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DuPage County parenting plan lawyerA divorce is never a walk in the park. However, if you and your spouse have children, it can make the ordeal even more complex. In Illinois, you are required to create a parenting plan that describes how you and the other parent will take care of your kids after your divorce is finalized. Including the right elements is critical to promoting your children’s well-being, and it can also help you maintain a positive co-parenting relationship with your former spouse.

Elements You Must Include in Your Parenting Plan

According to Illinois law, there are certain elements that should be included in your parenting plan, including:

wheaton divorce lawyerThe birth of a child is often cause for celebration, and many parents find that their relationship grows stronger as they work together to raise their child. Unfortunately, however, some parents decide that their marriage is no longer working soon after their child is born. Getting a divorce when you have an infant or toddler can be especially hard, and it is important to think carefully about your child’s needs and best interests as you work to resolve divorce issues.

How Does Divorce Affect Infants and Toddlers?

Children under the age of three will not understand the reasons for a divorce, and research suggests that they may not even form lasting memories of the events surrounding the divorce. However, because these years are so important to a child’s development, divorce can still affect them significantly. Hurtful conflict between parents and constant interruptions to the child’s routine can cause trauma with effects that resurface as the child gets older. There may also be more immediately noticeable effects. For example, your child may become more dependent on you or the other parent or regress in their development with regard to sleep routines and potty training.

Parental Responsibility and Child Support Considerations

Often, the best way to support your infant or toddler throughout the divorce process is to commit to working together with your spouse to create a parenting plan that considers their best interests. Consistency is especially important for young children, so it may be best to create a parenting time schedule in which your child mostly stays with one parent while the other parent has scheduled visitation time.

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dupage county parenting time lawyerIn Illinois, parents have many important issues to resolve during the divorce process, not the least of which is creating a parenting time schedule. Decisions about parenting time will affect the daily lives of both parents and children, so it is important to reach an agreement that meets everyone’s needs and allows for positive parent-child relationships and effective co-parenting. 

Understanding some of the basics of parenting time can help you approach this issue in your divorce.

Parenting Time Replaced the Concept of Visitation

Before 2016, Illinois family courts would often grant one parent primary physical custody and the other parent visitation. However, the state legislature recognized that this language tended to favor one parent unnecessarily. It was not reflective of the degree of involvement that most parents have in raising their children during a marriage and after a divorce. As a result, the term “visitation” is no longer used, and both parents are instead allocated a share of parenting time.

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DuPage County parenting plan attorneysDuring the divorce process, parents have many important decisions to make regarding their children, especially when it comes to their living arrangements. Perhaps the most notable decision is how parenting time will be allocated between the two parents, but there are other important details to figure out as well. Some of these include how parents will handle transportation between homes, as well as traveling with their children.

Including Transportation Provisions in Your Parenting Plan

In Illinois, transportation arrangements for the children between the two parents’ homes are part of the minimum requirements to be included in a parenting plan. While such transportation may require a relatively small time commitment, thoughtful arrangements are crucial in order to ensure smooth exchanges and avoid encroaching on the other parent’s scheduled time. 

One of the most important questions to address is who will be responsible for transporting the children. For example, your plan could state that each parent is responsible for managing transportation at either the beginning or the end of each of their parenting time periods, or that one parent with reliable transportation is responsible for all exchanges. If there has been a history of conflict between you and your former spouse, it may be best for a trusted third party to supervise or manage the children’s transportation. You should also address the location where exchanges should occur. For example, will each parent pick up or drop off the children at the other parent’s home? Or, is it better to plan exchanges at a neutral location such as your children’s school or a point in between each parents’ residences? 

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Wheaton child custody attorneysDuring the divorce process, one of the most important items for both parents to agree to is a parenting plan that addresses parenting time and parental responsibilities. This agreement may come about through negotiation, mediation, or other collaborative methods between you and your spouse, or it may come in the form of a court ruling issued by a judge, but in either case the terms are legally binding. In the months and years following your divorce, if you find that your ex is failing or refusing to honor the agreement, you may need to pursue the legal enforcement of your divorce order.

