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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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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 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 support lawyerIf you are a single parent, you know just how difficult it can be to pay for child-related expenses on your own. Making ends meet without financial support from your child’s other parent can be exhausting. According to Illinois law, both parents are expected to financially contribute to their child’s upbringing even if the parents are unmarried or divorced. A parent is also expected to provide financial support even if he or she does not have parenting time, or visitation rights, with the child. If your child’s other parent is not paying child support, there are several actions you can take to get the financial assistance you and your child need.

Establishing Child Support

The state of Illinois only has the authority to enforce child support payments that have been legally established. If you and your child’s other parent had an informal agreement regarding child support, this is likely unenforceable. To start receiving payments, you will need to obtain an official court order for child support. However, to get an order for child support, your child’s other parent must be legally recognized as his or her parent. If your child’s father is not paying child support and paternity has not been established, you will need to legally name your child’s father before you can obtain a child support order. Depending on your particular circumstances, this may be as simple as having the father sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). If the father contests his paternity, it may necessitate a DNA paternity test or require other steps.

Enforcing a Current Child Support Order

If you already have a child support order, but your child’s other parent is violating the order, you have a right to seek enforcement. Parents who violate a court order for child support can be held in contempt of court and face criminal consequences. However, going through the court system is not always the best way to enforce a child support order. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) can help parents with a variety of needs including:

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