Getting a divorce can be one of the most difficult decisions of someone’s life. In some cases, couples may put it off if they have children because they cannot bear the thought of not seeing their kids all of the time. Parents also might worry about the negative impact the split may have on the children. However, studies show that youngsters are resilient and often handle major life transitions better than adults. Also, if spouses are unhappy, constant conflict and arguing in front of the kids does not do anyone any good, causing a lot of stress and anxiety. Learning to share parenting time can be challenging, but an experienced attorney can help you and your ex-spouse achieve a co-parenting arrangement that works for everyone.
Making the Most of Your Time Together
In Illinois, divorced parents must create a parenting plan that outlines living arrangements and shared time with the children as well as how decisions will be made regarding education and healthcare. Depending on your situation, you and your ex might be able to mutually agree on the details of your parenting plan. If you have difficulty coming to an agreement, the court will become involved, and a judge will make decisions for you. In any case, they will consider several factors to make determinations based on what is in the best interest of their children....
Although most people enter into marriage thinking it will last “til death do us part,” not all unions make it that far. Whether a couple has simply grown apart or infidelity played a role, spouses may choose to legally end their marriage. In Illinois, the only reason for divorce is “irreconcilable differences,” which basically means the relationship has suffered an irretrievable breakdown and there is no hope for reconciliation. If a couple has children together, there are many issues that will need to be resolved before the divorce is final, including the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation). Co-parenting can pose its challenges even when ex-spouses get along well, but it can become downright combative if you and your ex harbor bitterness or anger toward each other. These feelings often end up being manifested through the children in what is called parental alienation syndrome.
Recognizing Alienating Behaviors
Parental alienation takes place when one parent attempts to disrupt his or her children’s relationship with their other parent. Unfortunately, it can be common after divorce, but it may happen gradually, so noticing the signs of this type of behavior is crucial before it gets out of hand....
The reasons for divorce vary, from infidelity to lack of common interests to substance abuse and domestic violence. Regardless of why a couple decides to part ways, if they have children, the spouses will be somewhat connected for years to come whether they like it or not. Co-parenting can have its challenges, especially during these trying times. “Birdnesting” or “nesting” in a divorce or separation occurs when parents take turns staying in the family home. Rather than making the children travel back and forth between two households, the kids stay put and the parents trade off being in the home for their scheduled parenting time. This type of arrangement can help children cope with the divorce and alleviate some of the stress commonly associated with this major life transition.
In the Children’s Best Interests
According to Illinois divorce law, spouses are allowed to come up with their own agreements in regard to financial and child-related issues, such as spousal support (alimony), parental responsibilities (child custody), and parenting time (visitation). These issues must be officially documented in what is called a parenting plan. In this legally binding document, any decisions made are outlined for both parties to follow once the divorce is final....
Figuring out how to co-parent after your Illinois divorce can be challenging to say the least, especially during a pandemic. Our way of life has changed dramatically since last March when many states issued stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. Non-essential businesses were closed, and students have been e-learning from their homes. Although employees in certain industries may also be able to work from home now, our new normal presents different challenges. For example, parents of younger children might have a hard time monitoring their online activities if they have to participate in teleconferences or Zoom video calls during the day for their jobs. With the upcoming holidays, kids will be on extended breaks from school, so that means divorced parents will likely have to figure out new co-parenting arrangements.
Patience and Cooperation
Learning how to co-parent with an ex-spouse involves a willingness to compromise and be flexible. In some cases, if a child is exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, he or she may have to quarantine at one parent’s house for 10-14 days. This can disrupt an original parenting time schedule. However, for everyone’s health and safety, both parents need to be cooperative and understanding when plans change. In Illinois divorce cases, transporting children between homes is considered “essential travel,” but everyone’s best interests should still be considered, too....
Unfortunately, not all couples live happily ever after. The latest statistics show that approximately 40-50 percent of all U.S. marriages end in divorce. During these challenging times of COVID-19, many people have been spending more time than usual at home. This can be a blessing and a curse depending on the situation. For some families, quality time together has strengthened their relationships. For others, though, it may have exposed underlying problems within their unions. Regardless of the reasons that two people choose to dissolve their marriage, there are certain steps that must be completed before they can walk away. There are many things that may cause delays in finalizing your divorce, so it is important to be patient. An experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate this complex process.
A divorce that involves children is inherently more complicated than one without kids simply because there are fewer issues to resolve. When a couple has children together, decisions must be made regarding what is in the children’s best interests and what meets their basic needs. In Illinois, child support is calculated using the Income Shares model based on both parents’ net incomes. However, child custody and visitation may be worked out between parents if they can agree on an arrangement. However, coming up with a mutually agreeable schedule can be difficult since both parents often want as much time with their children as possible. Figuring out who gets the kids on what holidays and during the summer or school breaks can be challenging....
