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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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Wheaton parenting plan lawyerDivorcing parents in Illinois are asked to create a “parenting plan” that describes each parent’s child-related rights and responsibilities moving forward. Reaching an agreement about the elements of the parenting plan can be very challenging. Many divorcing parents disagree about how parenting time or parental responsibilities should be distributed. They may worry that they will not get to spend as much time with their child as they want to. One element of the parenting plan that many parents overlook is the “the right of first refusal.” Understanding this important right is crucial to maximizing the benefits of your parenting plan.  

Required Elements

If you are a parent who is planning to divorce, you and your spouse will be encouraged to present a parenting plan to the court. This plan must include a number of provisions, including but not limited to:

  • Allocation of significant child-related decision-making responsibilities

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Wheaton child custody attorneyAccording to Illinois law, both a child’s parents have a right to parenting time unless there is some reason that a child’s safety would be at risk around the parent. A parent may lose his or her right to parenting time if he or she has physically, emotionally, or sexually abused the child. Sadly, some parents attempt to use false accusations of child abuse as leverage in a child custody dispute. Not only do unfounded allegations of abuse rob a parent of his or her right to spend time with his or her child, but they also have devastating effects on the child. If you are in the midst of a divorce or child custody dispute and your child’s other parent is falsely accusing you of neglect or abuse, speak to a skilled family law attorney as soon as possible.

Gather Evidence

It is hard to believe that a parent would ever resort to fabricating stories of child abuse to manipulate a child custody case, but unfortunately, this scenario is not unheard of. Parents who do not want to share parental responsibilities and parenting time may accuse the other parent of hurting the child or even coach the child to repeat the allegations of abuse. If you have been accused of child abuse, you need to start gathering evidence that will help prove your innocence. This may include text messages, voicemails, letters, and other correspondence between you and the other parent as well as examples of communication between you and the children. Compile a list of family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, daycare workers, and other people who can vouch that you are a loving, non-abusive parent. It is also important to keep track of the times and dates that the children have been under your care. The more information you have, the more likely it is that you can use this information to prove inconsistencies and lies in the other parent’s story.

Comply With Any Orders of Protection

It is possible that the child’s other parent will file an order of protection or restraining order against you. If you are the subject of an order of protection that prohibits you from seeing your child or staying in your home, you may understandably be frustrated and outraged. However, it is important to comply with the court order. By violating the terms of the order, you risk being arrested and weakening your case, even if you have never abused your child. Following the terms of the order will help demonstrate that you are a law-abiding citizen. Never confront the other parent or anyone else involved in the allegations against you as this can easily be used against you as evidence of violence or mental instability.

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DuPage County child custody attorney

Technology has changed the way we communicate with loved ones, do our jobs, and generally interact with the world. If you are getting divorced, there are several things you should keep in mind with regard to your digital life. Social media is becoming increasingly relevant in divorce cases and family law disputes. Your use of technology and the Internet may seem unrelated to your divorce at first glance, but there are many different ways that social media, smartphones, email, and other online-based services can impact the outcome of your divorce. In some cases, it can affect spousal maintenance (alimony) and the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody). 

Change Your Passwords

According to one study, 67 percent of respondents reported that they knew their spouse’s log-in credentials. Even if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are on amicable terms, it is still a good idea to change your passwords when you separate from your spouse to maintain a sense of privacy. It may also be helpful to turn off “location sharing” on applications and websites. You may be logged into your email, Facebook account, or your bank’s website on shared devices like tablets or laptops and not even realize it. It is recommended that you change passwords for:

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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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