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Wheaton, IL parenting plan modification attorney for parental relocationIf you are unmarried or divorced, and you have children, you may share parental responsibilities and parenting time with your child’s other parent. In situations like this, parents are subject to certain rules and procedures when they move. The laws in Illinois regarding parental relocation changed significantly in 2016. Now, if a parent wants to move, and the move meets certain criteria, they may need to get court approval. Whether you are unmarried, divorced, or plan to end your marriage soon, it is important to be aware of parental relocation laws.

Defining “Relocation” According to Illinois Law

Before the changes to Illinois family law, the parent who was the “primary residential parent” could move anywhere in the state without getting permission from the other parent or the court. However, if they wished to move outside of Illinois – even if the move was only a few miles away – they needed to take certain legal steps.

Illinois law has since been updated to be more consistent. Moving a short distance away does not require approval. However, when a move is significant, this is called a “relocation.” A relocation occurs when a parent with the majority of parenting time or an equal amount of parenting time:

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DuPage County child custody dispute lawyerIf you are a married parent who is thinking of getting divorced, you probably have concerns about how this will impact your child. You may also have concerns about how you and your child’s other parent will share custody of your child. In Illinois, child custody is divided into two primary components: allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parental responsibilities involve the decision-making authority a parent has regarding important issues in a child’s life, while parenting time is the actual time a parent spends caring for their child. If you are like many parents facing a potential child custody dispute, you may wonder if your child will have any say in how parental responsibilities and parenting time will be divided.

Negotiating a Parenting Plan

According to Illinois law, you and your child’s other parent have 120 days after filing for divorce to submit a parenting plan. Your plan must contain decisions about many different issues including:

  • How you will make major child-related decisions

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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 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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DuPage County child custody attorneyIn Illinois family law cases, the terms “child custody” and “visitation” are not referred to as “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” When divorcing parents cannot agree on an arrangement for dividing parental responsibilities and parenting time, the court may need to intervene. Custody-related legal proceedings can be stressful for both the parents and the children. If you are in a legal dispute with your child’s other parent, you may have concerns about your child’s involvement in the case. Child testimonies are sometimes, but not always, used in Illinois child custody disputes. Fortunately, Illinois courts have several methods for conducting child interviews in a way that minimizes the stress on the child.

Will My Child Be Put on the Witness Stand?

If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree upon a parenting arrangement, a judge will be tasked with making a custody determination that serves the child’s best interests. You may wonder whether this means that your child will be forced to testify in court. Typically, children are not required to testify in court; however, the judge may use a child interview to gather information regarding a custody case. 

Because court hearings can be very overwhelming and frightening for children, Illinois courts do everything possible to gather children’s testimonies in a child-friendly way. Rarely are children placed on the witness stand. If the judge wishes to hear the child’s testimony in a custody case, he or she will most likely speak to the child privately in the judge's chambers. The judge may ask the child questions about his or her thoughts, feelings, and preferences. Unless otherwise agreed upon, the parents’ respective attorneys will typically be present for the child interview. A court reporter will transcribe the child’s testimony word-for-word so that this testimony can be used in future child custody hearings.

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