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DuPage County family law attorney for holiday child custodyThis holiday season is shaping up to be like none other. If you are in the middle of a separation or divorce, your holiday season may be especially complicated. Sharing custody of children with a soon-to-be ex-spouse is hard enough, but sharing custody during the holidays can be even harder. Keep the following tips and suggestions in mind to help your holiday season go as smoothly as possible for you and your children:

Plan the Details in Advance

When a couple with children files for divorce in Illinois, they have 120 days to create and submit a “parenting plan.” This plan will describe how they will make major decisions about the child, who the child will live with on what days, how the child will be transported between homes, and much more. If you have not yet filed for divorce, or if you have not made any decisions about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, you may only have a casual agreement about which parent the children will see on which days. This can lead to miscommunication and frustration. It is better to plan your holidays in advance. Decide where the children will stay on what days, when they will be picked up and dropped off, and other details, and then put these decisions in writing.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

There are many computer programs and smartphone applications that can help you and your ex collaborate when making decisions about parenting issues. Using email or text messages to communicate about children can help avoid in-person arguments, and this can also serve as an important record of the plans you and your spouse have made. Apps like Cozi, Coparently, and OurFamilyWizard allow you to keep track of schedules, expenses, and other child-related information.

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Wheaton, IL fathers’ rights attorneyIf you recently found out that your current or former dating partner is pregnant, you may have questions about your legal rights. You may wonder if you have the same rights to your child as the child’s mother or what you need to do to obtain these rights. You may also have questions about how child custody and parenting time will be divided once the child is born. In Illinois, fathers have the same rights as mothers. However, there are certain steps you will need to take in order to establish these important rights.

Paternity Laws in Illinois

When a married couple has a child, the law automatically assumes that the husband of the woman giving birth is the child’s father. He does not need to take additional steps to establish his paternity. However, the same is not true for unmarried fathers. To establish legal parentage of your child, you and the child’s mother will need to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form. This form is typically available at the hospital where the child is born, or it may be obtained through the Illinois Healthcare and Family Services department or your local county clerk. If there is a question as to your biological relationship to the child, you may need to take a DNA test before you can establish paternity.

Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Once you have established paternity of your child, you will have the right to request visitation, technically called parenting time, with your child. If you and your child’s other parent are able to reach an agreement about parental responsibilities and parenting time, you will describe these decisions in your “parenting plan.” The decisions you make in your parenting plan become an official court order that both parents must abide by. If you cannot reach an agreement, the court will determine a parenting plan on your behalf. 

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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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DuPage County child custody attorney for social media useNow that so many adults are working from home, we are relying on technology even more often than we did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are using cellphones, laptops, and home computers for everything from answering work emails to paying their bills. Because technology is such an integral part of our lives, addressing technology concerns during divorce is crucial. It is important to guard your privacy, watch what you say, and ensure that your online activity does not lead to negative consequences during your case.

Social Media Is Less Private Than You Think

Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, many people have replaced in-person meetups with social media communication. While websites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn can be great places to network and keep in touch with loved ones, using social media during divorce can be risky. Most family law attorneys have seen a marked increase in the role of social media during divorce. It is very possible that pictures, videos, and messages you post online could be used against you. Do not make the mistake of assuming that your social media activity is private just because you have set your profile status to “private.” There are many different ways to access online information that was only intended to be viewed by a small number of close friends.  

Do Not Share Evidence of Your Financial Activity

You may be so used to sharing information about your daily life through social media, text messages, or email that you do not actually realize how much financial information you are revealing. Evidence of new purchases, vacations, or shopping sprees may be used against you during property division, spousal maintenance, or child custody determinations. Many assume that text messages are private, but it is possible for a party to request text messages to be turned over during the discovery process – especially if there is suspicion of hidden assets.

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