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Posted on in Children of divorce

How Courts Handle Religion in Parenting CasesThe allocation of parental responsibilities includes the responsibility to make decisions about the religious upbringing of the children. Illinois divorce courts prefer to not be in charge of deciding the religious beliefs by which the parents should raise the children. The state does not want to be seen as favoring one religion over another or dictating how people can practice their religious beliefs. If parents reach an agreement on religious upbringing, the court is instructed to approve it unless there is something unconscionable about the conditions. However, there are circumstances in which the court is forced to intervene in the parents’ religious decisions.

Lack of Agreement

When two sides in a divorce cannot reach an agreement on their own, they must take the argument to the court for a ruling. With religion, parents may disagree on:

  • Which religion the children should follow
  • Whether the children should be involved in religion at all
  • How often the children should attend religious services
  • Whether the children must follow the religion’s lifestyle guidelines

As with all parenting issues, the court’s primary concern is what is best for the children. The court will look at the extent of the children’s religious involvement up to this point and the potential consequences to each parent. Forcing children to follow a stricter religious lifestyle than they are accustomed to may make their post-divorce transition more upsetting. A parent can potentially use religion to control the children and limit their time and relationship with their other parent. On the other side of the issue, it may be unreasonable for a parent to demand that the children stop attending religious services if that has been their normal routine up to this point.

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Be Aware of the Social Media Activity of Children of DivorceChildren of divorce are often unsure of who to talk to about their feelings because their most natural outlet – their parents – is at the source of their pain. Social media is an easy alternative for them, where they can express themselves and connect with friends. Divorced parents may believe that there is no harm in letting their children withdraw into their mobile devices. After all, parents know where the children are. However, children can still get themselves into trouble on social media and are more prone to making poor decisions when experiencing a traumatic event, such as their parents' divorce.

Potential Problems

Children often fail to understand that what they say and do on social media can have real-life consequences. Posting offensive or inappropriate content reflects poorly on them now and leaves a record that could hurt them in the future, such as when they apply to a college. Sharing too much about themselves makes them appear vulnerable to people who try to exploit confused children and teenagers, such as:

  • Sexual predators;
  • Online scammers;
  • Cyberbullies; and
  • People trying to indoctrinate others into an extreme belief system.

Solutions

As a divorced parent, you must protect your children from unhealthy online behavior while also respecting their need for social connections and independence. Prohibiting them from having social media accounts is difficult to enforce and will make them rebellious. Installing parental controls feels demeaning to older children and should be done only if the child has demonstrated that they cannot be responsible on their own. There are more effective ways to protect your children:

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Why Parenting Time Is Different from VisitationThe terms “parenting time” and “visitation” are sometimes loosely interchanged with each other when discussing the allocation of parental responsibilities after a divorce or separation. When the children spend the majority of their time with one parent, the other parent may feel like they are seeing the children only during weekend visits. However, visitation is different from parenting time, both in legal definition and concept. Saying that your children visit you is demeaning to your relationship with them.

Legal Meaning

Illinois revised its Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to replace the words “child custody” with “the allocation of parental responsibilities.” Parental responsibilities are made up of:

  • Decision-making, which is the right to decide important issues regarding the children; and 
  • Parenting time, which is the regularly scheduled time in which a parent is responsible for caring for the children.

The written agreement that divides these parental responsibilities is called the parenting plan. There is a separate section in the law for visitation, which is defined as the time spent between a child and a nonparent, such as a grandparent, stepparent, sibling, or other designated parties. Nonparents can petition for visitation with a child if they can prove that it is in the best interest of the child or the parent has unreasonably denied them visits.

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How Divorced Parents Can Help Their Misbehaving Teen

Divorce puts an emotional strain on the children in the family, which can affect their behavior. Teenage children can be particularly troublesome because they can be exposed to bad influences that could get them into serious trouble. In the worst scenarios, an emotionally distraught teen may become involved in criminal or dangerous activities. As a parent, you are responsible for protecting your children and teaching them the difference between right and wrong. You can utilize your parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities to help your teen through this difficult period.

A Parent’s Role

Being a parent after a divorce means more than providing for the basic living needs of the children and making sure they are attending school. Parents have an irreplaceable role in their children’s emotional development by:

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Planning Your Divorce Conversation with Your ChildrenTelling your children about your divorce will be as difficult of a conversation for you as when you and your spouse first discussed divorce. Both are stressful and emotional, but your conversation with your children may be more upsetting for you depending on their reaction. Just as with your spouse, it will help to plan your conversation with your children. This will be a traumatic milestone in their lives, and you should avoid thoughtless mistakes that will make the experience worse than it needs to be.

Timing

You should tell your children about your divorce soon after you have made your decision, but a slight delay may be necessary to find an optimal time and place. Ideally, the conversation should:

  • Include both parents and all of your children together; and
  • Take place when none of you have any immediate responsibilities afterward, such as the beginning of a weekend.

Talking to your children together allows you to present a unified message about the divorce. Having all your children present avoids the appearance that you are favoring one of your children by telling him or her first. The conversation will be upsetting and distracting to your children. They will need time to process the news and continue to ask you questions.

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