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Posted on in Child Custody

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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Calling Character Witnesses During a Parenting CaseYou are most likely to use a subpoena during your divorce when you need your spouse to turn over important documents related to your marital finances. Using subpoenas on potential witnesses has become less common in Illinois since the state made all divorces no-fault cases. When spouses needed to prove fault in a divorce, they called on character witnesses to support claims of infidelity or immorality. Character witnesses can still be useful during a divorce when you are trying to establish the allocation of parental responsibilities.

What Witnesses Provide

You may be concerned about leaving your children alone with your spouse if he or she can be irresponsible or abusive. However, a court may believe your own testimony on the subject to be biased because you could benefit from portraying your spouse as an unfit parent. A third-party witness would support your claims by testifying that he or she saw your spouse:

  • Act recklessly or abusively with your children;
  • Regularly fail to fulfill his or her parental duties; or
  • Expose your children to unhealthy situations.

Identifying Witnesses

A witness in a parenting dispute should be someone who sees your children regularly, but a court may view testimony from a family member or close friend as being biased towards you. Ideally, you would find a witness who does not have a personal connection to you, such as a neighbor, teacher, coach, or babysitter. This person’s only concern should be towards what is best for your children.

Posted on in Child Custody

Give Teens a Say in Post-Divorce Holiday PlansTeenagers can react differently to their first holiday season after a divorce than a younger child will. Younger children are more open about feeling sad or upset, while teenagers may try to suppress their emotions so as not to create turmoil. As a result, they may seem disinterested and unenthusiastic about the holidays but are actually upset and possibly angry. You need to approach your teenager differently than you would a young child when deciding on how to handle parenting time during the holidays.

Making Decisions

Teenagers generally seek more independence as they near adulthood. A divorce forces a change upon them, taking away their ability to control their family lives. They may feel like they cannot decide how and with whom they will celebrate the holidays. You can give them a sense of control by talking to them before deciding:

  • Which holiday traditions you will continue;
  • Whether you will create new holiday traditions; and
  • Who they will get to see on a specific holiday, such as Christmas.

You should consider their requests but set boundaries for what is reasonable. For instance, what your teen may want the most is for you to celebrate Christmas together with your former spouse as if you are still married. You understand how difficult this would be for both of you and how the tension could lead to a confrontation. If your teen wants to see both of you that day, you can come up with other solutions that involve you or your teen traveling.

Posted on in Child Custody

The Best Divorce Parenting Plan for InfantsNo age is too young for your divorce to emotionally affect your child. Infants do not understand divorce as a concept, but they notice changes in their routines and their parents’ emotions. Unlike older children, they cannot express how they feel in words, leaving them only their behavior. It is common for young children of divorce to become irritable, clingy, depressed, or anxious. Your parenting time is vital towards your young child’s development because he or she needs regular contact with both parents to develop bonds of support and trust.

Consistent Routines

Children form their attachments with their parents during infancy, and missing that stage of bonding can affect a child-parent relationship for the rest of their lives. A parenting schedule usually gives the children extended visits with each parent, but the frequency of bonding time is more important with infants that duration. Two hours every day or every other day may be sufficient bonding time for the non-primary parent. When creating a parenting plan for your infant, remember that:

  • Your child needs your undivided attention and care during your parenting time;
  • Your scheduled visits should be consistent and include familiar routines;
  • Long visits are more appropriate when you see your child frequently; and
  • An infant will become distressed if away from his or her primary caregiver for an extended period.

Breastfeeding

There is no law dictating whether a mother or father should be the primary parent of a child, but the mother receives a majority of the parenting time with an infant in most cases. A mother can use breastfeeding as one of the reasons that an infant should primarily live with her and that the father should not have long or overnight visits with the child. Breastfeeding is important for infants because it can:

Posted on in Child Custody

How Stepparents Can Secure Visits After DivorceStepparents can form strong connections with their stepchildren that are similar to the children’s relationships with their biological parents. If the stepparent divorces the biological parent, it may be in the children’s best interest to continue to see their stepparent. Illinois allows stepparents to petition for parental responsibilities or visits with their stepchildren following a divorce. However, the stepparent likely needs the biological parent’s consent in order to see the stepchildren. Obtaining parental responsibilities is rare because it requires proving that the biological parent is unable to perform his or her duties.

Visitation

A stepparent can request court-ordered visitation with a child after a divorce, but the biological parent must consent to the visits. Illinois law has a rebuttable presumption that a fit biological parent’s choice to deny visitation does not harm the children. The stepparent must prove that denying his or her visitation is unreasonable or harmful to the children. The court will consider:

  • The length and quality of the stepparent’s relationship with the child;
  • The mental and physical health of the child and the stepparent;
  • The wishes of the stepchild, if he or she is mature enough to make that decision;
  • The intentions of the stepparent and the biological parent;
  • The type of visits the stepparent is requesting; and
  • Whether the visits would expose the child to conflict.

You can usually satisfy the court that you have established a relationship with your stepchildren if you have lived with them for at least six consecutive months and have had regular contact with them for 12 consecutive months. Visitation does not have to include the child staying overnight.

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