Every couple going through a divorce with children must make child custody arrangements for their children before they can complete the process. Your parenting plan must contain information about how you and your spouse will split parenting time and share decision-making responsibilities. Parenting time is often a tough issue for parents during a divorce. Many parents do not want to give up spending time with their children. One of the ways parents can spend a bit more time with their children is by crafting a well-thought-out “right of first refusal” clause in the parenting agreement.
Understanding the Right of First Refusal
There are fifteen different elements that must be addressed in the parenting plan per Illinois law. One of the provisions you must include is a description of how and when parents may invoke the right of first refusal. The right of first refusal gives a parent the opportunity to care for their child before the other parent takes the child to an alternative care provider. For example, if a mother cannot watch the child on her assigned day, she must contact the father to see if he can watch the child before calling a babysitter. The right of first refusal is a right that both, one, or neither parent may have, depending on what would be in the child’s best interests.
What to Include in the Agreement
Parents are encouraged to come to an agreement about the right of first refusal, but if they are unable to, the Court reserves the right to make the final decision. There are a few things you should be sure to include in the agreement:...
In the wake of your divorce, the thought of rejoining the dating scene may seem unappealing and unrealistic, but as the months or years go by, you may find yourself longing for the companionship that you once had in past relationships. Many divorcees find a new partner without even looking through work, friends, or their involvement in the community. But just because you meet someone does not mean that you feel the need to get married again. Whether it is a result of trauma from your past marriage or simply a sense of content with your current situation, you may opt to be a lifelong partner rather than taking on the title “husband” or “wife” again. You may think that your dating life no longer concerns your former spouse; however, your new relationship can affect the details of your divorce agreement.
Most divorces include the payment of spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, from one spouse to the other. The purpose of this financial support is to ease the transition from sharing finances throughout your marriage to becoming financially independent. When the court determines the details of spousal maintenance, they typically leave the payment period open-ended. This does not mean, however, that the payments are completely indefinite. There are a number of factors that can lead to the termination of spousal maintenance, including cohabitation with a new partner. This does not mean that if you move in with a friend or roommate, your former spouse will no longer owe you alimony. Once you have moved in with a new partner “on a resident, continuing conjugal basis,” the paying party can request to terminate his or her financial support obligations....
During the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live. While many businesses shuttered temporarily to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus, other companies have allowed their employees to work remotely from home. Likewise, many school districts have switched to online learning, so more people are home now than they would be normally. Some divorced parents are finding their income significantly reduced if their position was eliminated completely and they had to file for unemployment. With such a disruption to everyone’s regular routines, you may be wondering if you can modify your existing divorce orders, including child support, parenting time, and child custody. Under Illinois law, you can amend these types of orders depending on the circumstances.
Continuing to find ways to support your children after you get divorced can be very challenging, especially if you and your ex-spouse do not see eye to eye on certain matters. Illinois law requires divorcing parents to come to an agreement on the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation). This parenting plan also includes who will have the authority to make decisions about the children’s educational opportunities and extracurricular activities such as sports, music, or theater. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, a judge will make decisions based on several factors, including the financial status of the spouses and the well-being of the children....
Summer is quickly approaching, and some divorced parents may have vacation plans that include their child. Whether these plans include taking lengthy trips or having children stay with a parent for a whole week instead of a weekend, summer schedules are often quite different than they are during the school year. Parents who share child custody may struggle to address these changing schedules and ensure that they can spend time with their children as planned. To make it easier, here are some tips on what you should and should not do when addressing issues related to summer vacations.
How to Co-Parent in the Summer
There are a variety of ways to make co-parenting easier during the summer months when parents and children may be able to spend more time with each other. During this time, it is important to:
- Plan in advance: If you have any plans with your child that deviate from your parenting plan, you will want to discuss them with your former spouse ahead of time. Ideally, you will be able to work together to come to an agreement about any changes to your parenting time schedules during the summer months while ensuring that the decisions you make will protect your children’s best interests.
- Get your child involved: Divorce can be hard on kids. They may already be adjusting to dividing their time between parents’ homes, and during this time, maintain a consistent routine. No matter how fun a vacation is, it can still be a disruption that could make it harder for your child to cope with the changes that have come with your divorce. To minimize these types of difficulties, involve children in vacation planning by asking them what they would like to do, and be sure they know what to expect. When children are older, you may also need to determine whether they will have any of their own plans, and be sure to consider this when preparing for summer.