Common Parenting Plan Violations in Illinois

Parenting plan breaches may arise out of carelessness, hostility, a change in the relationship between you and your ex, or resentment surrounding the initial terms of the agreement. Some of the most common violations include:

  • Refusing to allow the children to spend their allocated time with the other parent
  • Frequent lateness when transporting the children to the other parent
  • Attempted interruptions of the other parent’s allocated time
  • Refusing to care for the children during one’s allocated time
  • Relocating with the child without obtaining necessary permission under Illinois law

If your ex is engaging in any of these behaviors, you should first attempt to resolve the dispute on your own, provided that doing so does not put you or your children in danger. If the behavior continues, your next step is to file a petition for enforcement with the court.

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Naperville family law attorneysCo-parenting after a divorce can be challenging, both because of the need for coordination between two households and the possibility of lingering disagreement or resentment between you and your ex. However, successful co-parenting is often crucial for your children’s happiness and well-being, and if you can work on effective communication with your ex, you can avoid some of the stresses of co-parenting and establish a system that works for the good of everyone involved.

Illinois Co-Parenting Communication Tips

Whether you and your ex get along fairly well, or you tend to butt heads on a regular basis, communication is key to successful co-parenting. Here are some strategies to improve your communication:

  • Stay calm and professional. Make sure you are in the right mindset to approach communication with your ex so that you can remain calm and manage your emotions. It may help to think of your communication with your ex as similar to communication with a work colleague, since you essentially share the job of effectively raising your children.
  • Practice active listening. It is important to express your needs in communication with your ex, but make sure that you also make an effort to listen to his or her perspective. This opens the door for compromise and collaborative solutions in which both parents and children are able to achieve what is best for them.
  • Keep your focus on the task at hand. When you communicate with your ex, try to keep the conversation on the topic of your children and what each of you needs in order to co-parent effectively. If the conversation begins to stray toward your personal disagreements, this can lead to a communication breakdown.
  • Plan regular check-ins. You may need to establish a regular time to check in with your ex and make sure you are keeping each other informed. This could be a weekly phone call or a short conversation when you drop your kids off at the other parent’s home.
  • Be proactive. If you have a concern or a request related to something coming up in the future, try to be proactive and address it early rather than waiting until the last minute when it may be difficult for the other parent to adapt.
  • Consider alternative channels. Face-to-face communication may not be the best option for you and your ex. If you find it difficult emotionally or logistically to converse in person, it may be best to explore other options like phone calls, texting, or email.

Along with all of these tips, you should ensure that all communication between you and your ex in front of your children is civil. If your kids see their parents fighting, this can put a strain on their relationships with each of you and put them in a difficult situation in which they may feel forced to pick sides.

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DuPage County divorce attorney parental relocation

After a divorce, it can be challenging to co-parent between two different households, and the challenge is bound to increase the farther apart the two parents live. Nevertheless, you may find yourself in a situation in which you need to move for career or personal reasons and want your children to come with you. Illinois law allows for a parent’s relocation under certain circumstances, but if you are planning to move more than 25 or 50 miles away from your children’s other parent, depending on the county where you currently live, you will be required to present your case to the court for approval.

Preparing for Questions in Your Relocation Hearing

As the court considers your relocation request, they will ask you a variety of questions to determine whether the move is in your children’s best interests. These questions may include:

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Illinois parental alienation attorneysWhile most parents only want what is best for their children, there are those who are more focused on “winning” than the child’s best interest. Some may even go so far as to commit parental alienation. In today’s post, you will learn more about parental alienation, including how to determine if your child may be a victim, and what actions can be taken to protect the child. 

What is Parental Alienation?

Minor issues, such as arguments in front of the kids and ill-spoken words are fairly common in the initial stages of a divorce or separation. Though still harmful, these negative behaviors typically dissipate over time. Each parent heals from their grief or anger, sees the nature of their wrongs, and strives to improve for the benefit of the child. 

