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St. Charles IL family law attorneyDivorce is hard, no matter what the circumstances are or how “friendly” the divorce may be. Not only is it the end of a marriage, but the finality often hits home over and over again as discussions and negotiations take place regarding a couple’s assets and debts. Who gets the living room set? Who gets the good china? However, the hardest part about divorce typically involves the couple’s children and how parental responsibilities and parenting time are going to be divided.

When You and the Other Parent Cannot Agree

In the best cases, parents are able to come to an agreement and work out a parenting plan that will serve the best interests of their child while respecting each parent’s rights. In such cases, the court will generally approve the plan presented by the parents. Sometimes, however, the parents cannot agree, and litigation becomes necessary. Unfortunately, litigation has a tendency to turn bitter and contentious, which can be extremely difficult for children to deal with.

No matter what the situation may be, you can help protect your children when you are facing a parenting-related dispute by doing a few key things, including:

St. Charles family law attorneyWhen you and your spouse decide to get a divorce, there are a large number of decisions that need to be made about the various areas of your family’s lives that will be affected by your split. Perhaps most important for parents of young children is determining how to allocate parental responsibilities. A divorce can be a time of uncertainty for your children, but a strong parenting plan will help them succeed and ensure that both parents play an active role in their lives after the divorce.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

parenting plan is an agreement between parents detailing how their children will be cared for after the divorce. This plan is an official part of the divorce decree, and it can help make the transition into post-divorce life as seamless as possible for a child as he or she adjusts to living in two homes and dividing time between parents.

A parenting plan should cover parenting time (visitation) schedules, specify how decisions about the health and well-being of the child will be made, and address any special circumstances that suit your family’s unique needs. Here are some tips for creating a successful parenting plan:

Kane County parenting time lawyerThe COVID-19 health crisis has affected the lives of virtually all Americans, closing down businesses, schools, and even courthouses across the country. Health experts have long indicated that the shutdowns were and are necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but the response has forced many Illinois parents to amend their existing parenting plan and left significant questions about handling shared parental responsibilities.

For example, if you are subject to a shared parenting time arrangement, you may be wondering how you are supposed to handle a situation in which the other parent is not taking social distancing, self-isolation, or mask-wearing directives as seriously as you are. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast answers to be found during this unprecedented situation, but there are a few things that you should try to do if possible.

Follow Your Existing Order If You Can

For some parents, the thought of their child contracting or spreading the coronavirus is scary enough that they want everyone to simply stay at home until the threat is no longer as serious. Concern over your family’s health is reasonable, but when your children are accustomed to dividing time between two parents’ homes, expecting them to stay in one home throughout the pandemic can put significant strain on their relationship with the other parent and cause major co-parenting conflict. With this in mind, it is a good idea to follow your existing parenting plan to the degree that is safely possible, and try to work with the other parent to promote the health and safety of everyone involved.

St. Charles IL family law attorneyFollowing a divorce, if you had previously assumed the surname of your spouse, you have the option of returning to your birth or maiden name. This request can be included in a divorce petition, and it will typically be approved by the judge.

To change your name later on, or to change the last names of your children, a separate court order must be filed. Changing the names of your children you had with your ex-spouse is more complicated than changing your own, and having an attorney with experience in name change cases can help immensely.

Name Changes for Minor Children

According to the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5), a request to change a minor’s name will be approved only if a judge finds that changing the child’s name is necessary to serve the child’s best interests. This means that the name change will not automatically be approved simply because you want your child to share your last name. The Illinois Parentage Act (750 ILCS 46) also contains a provision that allows a name change for a minor if both of the child’s parents agree to the change, but this statute is usually reserved for cases involving unmarried parents or if the child’s parentage is disputed.

Kane County parental responsibilities attorneyGetting a divorce is not easy, especially when children are involved, and it is important to understand the decisions you and your spouse will need to make regarding your children. Prior to 2016, Illinois still used the terms physical custody, legal custody, and visitation when dealing with divorces that involved children. After substantial reforms to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act in 2016, there are now two major components that you must address if you have children and are seeking a divorce: parental responsibilities and parenting time. These changes were made in recognition of the way parenting actually happens in families. Rather than having one parent as the sole child-rearer, the law encourages parents to share parenting time and responsibilities. 

Legal Definitions of Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5), there are specific definitions for both parenting time and parental responsibilities:

Parenting time refers to the time each parent spends with the child, during which they are responsible for performing caretaking functions, as well as making non-significant decisions pertaining to the child. Caretaking functions may include:

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