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

wheaton child custody lawyerUnfortunately, some divorces are so fractious and bitter that parents cannot decide upon a parenting plan that works for everyone. Sometimes, both parents are struggling with personal issues that get in the way of their parenting capabilities. Perhaps one parent will make accusations about another parent’s behavior, and a judge is unsure whether the accusing parent is telling the truth. 

These are just a few examples of situations in which a court may decide to appoint a custody evaluator. Formally, these situations are known under Illinois law as “604b Evaluations” – when the court asks an outside representative to investigate and make a report or recommendation regarding how parental responsibilities should be allocated. 

What is a Custody Evaluator? 

A custody evaluator is almost always a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. They complete an extensive investigation into a child’s environment to create a report about what they believe to be in the best interests of the child. Custody evaluators can be very expensive, and parents are often required to pay for the services of the custody evaluator themselves. 

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wheaton divorce lawyerWith June just right around the corner, the days have been getting longer and sunnier as summer encroaches upon Illinois. For many people, summer is a time when things begin to slow down which allows you to spend more time with your family. For parents who are divorced or no longer together, however, summer can be a source of stress. The change in pace and in schedules can be nice, but it can also lead to confusion if your parenting plan does not describe your summer parenting schedule in detail. Ensuring your parenting plan contains information about summer vacation can help save you from major stress in the long run.

Preparing Your Summer Parenting Plan

There are various elements that must be included in any parenting plan when it is created. Usually, there is some form of basic summer planning done and included in your parenting plan, but basic terms can leave room for confusion. Depending on when you first entered into your parenting agreement, it may also need to be updated to accommodate your current circumstances. Summer is coming quickly, so now is the time to review your parenting plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning for summer co-parenting:

  • Discuss your parenting time schedule with your ex. First, you should talk with your ex and determine whether or not a change in your current schedule is needed. Summer often brings changes in the parenting time schedule to allow the parent with the least amount of parenting time during the school year to have more time with the child. Other parents may choose to keep the parenting time schedule the same and adjust other schedules to suit it.

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wheaton divorce lawyerNearly all divorces will involve some degree of disagreement between the couple, however, some divorces involve more disagreement than others. Sometimes, all of that resentment can also affect the way the couple parent their children. Most of the time, couples will set up a co-parenting plan that they will follow after the divorce. However, when parents do not get along with one another very well, co-parenting may be the wrong choice. Co-parenting success depends on both parents being willing to communicate and cooperate with one another to raise their children. In situations where parents are unable to do this, parallel parenting can be more effective and provide an overall more peaceful environment for everyone involved.

What is the Difference Between Co-Parenting and Parallel Parenting?

There is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to parenting. What may work for some families after a divorce may not work for another family. When it comes to co-parenting, parents usually have to be on somewhat good terms for this parenting style to work. Divorced parents who co-parent are able to attend functions at the same time, help their child transition between households without issue, and solve issues with the other co-parent when needed. Not all parents can do this, which is why some parents may find more success with parallel parenting.

In parallel parenting, parents disengage from one another on a day-to-day basis. Limiting the amount of communication between one another also limits the amount of conflict that may arise. Parents who parallel parent do not get along with one another and may even schedule separate days for certain functions and holidays. Each parent is responsible for making most everyday decisions for their children and only consult with the other parent if an issue arises, or for certain topics, like the child’s medical care. Parallel parenting can provide many benefits to families that have contentious parents and reduce the amount of stress that the children feel because of it.

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Wheaton divorce lawyer for parenting time and mental health issuesDealing with mental illness during divorce is not an uncommon issue. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 51.5 million people, or around one in five adult Americans, live with some type of mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. While most adults who live with these illnesses find ways to adapt and cope with everyday life, divorce can be a particularly difficult period of time, especially if it involves conflict between spouses. One of the biggest issues that many divorcing parents disagree on is parenting time, which can be exacerbated if one parent has a mental illness. But can a parent actually lose their right to parenting time if they have a mental illness?

Determining the Best Interests of the Child

Any action that the court takes or decision is made involving children must be done based on the child’s best interests.  It is not of the opinion of the state of Illinois that having a mental illness, in general, means that you should not have parenting time or that you should be subject to any restrictions to your time with your children. However, a judge does have the authority to do so if he or she feels that the mental illness would endanger your child’s mental, emotional, physical, or moral well-being.

Mental Illness and Caring for Your Child

Determining parenting time when a parent has a mental illness is done on a case-by-case basis. Mental illnesses range in severity and do not affect all people in the same way. For example, a parent who has schizophrenia might pose more of a danger to their child than a parent with anxiety. Mental illnesses like schizophrenia also have a higher chance of causing a parent to be hospitalized or require care themselves. The judge will consider things such as the frequency of the occurrence of your mental health issues, the severity of the issues, and whether the issues would interfere with the child’s life.

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DuPage County parenting plan attorneyIf you are getting divorced in Illinois, and you share children with your spouse, you will be required to create a parenting agreement or parenting plan. This agreement is a detailed description of how you and your spouse will share parenting duties after your divorce, and it will ultimately become a legally binding court order. The plan also contains important information about the parents’ rights and responsibilities. Forming a parenting plan that both parents agree to is often one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce involving children. If you are a parent who is getting divorced, reach out to a skilled child custody lawyer for help with your parenting plan.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Parental responsibilities refer to what was once called “legal custody” in Illinois. Major decisions about the child’s life, including decisions related to school, extracurricular activities, healthcare, and religion, fall under the umbrella of parental responsibilities. A parenting plan will need to describe which parent is in charge of these decisions. One parent may take on some or all of the decision-making responsibilities, or the parents may share these responsibilities.

Parenting Time Schedules

The time that a parent is directly responsible for the child’s daily needs is called “parenting time.” Parents are free to divide parenting time in a way that works for their unique needs. For example, one parent may take the child on the weekends, while the other parent takes the child during the week. Per Illinois law, the parenting plan must contain either a detailed schedule of how parenting time is allotted between the parents or a method for determining parenting time that is detailed enough to be legally enforceable.  Parents will also need to address how they plan to share parenting time on holidays, school vacations, and in other atypical circumstances.

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