Parental alienation is different, specifically in terms of severity and the long-term continuance of the offending parent’s poor behavior. Their reasons behind it are varied (i.e. a need or desire to control, fear of losing the child’s love or affection, wanting to hurt or get even with the other parent), but the results are often devastatingly similar. The child suffers mentally and emotionally and, as a result, they may develop maladjustment issues, such as an identity crisis, depression, or even outright hatred toward a parent that they once loved dearly. 

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Illinois parenting plan attorneysWhen parents divorce, they must prioritize what is best for their children. More often than not, this means that each parent should stay emotionally and physically involved in their child’s day-to-day life. How do you do that while living in separate households? In most cases, the details are outlined in a document known as a parenting plan

What is a Parenting Plan?

Parenting plans are legal court documents that are used to outline each parent’s roles and responsibilities as it pertains to meeting the needs of their child. 

What is Included in a Parenting Plan? 

Parenting plans cover more than just parenting time allotment. Designed to address all the needs of a child during the divorce, parenting plans cover a host of child-related issues, including:

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Wheaton parenting time attorneysMatters pertaining to children tend to be some of the most sensitive issues in divorce - and rightfully so. The child’s mental and emotional state, academic performance, and future potential are all at risk. Thankfully, studies show that ample time and continued support from each parent can improve the outcome for children of divorce. 

Not sure how to determine how much time each of you should have? Afraid you may be selling yourself (or your child) short? Check out these eight factors and consider them when drafting your Illinois parenting plan for some guidance. Also, learn how a seasoned family law attorney can protect the best interests of both you and your child. 

1. Age and Temperament of the Child

While studies suggest that children of all ages can handle overnight stays away from home, infants and toddlers may struggle to adjust in the beginning. Younger, school-aged children may need a consistent and reliable schedule that minimizes stress and allows them to focus on their studies. Older children may have their own preferences regarding where they will live day-to-day, which should also be considered. However, they may not need the same regularity in their schedules as younger kids, so parents may be able to do more frequent exchanges.

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DuPage County family law attorneysFor most divorcing parents, the primary concern is the safety and well-being of their child. The weight of that concern increases even further when there is a family history of domestic violence. Thankfully, there are preventative measures that parents can take to protect their child from abuse during and after a divorce. Learn how to utilize them through your Illinois parenting plan, and discover how our seasoned Wheaton divorce attorneys can assist with the process. 

Domestic Violence and the Propensity for Child Abuse 

Spousal abuse is not a definitive predictor for child abuse, as some abusers will harm their intimate partners but do not their children. Domestic violence within the home is considered a risk factor for child abuse, however, because it indicates that the abuser has a propensity for violence. Victims are encouraged to watch for potential signs of abuse in their child and to take preventative measures to protect their child from the possibility of violence or abuse. 

Recognizing the Signs of Child Abuse 

Victims of domestic violence tend to be astutely aware of the signs of physical abuse, such as unexplained (or poor explanations for the causes of) bruising, scrapes, and broken bones, they may be less likely to notice the subtler psychological signs. Often, this is because the victim is still healing and does not recognize the ways that abuse has changed their own personality. As a reference, consider these non-physical signs of abuse to determine if your child is being victimized by your spouse: 

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Wheaton parenting plan attorneysStudies show that children often fare best in a divorce when both parents remain in their lives. Parents can accomplish this with a well-devised parenting plan. How do you go about creating one of these? What works for most families? What will work for you? Keep reading to learn more about the most common parenting plans used in divorce, and how they can be customized to suit your family’s needs. 

Alternating Schedules 

Of all the different parenting plans, the alternating schedule is the most common and traditional. It involves the child spending uninterrupted time with one parent for a period (two days, three days, one week, two weeks, etc.) and then the other. There may even be mid-week visits or mid-week overnights for one or both parents. 

The time does not have to be equal. Children may spend two weeks with one parent and then one with the other, or a week with one parent and then just a weekend with the other. There is no right or wrong here. Just what works best for your family. 

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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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Wheaton parenting plan lawyersWhether or not we want to admit it, celebrities are often the trendsetters in life. Trends in divorce are no different, which is probably why the concept of birds nesting divorce has gained so much traction in the past few years. In many ways, it is a positive thing; it can allow non-celebrity parents the time they need to save money (especially if they are sharing a non-home location as well). However, it is not the right option for every couple. In the following, you can learn some tips to help you determine whether a nesting divorce may work in your case, or if another type of parenting plan may be more suitable for your Illinois divorce. 

