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

DuPage County parenting plan lawyerIf you are a parent who is getting divorced in Illinois, you will need to create a parenting plan or parenting agreement. According to Illinois law, parents must file a parenting plan within 120 days of filing for divorce. If they cannot agree on a parenting plan, they may each file their proposed plan separately from the other spouse. Parents who disagree may be able to negotiate a settlement through mediation or with help from their attorneys. If parents cannot reach an agreement, the court may need to intervene.

Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

You and your spouse will need to make determinations about child custody, which is now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities, and parenting time. Parental responsibilities refers to decision-making authority about children’s medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and religion. Parenting time refers to the days and times that a parent directly cares for the child. 

Creating a parenting time schedule is not as simple as it may initially seem. For example, you and your spouse may decide that one parent will have your child Monday through Thursday, and the other parent will have the child Friday through Monday. However, you will also need to account for issues such as holidays, family vacations, and who should watch the child when a parent cannot fulfill his or her parenting time obligations.  

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Wheaton child custody lawyer parenting time restrictionsIn 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) underwent significant updates. What used to be called child custody is now called the “allocation of parental responsibilities.” The time that a parent spends directly caring for his or her child is referred to as “parenting time.” Although the terms “sole custody” and “joint custody” are outdated, these terms are still sometimes used to refer to different types of parenting arrangements. If you are a father who is considering divorce, you may want to know if you could be awarded sole custody, or more accurately, all of the parental responsibilities and/or parenting time. The answer to this question will depend on a variety of factors.

Reaching an Agreement About Your Illinois Parenting Plan

Parents who divorce in Illinois are asked to create a parenting plan in which they describe how they plan to divide parental responsibilities and parenting time, as well as how other important matters will be addressed. Many divorcing couples struggle to reach an agreement about the provisions in their parenting plan. If you and your spouse disagree about child custody issues, a family law attorney may be able to help you negotiate a parenting plan that you can both agree to. Alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or collaborative law may also enable you to resolve custody disagreements.

Do Illinois Family Courts Favor Mothers Over Fathers?

If you cannot reach an agreement through other means, the court will step in and determine a parenting plan on your behalf. Many people are under the assumption that mothers are favored over fathers during child custody disputes. However, the laws in Illinois treat parents the same, regardless of their gender. Illinois courts make all child-related decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests. Some of the factors courts consider when allocating parental responsibilities and parenting time include:

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Wheaton child custody attorney for parental alienationIdeally, unmarried and divorcing parents would place their children’s well-being above their own angry or vengeful feelings toward their ex. Unfortunately, the pain of a divorce or breakup can sometimes make parents lose sight of what is really important. Some parents even attempt to influence or coach their children to dislike the other parent. Whether this influence is intentional or unintentional, the results can be extremely harmful to both the children and the other parent. “Parental alienation” occurs when a parent manipulates a child in such a way that the child begins to feel fearful or hostile toward the other parent. It is possible that parental alienation can have a substantial effect on child custody.

What Actions May Be Considered Parental Alienation?

Romantic partners or spouses who have ended their relationship will often harbor some degree of bitterness or spite. However, it is important for parents to avoid letting their feelings toward their ex influence the relationship between their ex and their shared children. If a parent disparages the other parent to the point that it begins to break down the relationship between the child and the other parent, this may be considered parental alienation. Parental alienation may involve:

  • Refusing to inform the other parent about the child’s school or extracurricular activities

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Wheaton child custody lawyerRaising children is one of the most difficult responsibilities a person can have. Parenting duties are often made even more challenging when parents must co-parent after a high-conflict divorce. If you have recently divorced or are planning to end your marriage soon, you may worry about how you and your ex will manage parenting duties. Effective co-parenting with a spouse who is uncooperative may seem like an unachievable task, but it is possible.

Consider Parallel Parenting

Significant research shows that consistent parental arguing and fighting dramatically impact children – even if the parents are divorced. If you and your ex cannot interact without the conversation devolving into name-calling or insults, consider parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is a parenting style in which the parents each have their own relationship with their children but parent-to-parent communication is kept to a minimum. A strong parenting plan that addresses parenting time schedules and other child-related matters using specific language is key to an effective parallel parenting arrangement.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

If you and your former spouse need to communicate about your child’s extracurricular schedules, medical appointments, or other issues, written communication may be easier and more effective than a phone call or face-to-face interaction. Using email or text messages to communicate about your child may also act as a record of informing the other parent about key information. For example, the other parent cannot claim that you never told him or her about your child’s school play if you have the email to prove that you did. Co-parenting applications such as Cozi, OurFamilyWizard, 2Houses, and Parentship allow you to keep messages, schedules, and calendars in one location on your phone, tablet, or computer.

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Wheaton child custody lawyerApproximately one out of every five adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness. Anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder are some of the most common mental health problems in the United States. Although many people suffering from mental health issues are fully capable of being safe, loving parents, mental illness can influence child custody cases. In some situations, parents involved in a dispute about parental responsibilities or parenting time are required to undergo a mental health evaluation or psychological examination.

When Are Psychological Evaluations Required?

Illinois courts make all child custody decisions based on the child’s best interests. If the court has reason to believe that a parent’s mental health condition may pose a risk to the child, the court has the discretion to order psychological testing. If a parent believes that the other parent has psychological problems that may endanger the child, the parent can request a mental health evaluation as well. The court may approve or deny this request. Typically, if a parent requests that the other parent undergo a psychological exam, the parent who made the request is responsible for paying the fees associated with the exam.

What Happens During a Mental Health Examination?

During a mental health assessment, a qualified psychological evaluator such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker conducts an evaluation of a parent’s mental status and overall mental health. This process typically involves an interview during which the evaluator asks the parent questions about his or her mental health history as well as his or her thoughts, feelings, and actions. During the assessment, the evaluator may measure the parent’s cognitive skills, memory, and ability to think clearly. The evaluator may also gather information by observing the parent’s behavior. In some cases, psychological testing is used to determine whether or not a parent meets the diagnostic criteria for a certain mental illness. The results of the mental health evaluation will be used by the court in conjunction with other evidence during child custody determinations.

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