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How Does Mental Illness Affect Parental Rights in an Illinois Divorce?Many adults experience mental illness during their lifetime. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in any given year. While mental illness can be naturally occurring, it can also be triggered by major events in your life, such as divorce. Mental illness will not typically factor into divorce decisions, but it can be an issue to address when making decisions related to children, namely, decisions about parenting time or decision-making responsibilities.

Elements to Consider When Making Child-Related Decisions

Any child-related issue that must be settled during a divorce is made in the child’s best interests. If the parents disagree on what is in the child’s best interests, then a judge will have to intervene and make decisions about the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities for the parents. When making these decisions, the judge will look at various factors, including:

  • The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity
  • The ability of the parents to cooperate with each other
  • The level of conflict that may exist between the parents
  • The wishes of each parent
  • The needs of the child
  • The ability and willingness of both parents to facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The mental and physical health of both parents and the child

It is the judge’s job to understand the family dynamic as accurately as possible so that he or she can ensure the child has a happy and healthy life.

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Kane County child custody lawyerWhile parenting after a divorce or a breakup of unmarried parents will nearly always be challenging, your child will benefit from determined cooperation between you and your former partner. Parents have long been permitted to develop their own agreements regarding child custody—as long as they promoted the best interests of the child—however, the law in Illinois was recently amended regarding child custody and parenting concerns. Today, divorced or unmarried parents are not only allowed to create a parenting plan, but they are fully expected by the court to do so. One element that must be considered in drafting a parenting plan is each parent’s right of first refusal and whether such rights are appropriate for a particular situation.

Extra Parenting Time

At some point, all parents will need someone to watch their children. This, as you might expect, may be frustrating at times for a parent whose time with his or her child is already limited due to a divorce. On the other hand, a parent in that situation may also be looking for additional ways to participate in the child’s life. Including the right of first refusal in your parenting plan could directly address both concerns.

You and your child’s other parent may agree that if either of you ever needs someone to watch your child during your respective scheduled parenting time, you will first contact each other to offer the opportunity. For example, if your parenting time is scheduled for a certain weekend, but you are required to leave town for work, your agreement could require you to ask the other parent if he or she would like extra time with your child before finding someone else to watch your child.

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Tips for Co-Parenting After a Contested Divorce in IllinoisAlmost all divorces are challenging, especially when children are involved, but some are more difficult than others. You may find yourself going through a high conflict divorce because of a partner’s cheating or infidelity or because you and your spouse simply struggle to communicate and cooperate. If the two of you have children together, it is important that you find a way to successfully co-parent regardless of how hard it is for you to get along.

Overcoming Your Differences to Co-Parent

It may not be easy, but keeping these suggestions in mind can help you reduce stress and conflict in your co-parenting process and be the best possible parent for your children.

  • Prioritize your children. Remember that your divorce is affecting your children every bit as much as it is affecting you and your ex. Make sure you continue to be present for your children and devote the time to listen to them and care for their physical and emotional needs, rather than allowing conflict with your ex to take over your time and your mental capacity.
  • Respect your ex. Especially in front of your children, make an effort to talk to and about your ex with respect. Bad-mouthing the other parent can put your kids in an uncomfortable position where they feel trapped in the middle of the conflict and can damage their relationships with both you and your ex.
  • Find communication that works for you. If you struggle to maintain composure in face-to-face conversations with your ex, explore alternatives that allow you to have productive co-parenting discussions, whether by phone, e-mail, text, or another means of communication. Never expect your children to be intermediaries or relay messages in conflicts between you and your ex.
  • Maintain consistency. While many things change in a divorce, you should try to maintain as much normalcy as possible in your children’s daily lives and routines. Work with your ex so that your kids can keep up their school-related and extracurricular activities, and try to establish agreement on boundaries and rules that you will both expect your children to follow.
  • Follow your parenting plan. The outcome of your divorce will include an agreement or court ruling on a parenting plan outlining parenting time and parental responsibilities for you and your ex. It is important that you follow the terms of this plan or work with an attorney to seek a modification if necessary because there can be legal and financial consequences for a parent who violates the plan.

Contact a St. Charles, Illinois, Family Law Attorney

Your divorce may only be the start of a lifelong challenge to cooperate with your ex and provide a good life for your children. Goostree Law Group offers experienced legal counsel and representation through your divorce and beyond and can help you navigate conflict and protect your family. Contact a Kane County family law attorney today at 630-584-4800 to schedule a free consultation.

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Reasons to Not Seek Sole Responsibility for Your Children During DivorceIn some divorces, a parent is allowed to have sole responsibility for their child, including complete control over parenting time and decision making. This most often occurs when one of the parents is physically abusive towards the child or shows a total lack of interest in being part of the child’s life. However, most parenting plans will allocate parental responsibilities between both parents. In Illinois, the presumption is that one parent will have a majority but not all of the parenting time. Still, some parents try to receive sole parental responsibility for personal reasons. You should consider whether seeking sole responsibility is a wise decision before you go down that path.

Problems with Sole Responsibility

Illinois prefers a shared parenting plan because it assumes that children of divorce are better off when both parents are active in raising them. The exception is when you can prove a reasonable belief that your children could be in danger if they are left alone with your co-parent. You cannot deny your spouse’s parental rights as a way to punish them for infidelity or because you think you are a better parent. Those factors may help you receive a majority of the parental responsibilities but do not mean that your spouse is an unfit parent. Receiving sole responsibility is usually not in your children’s best interests. Having a strong relationship with both parents is crucial to a child’s development, and they may resent you if you try to deny their relationship with their other parent.

Requesting sole parental responsibility is also impractical unless there is a compelling reason for it. Consider that:

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How COVID-19 Has Affected Phone Call Etiquette for Divorced ParentsThe public response to the COVID-19 pandemic has required people to change the ways in which they communicate with each other. In-person visits are being replaced with phone and video calls in order to limit travel and contact with other people. Video chats on your phone or through an application such as Zoom have become a popular way for family members to stay in contact with each other – including divorced parents contacting their children. Some parenting agreements will set a limit for how often one parent is allowed to call their children when they are staying with the other parent. With the extraordinary circumstances that we are currently living in, it may be time to add a provision regarding phone calls to your parenting agreement or modify your existing provision.

Call Etiquette

Co-parents may set limits on calls if they are concerned about the other parent interrupting their parenting time. For instance, the parenting agreement can say that a parent may initiate contact with the children once per day or every other day when the children are with the other parent. The children can contact the parent on their own but should be encouraged to focus on the parent they are with. Frequent or long calls with a child can be harmful to them because:

  • The calling parent may be trying to alienate the child from their other parent
  • The child is not able to adjust to living with the parent if they are constantly being reminded of their other home
  • The calls may make the child anxious but they are afraid to upset their parent by telling them

Changing Circumstances

It may be appropriate to adjust your normal call etiquette because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas daily calls may have seemed intrusive before, you should consider that:

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