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Attacking Your Co-Parent’s Character Rarely Has the Intended EffectDivorcing or separated parents in a dispute over their parenting time are often looking for something that will give them an advantage over their co-parent. Pointing out flaws in your co-parent’s character feels like a strong argument for giving you a greater share of parental responsibilities. However, character attacks are not always effective in a parenting case and may instead backfire on the accuser. You will be best served during your parenting case by demonstrating the strengths of your own character and only bringing up your co-parent’s lack of character if you can explain actual ways that it is harmful to your children.

Importance of Character

Someone’s character is relevant when a court rules on the allocation of parental responsibilities if it concerns their morality and judgment. Illinois law states that providing moral and ethical guidance is one of the roles of a parent. An immoral parent may fail in that role by demonstrating a lack of morality or not teaching their children the difference between right and wrong. Other parents show a lack of good judgment that puts their children in danger or neglects their upbringing. You can express your concerns about your co-parent’s character to the court, but the court will find your claims more credible if you present third-party evidence, such as:

  • Character witnesses testifying in court
  • Character letters submitted to the court
  • Child services professionals testifying on their observations of the children

If you are the one whose character is under attack, you can present witnesses that testify to your good character as a parent.

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Parenting Time Change Can Allow Child Support ModificationYou are allowed to modify the child support order from your divorce at any time as long as you can show that there has been a significant change of circumstances that makes the modification necessary. The change of circumstances is usually a change in the income of one of the parents or a change in the cost of supporting the children. However, a change in the division of parenting time may also be enough reason to modify your child support payment.

Shared Parenting

Illinois has a modified version of its child support formula that it uses when parents have a 60-40 division of parenting time or less, which qualifies as shared parenting. The paying parent does not need to provide as much support to the other parent because they are directly paying for more of the children’s expenses. Thus, it is appropriate to modify child support payments if the division of parenting time reaches the shared parenting threshold.

No Time Limit to Modify

A recent Illinois case shows that courts can misapply child support laws in ways that need to be corrected. In the case of In re Marriage of Izzo, a man sought to reduce his child support payments to his former wife based on three changes of circumstance:

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How a Criminal Case Could Affect Your Parental ResponsibilitiesAn ongoing criminal case or past criminal conviction can be an important factor when determining how parental responsibilities should be allocated between parents in a divorce. A criminal charge may cause a court to doubt whether you can be a responsible parent and provide a safe environment for your children. However, the details of your criminal case will determine how much weight the family court will give it in your parenting case. Here are three relevant questions about your criminal case in relation to your parental responsibilities:

  1. What Is the Nature of the Criminal Charge?: Violent criminal charges cause the greatest concern about your children’s safety. Domestic violence or abuse charges, in particular, suggest that you may be violent towards your children if left alone with them. Crimes based on poor decisions, such as driving under the influence or drug possession, also reflect badly on your ability to be a responsible parent. A court may strictly limit your parenting time until you can demonstrate that you are not a threat to your children, which may require counseling and parenting classes.
  2. Is the Case Ongoing?: An active criminal case could be good news or bad news for your parenting case. If the case ends without you being convicted, your criminal charge may have a minimal effect on your parental responsibilities. However, the family court has the discretion to hold the fact that you were charged against you if you got off on a technicality or demonstrated poor judgment by putting yourself in the situation that led to your arrest. An ongoing criminal case also casts doubt on your future availability as a parent if a jail sentence is a possibility or you may lose your driving privileges as a result of your conviction.
  3. How Long Ago Was the Conviction?: If you have a criminal conviction on your record, your spouse may present this information to the court as a reason to limit your parental responsibilities. However, you may be able to downplay a previous conviction if it occurred a long time ago and you have demonstrated good behavior since then. A one-time mistake may not hurt you much if you can explain what you learned from the incident and why you will not repeat that mistake.

Contact a St. Charles Divorce Lawyer

A divorce court will presume that you have an equal right to parental responsibilities unless there is evidence that it would be against your children’s best interests. A Kane County divorce attorney at Goostree Law Group will work with you to ensure that you receive an appropriate amount of time with your children. To schedule a free consultation, call 630-584-4800.

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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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Three Reasons Why Children Benefit From Shared ParentingIllinois assumes that both parents in a divorce should share parenting time of their child. This may not mean equal parenting time because courts prefer that one parent has the children for a majority of the time to create more stability. Still, both parents are encouraged to be active in their children’s lives beyond child support and basic obligations. Studies on children of divorce have shown that they benefit when each parent has at least 35 percent of the parenting time. They do better in school and are less likely to have long-lasting emotional issues. There are several reasons why shared parenting is more beneficial to children than when one parent has most or all of the parenting time:

  1. The Children Develop Relationships with Both Parents: Conventional wisdom used to be that children primarily need their mothers when growing up, which left some fathers with limited contact with their children. However, a father is also an important figure in a child’s life, and children who do not develop a close relationship with their father may feel abandoned. To develop a relationship, fathers need more time with their children than a visit every other weekend, especially when the child is young.
  2. The Children Receive More Attention: A single parent cannot replicate the positive effect of having two active parents. The parent has work responsibilities and a limited amount of energy to care for all of the children. A shared parenting plan divides the parental responsibilities so that no one parent has to be responsible for all the children at all times. There are two parents to be attentive to the children’s needs and help them if they are having problems.
  3. The Parents Must Work Together: Being “co-parents” means that you are both responsible for the care and development of your children. You need to communicate with your co-parent about what has happened with your children in his or her absence and come to some consensus on how you will raise your children. While it may be difficult, successful co-parenting creates consistency for your children and sets a good example for them. You both are showing how two adults can co-operate towards a common goal, even when they do not get along.

Contact a Kane County Divorce Attorney

There are several ways that you can divide your parenting time and schedule the days that you have with your children. A St. Charles, Illinois, divorce attorney at Goostree Law Group can help you determine the best parenting schedule for your situation. Schedule a free consultation by calling 630-584-4800.

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