Category Archives: Child Custody

Can You Force Your Co-Parent to Take Parenting Time?Disputes over parenting time after a divorce or separation usually involve parents fighting to spend more time with their children or claiming that the other parent is withholding the children. You can ask a court to enforce your parenting schedule if you cannot resolve the issue between each other. What if you have the opposite problem? What if your co-parent will not take the children during his or her scheduled parenting time? Can you force your co-parent to take the children? In this situation, you may need to resolve the issue yourself because you are unlikely to legally compel your co-parent to use his or her parenting time.

Potential Problems

Both parents are required to financially support their children after a divorce, but parenting time is not guaranteed to both parties if it would be against the best interests of the children. You may feel happy to receive more parenting time with your children if your co-parent refuses it. However, the situation is still problematic:

  • You may rely on your co-parent having the children at certain times in order to accommodate your work or personal schedule;
  • Your children may be disappointed that they are not seeing their other parent as expected; and
  • Your co-parent may become unpredictable about when he or she wants to have the children.

Taking on more parenting time may require you to adjust or reduce your work hours, which can affect your income. Just as importantly, your children need regular contact with your co-parent to have a stable and healthy relationship with him or her.

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Protecting Your Children from a Dangerous Co-ParentThe equal right to parental responsibilities after a divorce assumes that the children will be safe with both parents. Unfortunately, some divorced parents put their children in danger because of their personal behavior and lifestyle choices, such as substance abuse or frequent partying. It is your responsibility to protect your child if you have reason to believe that your co-parent is a threat to your children’s safety. You may need to file a court order to change the allocation of parental responsibilities. However, you must present evidence of your co-parent’s dangerous behavior.

Forms of Danger

It is not enough to say that your co-parent has a drinking problem or behaves recklessly. You must focus on how your co-parent’s actions are putting your children in danger. There are clear ways to connect your co-parent’s irresponsible behavior with his or her parenting ability, such as:

  • Abusive behavior due to substance abuse;
  • Putting your children in a dangerous situation, such as driving under the influence;
  • Exposing your children to harmful influences; or
  • Neglecting your children.

Presenting Evidence

You may discover your co-parent’s irresponsible behavior by talking to your children or noticing a change in their own behavior or appearance. However, you may need more evidence to prove that your co-parent is a danger to your children. Consider the following factors:

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Work Travel Can Interfere with Parenting TimeA parent’s work commitments can be an important factor when determining the allocation of parental responsibilities. To have a majority of the parenting time, you must show that you are consistently available to care for your children as a single parent. Work travel can affect your availability if it consistently requires you to be out of town. A parent with a heavy travel schedule may have difficulty receiving the share of parental responsibilities that he or she wants during a divorce.

Children’s Best Interest

Before arguing for a majority of the parental responsibilities, you should honestly assess whether you can fulfill that responsibility with your work travel requirements. The primary parent after a divorce is typically the one who is most available to care for the children. It may be necessary for your co-parent to have a majority of the parenting time if your work requires you to frequently stay overnight in another city. Parental responsibilities also include making decisions about how you care for your children. Ideally, your co-parent will consult you on major decisions regarding your children’s health and education. However, a court may give greater decision-making power to the parent who is more often with the children and able to act on those decisions.

Protecting Your Parental Rights

Traveling for work does not need to greatly diminish your parental responsibilities. Your travel schedule may include:

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Caretaking Functions Define Parental Responsibility in IllinoisSince 2016, Illinois has used the term “allocation of parental responsibilities” instead of “child custody.” The name reflects that parenting after a divorce or separation is a shared responsibility, not just a determination of who gets to keep the kids. Each parent must fulfill his or her assigned responsibilities when the children are with him or her. If one parent is incapable or unwilling to assume those responsibilities, then a court may give sole responsibility to the other parent.