There are a wide variety of reasons why you and your child’s other parent may not live in the same home. Following your break-up or divorce, you and the other parent will need to develop a cooperative parenting plan that outlines each of your responsibilities regarding your child. As part of your plan, you will also need to include direction over the time that each of you will get to spend with your child. Once known as visitation, the law in Illinois now refers to this as parenting time and recognizes the importance of quality parenting time in helping to foster a strong relationship between the child and both parents.
Get It in Writing and Get It Approved
If you are or were married to the other parent, Illinois law mandates that your divorce agreement will need to account for your child. The court will not enter a finalized divorce judgment until there is an approved parenting plan in place or, if necessary, an order for the allocation of parental responsibilities has been issued.
But what if you and the other parent were never married? While children born outside of marriage are far from uncommon, there are often more complex considerations needed to be sure that each parents’ rights are protected. Presuming paternity is not in question, and you have voluntarily acknowledged your parentage, the two of you will need to develop a parenting plan and a schedule for parenting time. No matter how rocky your relationship with the other parent may be, you are entitled to reasonable rights of parenting time....
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:...
Even when certain issues, such as child custody, have been finalized in a divorce settlement, parents and children may experience changes that affect these matters. That may never be more true than during these uncertain times in which we deal with the threat of the coronavirus. First and foremost, parents should know that the Governor of Illinois has stated specifically that parents are allowed to transport children to carry out court-ordered parenting time schedules. After all, families need each other more than ever right now, and children will need to maintain close relationships with both parents. However, there are some uncertainties and safety issues that parents may need to be aware of when addressing child custody.
Steps to take When a Child Is Endangered
While many of the courthouses in Illinois have closed and will not reopen until the coronavirus crisis dies down, courts will be available to deal with emergency situations. If a parent feels that allowing their child to spend time with the other parent would put the child in danger, they may pursue an order of protection that will ensure that they and their child will be safe from harm. As soon as courts are back in session, a parent may file a petition to modify the child custody order.
Responding When Someone Is Experiencing Symptoms
Some parents may come across the situation in which they, their child, or the other parent is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. In the event that anyone is experiencing symptoms, the parenting time schedule may need to be adjusted to minimize the possibility of infection. In these cases, parents will want to work together to reach an agreement that will protect their children’s best interests. This may mean temporarily foregoing parenting time, and the loss of time with the child may be made up at a later date once the infected party has made a full recovery....
Divorce can be very difficult for everyone who is affected by a couple’s breakup, including their children. One of the biggest concerns children of divorcing parents may have is how their living situation might change and when they will spend time with each parent following the divorce. In many cases, parents and children alike may expect that children will play a role in making decisions about their living arrangements. Although children’s opinions and desires may be a factor in some cases, this will not necessarily be true in every situation. When addressing child custody matters, a family law attorney can help ensure that children’s best interests are protected.
Parenting Time in Illinois
In divorce cases, the time children spend with each parent is commonly referred to as “physical custody” or “visitation.” However, in 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was modified, and those terms are no longer used. Today, the time children spend with each parent is referred to as “parenting time.” The law recognizes that it is in children’s best interests to have regular, ongoing time with each parent, and during divorce, parents will need to create a parenting plan that includes a schedule for when children will live with each parent. The parenting plan will also address how parents will divide the responsibility for making important decisions for their children, such as where they will go to school and what religion they will be raised in.
Do Children Have a Choice Where They Will Live?
One prevailing myth that people may have heard states that once a child turns 14, the court will consider him or her to be mature enough to make a decision about where he or she wants to live. However, this is not a provision that is included in Illinois law. When making decisions about parenting time, a judge will take many factors into consideration to determine what is in the best interests of the child. The child’s desires are one of these factors, and a judge may listen to what a child has to say and take any preferences he or she has into consideration. Rather than identifying an age at which a child’s preferences will be considered, the law states that a judge may consider the child’s wishes if he or she is mature enough to be able to express his or her “reasoned and independent” preferences....
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....
Protecting a child from harm is the number one priority for parents. Rarely does this danger come from within a family, but when it does, a parent may be forced to make hard choices to ensure the child is properly protected.
Parents are presumed to have a fundamental right to spend time with and make decisions for their children, and this is reflected in the child custody laws that govern divorce cases in Illinois. As a result, in the vast majority of divorces, both parents will receive some amount of parenting time on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, this arrangement is not always appropriate, and in some cases, corrective action needs to be taken to ensure the child’s safety.
The normal way to address children’s safety involves requesting a modification of the family’s parenting plan, but this process takes time, and that is something a parent concerned about his/her child’s safety may not have. However, refusing to allow parenting time that has been allocated in a divorce decree is a direct violation of court order, and this can have serious consequences. Parents may wonder what to do if circumstances exist that would negate this rule for the child’s sake....
