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St. Charles child custody attorneyThere is a long-standing debate among psychologists and in divorce courts as to a specific definition of the term “parental alienation syndrome”. While child psychologists have been discussing parental alienation syndrome for over three decades, the debate surrounding it continues in part because it is not always easy to correctly identify.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation syndrome, or PAS, is alleged to occur when one parent creates a contrived illusion to the child or children regarding the child’s other parent. This often leads to the child experiencing manipulated, negative emotions toward and detachment from the other parent.

In cases where there are allegations of PAS, it is often because one parent believes that the other parent is deliberately working to undermine their relationship with the child. This may occur in situations where one parent is disrespectful to the other parent in front of the children or when one parent perceives that the child has developed angry or dismissive feelings toward them due to the actions or words of the other parent. 

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Kane County child relocation lawyerSometimes, life changes unexpectedly. A new job, new relationship, or death in the family may necessitate a move, but relocating your family is almost never easy. Moving with your child can be especially difficult during or in the wake of a divorce, as Illinois law places restrictions on relocating with children. In many cases, one parent’s desire to move must be balanced with the other parent’s right to parenting time and their children’s interests in staying where they are comfortable.

Illinois Child Relocation Laws

Before 2016, Illinois law held that a single or divorced parent could uproot their children for any destination within the state, but if they chose to leave the state even by a very small distance, permission from either the other spouse or the family court was required. With the revamping of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) in 2016, a new approach was adopted for parents who have at least half of the parenting time with their children.

Under the current law, a parent living in Kane County, Cook County, DuPage County, Lake County, McHenry County, or Will County can move with their child to a new residence within Illinois, up to 25 miles from the original home, without the consent of the other parent or the family court. If a parent resides with their child outside of those counties, the allowable distance is increased to 50 miles, simply because the middle and southern counties in the state of Illinois are larger and less dense than the six counties immediately surrounding Chicago. If a parent wants to move outside the state of Illinois, they are still allowed to do so within a distance of 25 miles without seeking permission. However, it is important to remember that within that distance, Illinois remains the home state of the child for purposes of disputes over parental responsibilities. 

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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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