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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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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 parenting time attorneysWhile some divorcing couples fight and argue until the bitter end, more and more parents are striving for an amicable end to their marriage. One might even go say that the decision to “consciously uncouple” has become somewhat of a trend in divorce. There are even “new” parenting time plans being used by well-meaning parents. One such example is the “bird-nesting” arrangement. 

Is this type of parenting time plan a positive one for kids, or is it merely a trend? More importantly, could this type of agreement result in unnecessary harm for children of divorce? The following examines both sides of a bird-nesting divorce, and it explains how you can determine if it may be a suitable parenting time solution for your family. 

What is a Bird-Nesting Divorce?

When most parents divorce, one typically moves out of the house. The other may soon follow, or they may opt to keep the family home. In either case, the children may be shuffled back and forth between the two homes. In the midst of all the changes occurring in their lives, such arrangements can be daunting for children of divorce. It can also amp up the discomfort they feel while trying to adjust to their “new life.” 

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Wheaton family law attorneysChildren often feel the pain of a divorce, no matter what time of year it is, but the holiday season can be especially difficult for those who are trying to adjust to a new way of life. Days previously spent together, happily planning family events, wrapping gifts, or attending holiday parties together can become a sad reminder of all that the child has lost. Not all is lost, however. In fact, parents can help their child find and experience joy during the holidays, even if they are in the throes of nasty divorce. Best of all, divorcing parents can use the following co-parenting strategies, long after the decorations have been packed away, as these tactics can benefit a child of divorce, all year-round. 

Focus on Your Child Instead of Your Ex-Spouse 

Parents are encouraged to focus their energy on their child, rather than their ex-spouse, during the divorce process. Concerns over your ex’s personal life, fighting over parenting matters or marital assets, and worrying about whether your child misses you while spending time with their other parent can hurt more than just you and your spouse; such behaviors can also cause your child to feel as though they are trapped in the middle of the divorce, or that they must “choose sides.” Focus on celebrating your child’s time with their other parent, keep conversations about the divorce private, and focus on rebuilding and reinventing your own life and not only are you likely to be happier, but your child is likely to be as well. 

Consider Using Neutral Ground for Family Traditions

Family traditions do not have to fall completely to the wayside, just because you are divorcing your spouse, but if spending a few hours alone with them in the presence of your child does not feel like a possibility, you may be at a loss for how to move forward. Some parents choose to continue their usual family traditions on neutral ground. For example, if you typically open gifts together on Christmas morning, you might consider if it would be possible to meet and open gifts at a family member’s house. Changing traditions in this way not only allows your child to share important moments with both parents, but it shows your child that you and your ex-spouse are willing to work together as a cohesive parenting team, rather than sworn enemies. 

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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 attorneysDivorce may end a marriage, but it does not end the co-parenting relationship between a couple. In fact, children of divorce tend to fare best when both of their parents work together to protect the child’s best interests - and not just immediately after the divorce, but also as the child grows and their needs change. Back-to-school season is a good time to reexamine a child’s situation and consider if changes to the parenting plan may be in order. Learn more in the following sections, and discover how a seasoned, competent family law attorney can assist you with the process. 

Putting Your Child’s Needs First 

It is normal for parents to be protective of their time with a child; they grow up fast. Yet, it is critical that divorced couples consider and attempt to meet their child’s needs in every way possible. Part of this is because studies have shown that divorce does not necessarily create problems for children. Instead, children tend to experience poorer outcomes (i.e. struggling with relationships as an adult, poor academic performance, behavioral issues, etc.) when there is a great deal of contention between the parents. You and your spouse can protect your child from such outcomes by placing the needs of your child over your own wishes and desires. 

Growing Children and Changing Needs

The needs of all children change as they grow older - homework demands get bigger, school start times change, and they often become involved in more activities. Those changes can be even more difficult to manage when the child’s needs are being met in two separate homes and they have two different schedules to follow. Parents can help their child by considering what may benefit the child most. 

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