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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:

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:

Posted on in Child Custody

Kane County child relocation lawyerSometimes, life changes unexpectedly. A new job, new relationship, or death in the family may necessitate a move, but relocating your family is almost never easy. Moving with your child can be especially difficult during or in the wake of a divorce, as Illinois law places restrictions on relocating with children. In many cases, one parent’s desire to move must be balanced with the other parent’s right to parenting time and their children’s interests in staying where they are comfortable.

Illinois Child Relocation Laws

Before 2016, Illinois law held that a single or divorced parent could uproot their children for any destination within the state, but if they chose to leave the state even by a very small distance, permission from either the other spouse or the family court was required. With the revamping of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) in 2016, a new approach was adopted for parents who have at least half of the parenting time with their children.

Under the current law, a parent living in Kane County, Cook County, DuPage County, Lake County, McHenry County, or Will County can move with their child to a new residence within Illinois, up to 25 miles from the original home, without the consent of the other parent or the family court. If a parent resides with their child outside of those counties, the allowable distance is increased to 50 miles, simply because the middle and southern counties in the state of Illinois are larger and less dense than the six counties immediately surrounding Chicago. If a parent wants to move outside the state of Illinois, they are still allowed to do so within a distance of 25 miles without seeking permission. However, it is important to remember that within that distance, Illinois remains the home state of the child for purposes of disputes over parental responsibilities. 

How Does Mental Illness Affect Parental Rights in an Illinois Divorce?Many adults experience mental illness during their lifetime. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in any given year. While mental illness can be naturally occurring, it can also be triggered by major events in your life, such as divorce. Mental illness will not typically factor into divorce decisions, but it can be an issue to address when making decisions related to children, namely, decisions about parenting time or decision-making responsibilities.

Elements to Consider When Making Child-Related Decisions

Any child-related issue that must be settled during a divorce is made in the child’s best interests. If the parents disagree on what is in the child’s best interests, then a judge will have to intervene and make decisions about the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities for the parents. When making these decisions, the judge will look at various factors, including:

  • The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity
  • The ability of the parents to cooperate with each other
  • The level of conflict that may exist between the parents
  • The wishes of each parent
  • The needs of the child
  • The ability and willingness of both parents to facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The mental and physical health of both parents and the child

It is the judge’s job to understand the family dynamic as accurately as possible so that he or she can ensure the child has a happy and healthy life.

How COVID-19 Has Affected Phone Call Etiquette for Divorced ParentsThe public response to the COVID-19 pandemic has required people to change the ways in which they communicate with each other. In-person visits are being replaced with phone and video calls in order to limit travel and contact with other people. Video chats on your phone or through an application such as Zoom have become a popular way for family members to stay in contact with each other – including divorced parents contacting their children. Some parenting agreements will set a limit for how often one parent is allowed to call their children when they are staying with the other parent. With the extraordinary circumstances that we are currently living in, it may be time to add a provision regarding phone calls to your parenting agreement or modify your existing provision.

Call Etiquette

Co-parents may set limits on calls if they are concerned about the other parent interrupting their parenting time. For instance, the parenting agreement can say that a parent may initiate contact with the children once per day or every other day when the children are with the other parent. The children can contact the parent on their own but should be encouraged to focus on the parent they are with. Frequent or long calls with a child can be harmful to them because:

  • The calling parent may be trying to alienate the child from their other parent
  • The child is not able to adjust to living with the parent if they are constantly being reminded of their other home
  • The calls may make the child anxious but they are afraid to upset their parent by telling them

Changing Circumstances

It may be appropriate to adjust your normal call etiquette because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas daily calls may have seemed intrusive before, you should consider that:

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