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Wheaton, IL 60189
The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C.

Wheaton, IL parenting plan lawyerDisagreements about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time are often some of the most contentious issues in a divorce case. When parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, they have several options: they can try to find a resolution through mediation, collaborative law, or negotiations facilitated by their attorneys, or they may take the case to trial. If you are a parent who is involved in a child custody disagreement, you may be unsure of how to handle the situation. Although there is no perfect way to manage a child-related legal dispute, there are certain mistakes that parents should always try to avoid, including:

Putting Children in the Middle of the Conflict

Multiple studies have shown that parental discord can be harmful to children’s emotional and psychological well-being. Parents should make every attempt to keep their children out of legal and personal conflicts. While it can be tempting to criticize your child’s other parent, doing so in front of your child can make him or her feel like he or she has to choose sides. Experts encourage parents to keep adult conversations out of earshot of children and to never ask children to act as a messenger between parents.

Oversharing on Social Media

The majority of U.S. adults use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or some other type of social media. It is important that parents involved in a custody dispute use extreme caution when sharing information or pictures on social media. Even if your account is set to “private,” anything you post on social media could potentially be used against you during court proceedings. For example, if a parent posts a picture of himself or herself drinking alcohol at a party, it could be argued that the photograph is evidence of the parent’s inability to be a responsible caretaker for the couple’s children.

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Wheaton divorce attorney for sole child custodyIn 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) underwent major revisions. One of the biggest changes was an update to the language used to describe child custody. Instead of “child custody” and “visitation,” the terms “parental responsibility” and “parenting time” are used to describe parenting duties. Parental responsibilities refers to a parent’s authority to make major decisions about a child’s education, medical care, and other issues involved in their upbringing, whereas parenting time is the actual time that a parent spends caring for the child. Many divorced and unmarried parents split parental responsibilities and parenting time in a shared parenting arrangement, but some situations may require one parent to take on all of the parental responsibilities and/or parenting time.

Illinois Courts Typically Encourage Shared Parenting

Illinois courts usually prefer parenting arrangements that allow both of a child’s parents to be involved in his or her life. However, there are some situations in which a parent may be awarded “sole custody” or sole decision-making authority for a child. Non-custodial parents have a right to reasonable amounts of parenting time, unless there is some reason that the parent cannot adequately provide for the child’s safety and well-being. If a parent is found to be “unfit,” it is possible that the court will award the other parent 100 percent of the parental responsibilities and/or parenting time. If you wish to have all of the decision-making authority and parenting time, you will need to provide evidence to the court which proves that it is in your child’s best interests not to spend time with his or her other parent.

A parent may be considered unfit to have decision-making authority and/or parenting time if he or she cannot adequately complete caretaking tasks and keep the child safe. More specifically, a parent may not be awarded parental responsibilities or parenting time if he or she:

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Wheaton divorce lawyer co-parenting bird nesting
If you are a parent who is planning to divorce, you probably have concerns about how the end of your marriage will affect your children. Fortunately, research shows that children with divorced parents can lead lives that are just as happy and healthy as children with married parents. In some cases, children are actually happier after their parents’ divorce, because they no longer see their parents arguing all the time or otherwise being miserable. Nevertheless, adjusting to a two-household family after divorce can be challenging for many children. One solution that more and more divorced parents are utilizing is “bird nesting.”

How Does Bird Nesting Work?

In the majority of divorce cases involving parents who share parenting time, the parents live in separate homes, and the children are transported between the two homes. While this scenario works for many divorced families, it can also sometimes lead to confusion and complication. For example, children may struggle to keep track of school supplies and special projects when they must move these items back and forth between the houses.

In a bird nesting situation, the children stay in one home, while the parents take turns living in the home during their assigned parenting time. This arrangement may provide many benefits, including increased stability for the children. However, bird nesting is not preferable or even possible in every shared parenting situation. If the parents are remarried or have children from another relationship, it may not be possible to share a home with their ex in this way. Bird nesting also requires both parents to be respectful of each other and work together. For example, if one parent is responsible for all of the cleaning while the other parent lets the children trash the house, this can lead to serious conflict, which will only add stress to the children’s lives.

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Wheaton divorce attorney for parenting time violationsParents who get divorced in Illinois will need to create a parenting plan or parenting agreement as part of their divorce settlement. If parents cannot agree on a plan, the court will make decisions about child custody and issue a parenting plan. In either case, a parenting plan will specify how major decisions about the child will be handled and when each parent will enjoy visitation, technically called “parenting time,” with their child. Understandably, many parents struggle to make the adjustment from spending every day with their child to sharing parenting time with their ex-spouse. However, if a parent purposefully violates the parenting agreement or withholds parenting time from the other parent, he or she can face serious consequences.

Penalties for Violating Your Illinois Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is an official court order, and both parents are required by law to follow the directions contained in the plan. Refusing to allow the other parent his or her allotted parenting time can result in civil and criminal consequences, including but not limited to:

  • A $500 fine

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Wheaton divorce attorney parenting plan co-parentingMany people use the start of a calendar year to make New Year’s resolutions. If you are a divorcing or unmarried parent, you may wish to make a resolution related to more effective co-parenting. Raising a child with someone who you used to date or be married to can be extremely complicated. It can be nearly impossible to keep personal feelings toward the other parent separate from parenting issues. However, studies show that children can be deeply affected by parental arguments and tension. Finding a way to work with your child’s other parent instead of against him or her will benefit both you and your child in a multitude of ways.

Keep Conversations Brief, Respectful, and Child-Focused

One of the best ways to avoid adding additional stress or complications to the already difficult process of co-parenting with an ex is to communicate effectively and respectfully. Keep conversations focused on your child and resist the temptation to discuss issues related to why your relationship ended or other personal matters. Do not criticize the other parent or use profanity. Even if the other parent chooses to disrespect you, do your best to take the high road and remain calm. Many parents find that communicating through email or text messages helps reduce the risk of arguments, but you should find the communication strategy that works best for your unique situation.

Stick to Your Parenting Plan

Divorcing parents in Illinois must submit a parenting plan to the court. This plan details how parental responsibilities will be shared, and it contains a schedule for parenting time, among many other important provisions. This parenting plan is not simply a formality. It is essential that you and your former partner follow the directions contained in your parenting plan. Do not make a habit of deviating from the parenting plan, because this will only increase the likelihood of miscommunication and confusion. If your child’s other parent refuses to obey the directions contained in your parenting agreement, contact a family law attorney to learn about your legal options for enforcement.

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