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DuPage County divorce attorneysLoving parents will do almost anything to ensure their children feel happy and safe. Sadly, not even the best efforts can save some marriages - and when a child’s parents go through a divorce, they are bound to be impacted. Thankfully, there are many strategies that a parent can employ to minimize the negative effects of a divorce. Next to pursuing an amicable separation, validating the child’s feelings is one of the most effective and critical. 

Why Validation Works

Everyone experiences feelings of anger, sadness, and grief; children are no exception. However, children do not always know how to verbalize their feelings. Because of this, their feelings may come out in the form of negative or undesirable behaviors. Examples can include meltdowns or temper tantrums, separation anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, poor academic performance, and extreme sensitivity. 

Validation may not remedy all of these issues, but it can certainly go a long way to helping a child heal during and after a divorce. It allows them to feel as though they have a voice, and that their feelings are important. That can be critical for a child who feels like every decision is out of their control. Even better is when a parent can help their child identify their feelings and learn how to put them into words. 

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DuPage County parenting time lawyersGoing through a divorce is hard on parents, but it can be especially difficult for children. They are experiencing a range of emotions, and they might not understand how to deal with those emotions effectively. Reading books to your young children can help them to see that they are not alone, and what they are feeling is normal. Books can also show children how to deal with and express complex emotions. The following books would be a great place to start: 

It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear, by Vicki Lansky

This sweet story tells of a young bear cub whose parents are getting divorced. Koko Bear goes through a range of emotions, including anger, guilt, sadness, and confusion. The best part of the book is that it offers advice to parents on how to help children with these emotions. 

My Family’s Changing, by Pat Thomas

A sweet little picture book that tells about how divorce affects families. It has a “What About You” section that gives parents a number of questions that parents can ask their children. Ultimately, answering these questions can help the child to better understand and express their feelings. 

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Wheaton family law attorneysThe decision to get divorced is one you should take seriously. If children are involved, you should be especially diligent in making the right decision for the family unit. Divorce can hurt kids, even when the parents are agreeable, but the effect may far worse if the interactions between parents become toxic. 

In knowing this, most parents put forth the effort to thwart toxicity in their situation. However, that is not always the case. Learn how continued toxicity in your divorce can negatively impact your children, and discover what you can do when faced with a parent who is consistently making poor, selfish, or negative decisions regarding your children and/or matters involving them in your Illinois divorce. 

Examining the Potential Effects of a Toxic Divorce 

While each case may vary based on a range of factors (i.e. the temperament of the child, level of toxicity, the form of toxicity, or whether additional forms of abuse are present in the marriage or family environment, etc.), children who witness a toxic divorce situation often share similar traits and issues. Some of these include problems with:

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Illinois parenting time lawyersIf you are unable to raise your child with their other parent due to divorce, breakup, or any other reason, the state of Illinois will want you to have a legal parenting plan in place. This is a complex, and often emotional process that needs to be handled well for the benefit of your child, and yourself. When working on a parenting plan, make sure to consider the following essential concepts. 

Put Your Child First

The most important thing to consider when working on a parenting plan is that it is all about your children, not yourself. It is tempting to fight to keep your child with you every day and ensure you are able to make every possible decision throughout their childhood. The fact is, however, that in the vast majority of cases it is better for the child to encourage them to have a close relationship with each parent, and for the parents to work together. Putting your child first may be hard, but it will help them to thrive long into the future. 

Be Ready to Make Concessions 

It is almost unheard of for any parent to get 100% of what they want when discussing a parenting plan. This is why it can be so helpful to work with a mediator, arbitrator, or another objective third-party who can help facilitate compromise. When getting ready to discuss your parenting plan, try to have some flexibility so that you can successfully come to an agreement. Of course, this does not mean you have to give up specific things that are extremely important to you!

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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 family law attorneysThe divorce process can have a negative impact on all involved parties, but child experts say that it is children who are at the greatest risk for long-term, negative effects. Part of this can be attributed to their lack of control in the situation, but there are other aspects of a divorce that can increase a child’s risk of developing mental, emotional, or behavioral issues during the process. For example, studies suggest children are more likely to suffer from maladjustment if interactions between their parents are contentious or tumultuous during the proceedings. 

What is Childhood Maladjustment? 

Childhood development is a complex process. Its course is determined by both nature and nurture - or what some would call a child’s environment and genetic makeup. Major events that change the dynamics of a family, whether positive or negative, can also have an impact on a child’s development. The birth of a sibling is usually seen as a positive influence, as they must learn to share their time, toys, and attention, which can ultimately make them more compassionate and empathetic people. 

Divorce tends to be seen as a negative influencer. It can leave children feeling at fault for the dissolution of their parent’s marriage. Fighting and tumultuous proceedings can also cause the child to feel as though they have to choose a side in the divorce, which can significantly impact their relationship with both parties - not just the parent that they attempt to snub. Some struggle to adjust when one parent leaves the home. Others may feel as though their entire world has been turned upside down, which may cause them to develop symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

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