- Keep communication open: As you carry out your summer vacation plans, be sure to remain in contact with the other parent, and make sure your child communicates with them regularly. Encourage phone calls and texts so they can stay in touch.
How Not to Co-Parent in the Summer
As you prepare for summer, you may inadvertently take some steps that are not appropriate for the situation. You should do your best to avoid the following mistakes:...
For many parents going through divorce, the biggest fear they have is that they will not be able to spend as much time with their children. This fear is an understandable one. Although the divorce laws in Illinois state that a parent’s gender should not be considered when making decisions about child custody, many judges still have a bias, even if they do not realize it. In many cases, parents worry that they will be treated unfairly when courts allocate parenting time, and they may be unsure of how they can protect their parental rights and ensure that the decisions made during divorce will provide for their children’s best interests. However, Illinois lawmakers are currently considering legislation that could change how parenting time is addressed in divorce and family law cases.
Are There Minimum Parenting Time Standards in Illinois?
Studies have found that it is in a child’s best interests to spend at least 35 percent of his or her time with each parent. However, under Illinois law, there is no minimum requirement for the amount of parenting time that should be allocated to a parent. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) states that parents are presumed to be fit to care for their children unless there is evidence to the contrary. However, parents are only entitled to “reasonable” amounts of parenting time, and the IMDMA does not specify a minimum amount or percentage of parenting time that is considered reasonable. Because of this, Illinois has received a ranking of C- from the National Parents Organization in its Shared Parenting Report Card. Clearly, there is work to be done in the state regarding shared parenting, and some lawmakers are attempting to address this issue.
House Bill 0185
A bill has been introduced to the Illinois House of Representatives that would change the way judges decide on parenting time in the state. House Bill 0185 would require judges to begin a child custody case with the presumption that it would be in children’s best interests for parents to share equal amounts of parenting time, as long as each parent is fit and able to care for his or her child. If, after reviewing the facts of the case, a judge determines that one parent should have less parenting time than the other, he or she would be required to provide a written explanation for the deviation from this presumption. The goal is to reduce the amount of conflict in divorce and child custody cases and make them easier and fairer for everyone involved, while protecting children’s best interests at all times....
After getting a divorce as a parent, you and your ex-spouse will typically have to work together to co-parent your children. This can be difficult, particularly if the divorce was bitter or messy, and there are still feelings of resentment. However, it is best if you are able to work together with your ex-spouse as peacefully and respectfully as possible. Not only will everyone benefit from this cooperation, but it can help you demonstrate that you are willing to put your children’s interests first, which may work in your favor if you need to modify the terms of your parenting plan in the future. Here are some ways you can encourage ongoing cooperation between co-parents after getting divorced:
Solve Problems Together
Although you and your ex-spouse have agreed to work together as co-parents, this does not mean that any hurt or anger that built up during the divorce will just go away. However, you will still need to be able to cooperate to meet your children’s needs and address any problems that may arise. When working to resolve these issues, you should try to put your feelings about your former spouse to the side and focus on how the two of you can reach a solution that will provide for your children’s best interests.
Maintain Open Communication
Communication about what is going on in children’s lives is one of the most important factors in successful co-parenting. By keeping your children the focal point of every conversation, the two of you can ensure that you understand their needs and are prepared to address any ongoing concerns. This will also allow you both to remain informed about what is going on in your children’s lives, including any medical or educational matters that you and your ex-spouse both need to be aware of....
The terms of a divorce settlement or judgment will attempt to cover the many different issues the two parties will face as a divorced couple. However, marital settlement agreements cannot possibly cover every situation. One of the most common situations divorced couples with children face is whether or not parents should leave their child alone with another person, such as a babysitter, when they cannot care for them.
It can be upsetting to hear that a child was left with someone other than their parent. This is particularly true when one parent does not personally know the person watching the child. While this type of situation can be stressful and sometimes cause arguments, is it against the law?
The Right of First Refusal
Historically, Illinois did not have many laws on the books pertaining to someone other than a parent watching a child. However, as of January 1, 2014, parents can choose to leave their child with someone else, but they may first have to ask the other parent. This is known as “right of first refusal,” and this right is covered under 750 ILCS 5/602.3. This statute simply requires that, in certain cases, the parent caring for the child could be required to give the other parent the first opportunity to watch them....