Studies repeatedly support the fact that continuous engagement with both parents is key to a child’s long-term development and wellbeing. Divorced parents in Illinois are expected to divide parenting responsibilities (absent issues of danger or neglect), including childcare duties; however, this mandate does not necessarily translate into equal time for both parents. While a growing number of states at least state a strong preference for, if not outright demand, equal parenting time, Illinois has no such provision and merely says both parents are presumed fit and some amount of parenting time should be allocated to each.
A recent study by Custody X Change that looked at how states divided parenting time between mothers and fathers found that Illinois ranked among the bottom, only surpassed by Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Specifically, Illinois fathers, on average, get 23.1 percent of time with their children. Obviously, this number is low, and does not bode well for fathers who must rely on the Court system to make this decision. Consider the following on how Courts evaluate parenting time questions, as well as strategies to boost a father’s chance at receiving more parenting time.
Court’s Assessment of Parenting Time...
Dividing parental responsibilities is always a tricky proposition, as each parent is likely to believe he or she is best equipped to provide for his or her child’s physical needs and emotional support system. However, the reality in most homes is one parent is typically more involved in a child’s day-to-day needs and scheduling requirements.
When this factor aligned with the model used to allocate parenting time, a Court is more likely to give the bulk of the responsibilities to the parent who is more involved. This allows continuity for the child to be maintained. However, the situation often leaves the other parent feeling as though he or she has no real opportunity to have equal time with the child, or an ability to make a significant contribution to the child’s life.
Further, fathers are typically more affected by this tendency, which serves to reinforce the stereotype that single fathers have little desire to engage with their children on a meaningful basis. A Bill is currently under consideration in the Illinois legislature that would change the child custody model used by Courts so that both parents would start from the presumption of having equal time with their child....
Child custody is never an easy issue to resolve, even when parents form their own agreement, because the issue is intricately tied to powerful emotions and relationships that are central to the family structure. Settling parenting responsibilities on the heels of divorce becomes even more complex if the Court is asked to decide an arrangement that will govern future interactions.
Sometimes, when parents experience high amounts of conflict, or have legitimate concerns about the child’s welfare, Court intervention is necessary. Because of the importance of child custody, the impartiality of the Judge overseeing the disposition of the case is crucial.
Historically, and according to gender stereotypes, women are traditionally seen as the parent most suited to taking the primary role of caretaker in divorce, with the father receiving much less parenting time comparatively. Recent research into the gender bias affecting the Court system showed that Judges were highly prone to injecting personal bias into child custody decisions that favored the mother, and discouraged the father from taking a meaningful role as caretaker....
Domestic violence is a tragic and intolerable situation experienced by millions of spouses each year, and attempting to leave a marriage by filing for divorce can be complicated by potential retaliation from the abuser and a general fear about the circumstances. Officials recognize the hardships faced by spouses in such a relationship. Thus, they provide the ability to get protection from the abusive individual, so other legal steps, like divorce, become viable options that allow more permanent ways to sever ties.
The persistent dangers of domestic violence are apparent in a recent news story out of the Rockford Register Star that discusses the disappearance of three individuals — a married couple with domestic violence issues that was in the process of divorce, and the wife’s new boyfriend. The likelihood of foul play in this situation is high and underscores the need to take decisive action as soon as possible to avoid a worst case scenario.
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....
When divorced parents are asked what part of the experience was hardest to confront, most will respond that the impact the divorce had on their children was most difficult. A number of studies have shown that children thrive best in two-parent households that divorce suddenly and permanently takes away. However, parents still have the ability to mitigate this negative impact with proper intervention and long-term planning.
Shared child custody, the situation most divorced parents face, presents many logistical and financial challenges for the adults. Moreover, shared custody can be emotionally upsetting the child. To minimize the likelihood of future disputes between ex-spouses and to better protect the well-being of the child, advanced long-term planning should be a large aspect of any parenting plan or custody agreement and should be executed as part of any divorce or legal separation.
Advanced planning presupposes the parties mutually and privately agree on terms that will govern the exercise of parental responsibilities. While parties do have the option of allowing Courts to decide this issue for them, a Judge can never fully know the unique needs of each family, nor have the capacity to address every potential concern of each parent....
Raising a child requires both parents to compromise on key issues that form the basis of the child's core values. Even parents who have similar child-rearing philosophies are bound to have areas of disagreement. Education, medical care, extracurricular activities and friends are all areas in which parents are apt to conflict. However, one matter that has the potential to provoke the strongest reaction is religion. Navigating this issue as part of divorce and child custody decisions can be difficult, especially if each parent subscribes to a different religious practice.
As more people now appear to be entering into inter-faith marriages, legal resolution of disagreements over a child's religious upbringing may become more common if these marriages end in divorce. The recently announced divorce of Janet Jackson from her husband of four years is one example of a divorcing couple in this situation.
Jackson was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, while her husband is a practicing Muslim. These two belief systems could lead to a protracted fight in Court if the parties strongly defend their positions. Illinois specifically requires the issue of religion be addressed in a parenting plan or in the Court's allocation of parental responsibilities, if the parties cannot reach an agreement....
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....