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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.

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.

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.

Choosing Your Method for Paying Child SupportChild support is mandatory for all divorces that include children. Whichever parent has a smaller share of parenting time will be required to pay monthly child support to the other parent. Illinois bases its child support amount on an income shares model that considers how much raising the children should cost and the comparative incomes of the parents. If you are the parent who is required to pay child support, you have multiple methods by which you can send the payments to your co-parent. It is important to use a dependable method so that the payments get to your co-parent without difficulty and there is a record that you are in compliance with your child support order.

What Are the Ways You Can Pay Child Support?

The method that you use to pay child support may depend on the type of job you have and your personal preference:

  • Withholding income is the preferred method for many because your employer will be responsible for deducting the child support amount from your pay and sending it to your co-parent.
  • If you are self-employed, you will need to send the payments electronically, by phone, or by mail.

Whether it is you or your employer, child support payments should be sent to the Illinois State Disbursement Unit (ISDU), who will transfer the payment to your co-parent. It is possible to pay child support directly to your co-parent, but sending payments through the ISDU ensures that the state knows that you are in compliance with your child support order.

Your Children Are Not Messengers When Co-ParentingCommunicating with your co-parent after a divorce can feel uncomfortable, even if you did not separate on bad terms. You need to stay in contact with each other to discuss issues related to your children. For some parents, having a child act as a messenger seems like a natural solution to the problem. After all, your child sees both of you regularly. However, any parenting expert will tell you that using your child as a messenger for your parenting discussions is unhealthy for them, no matter how old they are or mature they may seem.

Problems

Asking your child to deliver a message to your co-parent is forcing them to become a player in your co-parenting drama. You may think that it is benign to send a simple message, such as that you will be late in picking up the children next week. By tasking your child to deliver a message:

  • They receive your co-parent’s negative reaction to the news and perceive that the reaction is directed towards them
  • They are exposed to details of the conflicts between you and your co-parent that they should not know
  • They may forget to tell your co-parent and feel guilty about failing their task

In a similar vein to using your child as a messenger, you should not ask your child to spy on your co-parent and report back to you. You put them in the unwinnable position of either betraying their other parent or disobeying you.

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