Caretaking Functions

Illinois’ Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act has a list of parental responsibilities, which it calls “caretaking functions.” There are eight functions that parents are expected to provide for their children during their parenting time:

  1. Attending to a child’s nutrition, health, safety, and hygiene;
  2. Guiding a child through his or her maturation, such as developing motor and language skills;
  3. Teaching proper behavior and providing discipline;
  4. Ensuring that a child receives an education;
  5. Helping a child develop interpersonal skills;
  6. Taking a child to medical appointments;
  7. Instilling a sense of morality in the child; and
  8. Arranging for others to take care of the child when the parent is not available.

The caretaking functions do not include “significant decisions” related to the children’s education, health, religious beliefs, or extracurricular activities. Parents can make routine decisions when they have the children but must discuss major decisions with their co-parent unless it is an emergency situation.

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Making Long-Distance Parenting WorkIn the years following a divorce, opportunities come up that may require two parents to live in different parts of the country. You can contest your co-parent’s decision to relocate with your children, but the court may decide that the move is in their best interest. You may also find a career opportunity in another city that is too lucrative to pass up. Long-distance parenting is a difficult adjustment for you and your children and will never feel like an ideal situation. There are ways you can maintain a healthy relationship with your children.

  1. Regular Communication: It may be impractical to see your children in person frequently, but you should have a weekly schedule of when you will talk to them. Your children should be able to rely on you calling them at the same times each week and feel like you will respond to them if they need to contact you. Video calls can give your conversations more intimacy than voice calls.
  2. Regular Visits: Though less frequent that your calls, your in-person visits with them should also follow a regular pattern. Most of the time, you will need to travel to them for your visits. You can ask a court to consider your travel expenses when calculating your child support payments.
  3. Longer Visits: Your children can also travel to visit you, but it will be better for them to have a few long visits each year than several short visits. This lessens the stress of them traveling and gives you more uninterrupted time with them. Summer vacation is usually the best time for them to visit you because they can stay for several weeks.
  4. Normal Interaction: Long-distance parents may try to make up for not seeing their children more often by giving them gifts or planning fun outings during each visit. This gives them an unhealthy expectation that your relationship is based on you spoiling them. Being with them and doing normal activities should be enough. Save the gifts for special occasions.
  5. Cooperation: Long-distance parenting works best when your co-parent accommodates your efforts to contact and visit your children. As the full-time parent, he or she has even greater responsibility for your children than before. Your co-parent can make your parenting easier by preparing your children for your visits.

Contact a St. Charles Divorce Attorney

You need to modify your parenting agreement when you and your children no longer live near each other. A Kane County family law attorney at Goostree Law Group can help you create a new parenting schedule that allows you to see your children. To schedule a free consultation, call 630-584-4800.

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Goostree Law Group

Goostree Law Group

 555 S. Randall Road, Suite 200
St. Charles, IL 60174

 630-584-4800

 1770 Park Street, Suite 205
Naperville IL 60563

 630-364-4046

 400 S. County Farm Road, Suite 300
Wheaton, IL 60187

 630-407-1777

Our Illinois divorce attorneys represent clients in Kane County, DuPage County, Kendall County and DeKalb County, including Geneva, Batavia, St.Charles, Wayne, Wasco, Elburn, Virgil, Lily Lake, Aurora, North Aurora, Elgin, South Elgin, Bartlett, Crystal Lake, Gilberts, Millcreek, Maple Park, Kaneville, LaFox, Yorkville, Oswego, Plano, Sugar Grove, Big Rock, Bristol, Newark, DeKalb, Sycamore, Naperville, Wheaton, West Chicago, Winfield, Warrenville, Downers Grove, Lombard, Oak Brook, Streamwood, Hoffman Estates, Barrington, South Barrington, Lake Barrington, Schaumburg, Big Grove, Boulder Hill, Bristol, Joliet, Kendall, Lisbon, Minooka, Montgomery, Plainfield, Sandwich, Yorkville and many other cities.

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