Once a married couple decides to split and file for divorce, the inevitable question, sooner or later, is when to move on and start dating again. Dating, in and of itself, presents complications, but when children are added to the equation, their opinions, as well as that of the other parent, may begin to matter.
A parent’s choice to begin a new relationship may play a part in decisions about the allocation of parental responsibilities and other divorce-related matters. Even if a parent begins dating after the divorce has been finalized, the other parent may potentially bring this matter before a judge and ask for a modification of the parenting plan. Thus, while there is no legal prohibition against dating, new relationships may have a practical effect on how a court may view certain behavior, and they may influence child custody decisions.
Dating During a Divorce
From the outside, dating while a divorce is still pending may appear premature, but couples may have extended periods of separation before taking the final step to formally end their marriage. That being said, appearances do make a difference in the outcome of divorce. Thus, starting an active dating life before the divorce has been finalized is likely to produce conflict and increase the odds that the other spouse will be less willing to compromise and more willing to litigate disputed issues. This can leave the other spouse with the choice of accepting a settlement that is less advantageous than they really want in order to avoid the time and expense of litigation, or they may choose to let a judge make the final decisions, which can be unpredictable and unlikely to produce a satisfactory outcome....
Trusting an ex-spouse to follow the terms of a parenting plan is one of the harder aspects of shared child custody. While most parents truly make an effort to abide by the provisions in good faith, others take advantage of the requisite trust to abuse their authority and take impermissible acts, such as taking extra parenting time or making educational decisions without consulting the other parent.
Parents should primarily seek to work out disagreements between each other, both for a quicker resolution and for the child’s sake; however, a parent willing to take unilateral action solely for his or her own benefit, and often to the detriment of the other parent, should not be allowed to proceed without comment and consequences. The more a parent is allowed to disregard the terms of a parenting plan, the more likely the other parent’s rights will be eroded over time and the parent/child relationship damaged.
One example of the lengths a parent must sometimes go to stop abuse of parental authority by another parent is illustrated in the recent story of a Bloomington mother who will soon be reunited with her son after eight months. An arrest warrant was issued for the father after he failed to appear in Court five consecutive times to justify his removal of the boy to Boston and his refusal to return....
When a couple goes through a divorce, both spouses typically assume ongoing obligations under a Court order or private settlement agreement, especially when child custody issues and support are a concern. Reconciling oneself to years of mandatory obligations is rarely easy but is necessary to avoid unpleasant legal consequences. However, the law will not support or ignore individuals who attempt to get out of legally enforceable obligations that commonly are most damaging to the needs of the child and not the former spouse.
Courts have a number of ways to compel action from an individual trying to shirk his or her responsibilities, and the most powerful one is holding someone in civil contempt of Court. While this is principally used as a last resort when other collection and compliance methods have failed (i.e. wage garnishment, property liens, suspension of licenses, etc.), this option is an effective measure to spur action.
What is Contempt?...
Parenting a child under the best of circumstances, when parents are together and united, continually presents challenges that can divide couples if they disagree on the proper response. However, these challenges become markedly more complex following divorce and the division of parenting responsibilities.
Many relationship and situational issues can lead to disputes about childrearing, but one of the most disruptive and pervasive issues that can bring effective parenting to a halt is violence. A recent study published by a professor at the University of Illinois examined how different types of violence affected co-parenting in the first year after divorce.
The findings suggested spouses who experience control-based violence, which tends to be more constant and encompassing, were more likely to have significant co-parenting problems compared with spouses who saw violence based on situations, such as an affair or money problems, who seemed to have more support and cooperation from the other parent....
Establishing and maintaining a meaningful connection with one's child is one of the primary goals of all parents. While this effort often becomes more complicated as a child grows up, parents that are separated or divorced have an even bigger hurdle to overcome.
Nurturing a relationship with one's child when custody is shared is challenging for both parents, but the parent allocated the lesser amount of parenting time must work even harder to overcome the lack of time together. Parents generally have a right to exercise a reasonable amount of parenting time with their child, and are presumed fit to exercise parental responsibilities unless evidence is submitted to show the contrary. However, in practical terms, one parent — often the mother — is granted a greater share of the parenting time and care taking duties. The other parent, on the contrary, is typically left with weekends — not always consecutive — and one night per week to foster the parent-child connection.
