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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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Illinois parenting time lawyersThe entire country is being advised to practice social distancing and quarantine procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Parents who share children but live in separate households are both concerned and unnerved about what this could mean for their families. Check out these options for divorced, legally separated, and non-wed families parenting in separate households. 

Keeping Visitation Schedules the Same 

Many of the families that have not been affected by the virus are opting to keep their visitation schedule the same for now. Their children continue to transition between homes. As long as nothing changes, and each household practices social distancing or in-home quarantine, this should not be an issue, so long as no one becomes infected. Parents who continue visitation their schedules as they are may want to also develop a plan for handling a positive COVID-19 case within the family. Some things to consider include:

  • Where the child will stay if one or both parents become infected,
  • Who will care for the child if they end up contracting COVID-19, and
  • How the family can still bond if forced to quarantine in separate households. 

Changing Visitation Schedules Under Quarantine

Families under full quarantine (mostly in high-risk areas) may want to consider changing their visitation schedule to reduce the chances of sending the virus to both homes. Incubation for COVID-19 is anywhere from seven to 11 days, so the most prudent schedule would likely be a two-week exchange. Parents can verbally make such an agreement verbally, but it is better to have a legal document in place, just to be safe. Your family law attorney can help. 

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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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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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DuPage County parenting time lawyersAs more families work toward amicable splits, the rate of full joint custody has increased. In addition, there are studies that highlight the potential benefits of a near equal time split between parents. Unfortunately, communication between divorcing parties can be stressful, even when both are focused on the well-being and best interests of their children. Gain some helpful tips for minimizing issues (and unnecessary stress) in your joint custody plan in the following sections.

1. Find a Way to Communicate Effectively

Managing a kid’s schedule is difficult enough when working out of one home. Split the bills and responsibilities and things can get downright confusing. Effective communication is the key to reducing stressors while managing schedules during a divorce. You can also incorporate online applications, such as shared family calendars.

2. Be Mindful of Your Ex’s Schedule

Even when things are tense between you and your spouse, you will want to try and be as mindful of their schedule as possible. Show up on time for pick-ups and drop-offs. If an occasional change of plans occurs, be as flexible as possible. In short, focus on being as mindful of your spouse’s schedule as you want them to be of yours.

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DuPage County parenting time lawyersBack-to-school can be a fun and exciting time for families, but for couples in the midst of a divorce, communication is critical to avoiding arguments. Learn how you and your spouse can foster a positive co-parenting experience during this hectic period with help from the following. 

Get on the Same Page (or as Close as Possible)

When it comes to educational goals, parents need to be on the same page—or at least as close as possible. Common areas of contention involve debates over private versus public school, the district in which the child should attend school, and whether extracurricular activities will be covered by child support, or if each parent will contribute to the cost of their own volition. 

Remember, at the end of the day, what you and your spouse really want is to provide the best possible education for your child, at a cost that each of you can reasonably afford. Also, keep in mind that you may spend a great deal of time, negotiating an arrangement that works for all involved parties. 

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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 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 time attorneysThanks to studies and real-life families, shared parenting plans are on the rise. In fact, several states have introduced bills that would make a 50-50 parenting time split the starting point in all divorces - but is this trend appropriate for every family? Consider the following pros and cons of a shared parenting plan, and learn how our seasoned divorce lawyers can help you in deciding whether one may be right for your family. 

What is a Shared Parenting Plan?

Shared parenting plans typically involve a near-equal split of the child’s time. Some families switch off weekly, with one parent having the child for a week and then the other. In other shared parenting plans, the child may switch homes throughout the week, perhaps with one parent taking the beginning of the week (i.e. Sunday through Wednesday) and the other taking the remaining days. The latter plan will typically involve a switch-off, where the child may spend four days with one parent one week, and then three with that same parent on the following week.

The Potential Pros of a Shared Parenting Plan 

At their core, shared parenting plans are designed to ensure the child has ample time with each parent. Studies have shown that this can be highly beneficial for the child’s overall growth and development - and not just during the divorce, but in the years to follow. Families with shared parenting plans also tend to have better communication, overall, because the plan itself requires a great deal of cooperation. Of course, not all parents can communicate in such a way after their divorce, and that can lead to complications down the road. 

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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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Illinois parenting time attorneysWith more parents speaking out about the benefits of 50-50 shared parenting, and more studies indicating their benefits, the popularity of such plans are increasing. Of course, like most things, there are some challenges to drafting such a parenting plan - especially if you are used to being around your child all of the time or have doubts about the other parent’s ability to handle the child. Discover how to overcome such challenges in your parenting time case, and how our seasoned family law attorneys can assist you with the process. 

Pursue an Amicable Divorce or Separation

Relationships that end in explosion might make for great fiction, but in real life, these endings have real consequences - especially when there are children involved. Studies have shown that it is not necessarily the end of the relationship that negatively influences children. Instead, they say it is the amount of conflict they experience between their parents on a daily basis. That means two very important things:

  • Staying in a toxic relationship is highly unlikely to benefit your child. Instead, it is far more likely to do them harm, and
  • An amicable split to your relationship is far less likely to have a negative impact on your child than a toxic one.

Focus on Your Child’s Needs and Best Interests

Parents are only human, and divorce and break-ups are often painful, which can cause emotions to run high. As a result, the parent may struggle to separate their own feelings about the end of the relationship from what the child truly needs - which is often a healthy, connected relationship with both of their parents. 

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Illinois divorce attorneysClaiming dependents on your taxes is usually a pretty straightforward process, but if your family has recently been through a divorce, things can be a little more complex. Given the significant impact that dependents can have on one’s tax status, it probably comes as no surprise that the matter can cause a great deal of strife between recently divorced parents. 

Normally, a divorce decree dictates who claims the dependents on their taxes, but disagreements and discrepancies can and do sometimes occur. There are also situations in which one parent may attempt to deprive the other of their right to claim the dependents on their taxes. Learn what can happen in these scenarios, and discover how our seasoned DuPage County divorce lawyers can help to clear up confusing matters involving your divorce. 

What Happens When Two Parents Try to Claim a Dependent?

If a divorce decree dictates who is supposed to claim the children, and both parents attempt to claim them, the matter is usually resolved by supplying the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with proper documentation. However, if a decree does not exist, then the IRS has a series of tie-breaker rules that they use to determine who gets the credit. In order, these rules are:

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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 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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DuPage County child visitation attorney family lawMost experts agree that children thrive when they have positive relationships with both parents, along with extended family on both sides. Unfortunately, life does not always work out that way. In some cases, parents do not agree on which family members should and should not be part of a child’s life. Sometimes, a parent may even have good reason to feel that the other parent is unfit to be around their child. Typically, Illinois law allows for children of divorced parents to continue having parenting time with both parents and meaningful relationships with all of their extended family. However, there are, of course, necessary exceptions. 

What Is Considered Cause for Termination of Visitation?

Custody laws in Illinois state that unless a child’s physical, emotional, mental, and/or moral health is at stake, modifications to a child custody agreement will not be made. Of course, this can be a tough call to make, so when there is a question about the matter of a child’s safety, it will probably require an investigation and a hearing. Significant evidence that the accused party is indeed a danger to the child will have to be produced in order for the court to consider changes.

What Types of Visitation Modifications May Be Made?

Family members in the child’s life who have visitation rights which could be challenged include a parent, grandparent, sibling, or stepparent. In a “normal situation,” all of these relatives would be entitled to regular contact with the child, including in-person visits and electronic or phone contact when the child is not in their physical presence. However, if it can be proven that the child would be in danger during the course of parenting time or visitation with family members, modifications may be made.

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