How a Nesting Divorce Works

In a nesting divorce, children stay and sleep in the same home every night (usually the home they lived in before the divorce) while the parents rotate in and out. Some experts believe this is less traumatizing for young children who may not do well with going from one parent’s house to the other. However, there are other studies that indicate even infants and toddlers can switch houses with little to no issue. Still, there are some things to be said about keeping the children in the family home. 

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Wheaton parenting time lawyerDivorce can be difficult for all involved parties, but children are often the most susceptible to lifelong complications. For example, studies have shown that children of divorce may be more likely to experience certain health issues, behavioral issues, and mental illness in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Children may also experience maladjustment issues during and immediately after the divorce, such as bedwetting and separation anxiety.

Thankfully, other studies have shown that parents can mitigate the risk with 50-50 shared parenting. Now a father’s rights group is pushing for that arrangement to be the presumed arrangement in family courts. Learn what this might mean for your divorce case, should they be successful, and discover how an experienced attorney can help you now, regardless of whether their efforts change the law or not.

Fathers Remain at a Disadvantage in Divorce

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Illinois-family law attorneysLong-distance relationships are never easy, but those that involve children can be especially trying. In fact, parents and children who have gone through divorce or separation may experience a disconnect – one in which the parent feels left out of the child’s day-to-day life, and the child feels the absence of a parent that is far away. Thankfully, it is possible to develop a parenting plan that satisfies all parties and reduces the risk of mental and emotional distress. The following information can help you learn more about drafting a long-distance parenting plan, and it explains how an experienced family law attorney can assist with the process.

Make Time for Regular, In-Person Visits

Long-distance parents are encouraged to have regular, in-person visits with their child – not just because it gives you and your child physical contact, but also because it can help to ensure that your child knows you are there for them, as much as you can be. Plan to travel out for school concerts and special occasions or request that your child come and stay with you for a weekend every month. Also, consider whether it would be feasible for your child to spend holidays or school breaks with you.

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DuPage County family law-attorneysManaging life and the kids during and after divorce can be stressful, especially in the beginning. Thankfully, with a few good tips and a little time, everyone starts to find their new routine. Learn more how to improve the back-to-school transition while going through a divorce, and discover how an experienced attorney can smooth the process for everyone involved.

Start with Realistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations can be extremely toxic to the co-parenting process, and can often lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and coping problems. As such, parents are encouraged to be patient with one another (and themselves) and understanding with their child. After all, everyone is trying to adjust to a new life, and it takes some time to accomplish that.

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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, parenting timeAs the parent of a minor child who does not live under your roof, you no doubt cherish the time you spend together. While a court may establish your rights to parenting time, whether by agreement or as part of a divorce case, you do not have much guidance to tell you the best ways to exercise your responsibilities to maintain a strong, healthy relationship with your child.

Proper logistics and planning can help ensure a successful parenting time arrangement, and you can also take advantage of the input of an experienced Illinois parental responsibilities lawyer. General advice on making the most of your parenting time includes the following:

  • Make Sure Children Understand the Schedule: Depending on their ages, you should discuss the details of your parenting time schedule—from times and dates to holidays and vacations. A seamless transition between two homes takes some adjustment, but you will want to make sure that your children feel equally comfortable in both spaces. A written schedule provides children with structure and a sense of security.

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DuPage County family law attorneys, right of first refusal, parenting timeA parenting plan for decision-making and parenting time is a part of any Illinois divorce when minor children are involved, whether it is by agreement of the parties or ordered by the court. The provisions of the plan that cover parenting time refer to the periods where one parent is responsible for care-taking duties. However, provisions may not address what happens when something “comes up” to impact the normal schedule.

Illinois law regarding the right of first refusal is intended to alleviate issues that may arise under these circumstances. You should discuss your situation with a qualified parenting time lawyer. Still, some answers to the most common questions on right of first refusal should be helpful.

What is the Right of First Refusal?

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