Reflecting the tendency for fathers to receive less parenting time, a non-profit hosted a free event for fathers in Chicagoland affected by divorce or other family disruptions to learn how to be the most effective parent possible under such circumstances. Regardless of which parent has a greater role in a child's day-to-day life, the parent with more parenting time has the power to block the other parent from seeing the child, in violation of the parenting plan....
Sharing custody of a child routinely presents many parents with the potential for conflict. Whether related to decisions on education or childcare, or the amount of time a child spends with each parent, points of disagreement are likely to arise.
In addition to the philosophical and custodial aspects of sharing parental responsibilities, the very act of exchanging custody of a child between parents can create a number of logistical and psychological challenges. This practical consequence of divorce is one that is easy to overlook when the parties are deciding how to allocate parental responsibilities. Moreover, these exchanges can have profound implications on the ability of parents to cooperate with one another.
Consequently, deciding where and when a custody exchange will take place is an important issue that should be directly addressed, especially if there is concern that outside factors, such as anxiety over seeing a new romantic interest or fear of an altercation, may provoke tension and thus make civil exchanges difficult, if not impossible. Certainly, the amount of interaction, which is often tied to the age of the child and the frequency of exchanges, is a big driver of the potential for conflict. Further, the context of child custody exchanges is likely to change as the child gets older, and is in less need of supervision and direction....
Raising a child is no small task, and includes an incredible amount of responsibility. Most parents try, and have a vested interest in, basing their decisions on what is best for their child. This selfless tendency is part of the reason why the law favors awards of shared parenting time between parents in divorce or paternity proceedings.
Children thrive most when both parents play a large and consistent role in their lives; though in practice, one parent usually provides the majority of the childcare. However, Courts have the authority to deviate from the shared model when circumstances warrant such a decision, including and up to giving one parent sole physical and legal parental responsibilities of the child.
Even if one parent is given sole responsibility, the other is usually granted some degree of visitation and communication with the child to prevent the total loss of a parent. This type of restricted visitation is used when the child's safety or development is threatened, but the parent with primary responsibility for the child cannot impose or deny visitations without a Court order, even if his or her concerns are legitimate....
When couples decide to divorce, the belief that there is only one divorce form available is natural — especially considering the depictions of divorce on television. The typical TV version of divorce involves a long, drawn-out process that culminates in a trial where both parties verbally attack each other in Court. Certainly, this kind of divorce is possible, such as in the case of a divorcing couple who recently fought over Cubs World Series tickets. However, another way exists.
Traditional divorce cases are referred to as formal dissolution in Illinois. An easier, faster and less expensive way to end a marriage is called joint simplified dissolution. This option is not open to everyone because a number of requirements must be met to qualify. Yet for those who can use this type, joint simplified dissolution offers a streamlined route to divorce that could be important for parties who want a quick resolution to their case.
Few people walk away from a divorce happy. Children are especially affected when their parents sever ties — children often feel alone and isolated. In response to these emotions, children tend to withdrawal or act out.
Many states, Illinois included, require parents who are involved in active visitation cases to attend parenting classes. These classes aim to teach parents effective communication skills to help their children better adapt to the changing family situation. Additionally, the classes can help to reduce litigation and conflict between the parents.
As more parents become attuned to the long-term impact of divorce on child development, new parenting time arrangements are becoming more popular....
Recent revisions to Illinois law require that parents submit a parenting plan to the Court whenever there is a dispute about the allocation of parental responsibilities, or what was previously known as custody and visitation. Parents can also agree to modify their parenting plan and simply submit the plan to the Court for approval. Whatever the case may be, your parenting plan must address certain concerns that involve your children. Essentially, your plan must contain not only the elements required by Illinois law, but also any provisions that may be unique to your family or important to you.
Parenting Plan Basics
A parenting plan is a written document that sets forth each parent’s legal rights and obligations with respect to the children. The plan addresses the same types of issues that a custody agreement or parenting agreement previously addressed. Rather than referring to custody and visitation, however, Illinois law now only refers to the allocation of parental responsibilities, or how parents will effectively parent their child together. Basic elements of a parenting plan include the following:...