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Lombard family law attorneyIf you are a parent who is getting divorced or planning to, you are probably concerned about how you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will raise your children. If you plan on raising the kids together through a shared parenting scenario, you should know that there are some unique methods of co-parenting which have helped many families. These growing trends offer an alternative to traditional post-divorce living situations.

Nesting Arrangements

The majority of couples who get divorced end up living separately from each other. The most common living arrangement for parents who get divorced is for children to visit each parent at their home. Some experts find this arrangement to be especially burdensome on the children who are splitting their time between two homes. As an alternative, some parents are choosing to use what some call “the bird’s nest” strategy: The children live in one home and the parents take turns living there. For example, a parent may stay with the children one week in the “nest” home and then the other parent comes to stay with the children the following week. When the parents are not at the nest home, they are living in their own individual home. While many find this co-parenting strategy to be effective, it can also be quite expensive since it usually requires the couple to finance a third home for the children.

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Illinois family law attorneysThe decision to divorce is not one that is made easily. This is especially true for those that have children who are sure to be impacted by the complex process. To bring awareness to the struggles that children face in divorce and to help parents better understand how they can improve their child’s ability to cope and adjust, The Child of Divorce—an advocacy group for children—has created and recently released an emotional but educational video. The topics discussed in the video are extremely relevant to many families and provide tips that parents can use during their divorce.

A Child’s View of Divorce

Parents are often—and understandably—shaken, troubled, and possibly even shocked by the changes that divorce brings. Children experience many of these very same emotions but in a very different way. They often feel that the very foundation of their world is crumbling. All that was once stable, safe, and secure is changing, and they have no control or say over the matter. Yet they still feel a strong attachment to both parents. When the parties become more focused on “winning,” and less on the emotions and well-being of their children, young ones can feel as though they are being asked to choose. No child should ever be placed in this position.

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Lombard family law attorneysWhen you share parenting responsibilities for your child with your former partner, things are not always going to be easy. You will almost certainly experience disagreements with the other parent over a variety of concerns including the child’s activities, your relationship with the child, and your ability to properly exercise your parenting time. Regardless of the difficulties, however, it is very important for you to continue following any orders entered by the court so that you do not put your parental rights in jeopardy.

Components of a Parenting Plan

Following a divorce or breakup of unmarried parents, arrangements must be made for the couple’s child or children. To facilitate the process, the law requires the parents to submit a proposed plan regarding each parent’s responsibilities for the child. Each parent may submit a separate proposal or they may develop one together. A parenting plan must contain a number of other elements, but the most important considerations include the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities and a parenting time schedule. Once a parenting plan has been approved by the court and entered as an order, both parents must abide by its terms.

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Lombard family law attorneysAt the beginning of 2016, sweeping amendments to Illinois state law changed the terminology and application of child-related matters during divorce. Child custody became known as the allocation of parental responsibilities and visitation was renamed as parenting time. These changes are meant to reduce contention, preserve family bonds, and keep children at the center of divorce proceedings. Understand how this may affect your case, and how you can effectively navigate the process.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities in Illinois

Under the new provisions, decision-making regarding where a child will go to school, what church they will attend, where the child will reside, if and when they should have certain medical or surgical procedures, and other important decisions are known as the allocation of parental responsibilities. It may be split equally among parents, or the most authority may go to the parent that has the greatest amount of parenting time. Alternatively, there are situations in which the parent with the least amount of parenting time will have the most decision-making power. Essentially, the circumstances are as varied as each individual family.

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Lombard family law attorneysCreating a parenting plan following a divorce can be a challenge, especially when you and your spouse cannot see eye-to-eye on the arrangements. The role of a professional, certified mediator can be extremely helpful as you piece together the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation), but what happens when the parenting plan you work so hard to negotiate falls apart down the road or causes continual conflict?

When assessing your current parenting plan and whether or not it would benefit from certain modifications, consider the following:

  • Are your children content with existing visitation patterns? If your child is demonstrating any resistance or is showing any signs of emotional distress while sharing time with either parent, it is wise to reassess and consider whether or not the current parenting time schedule is conducive to your family’s needs and general well-being; and
  • Has tension between you and your spouse escalated recently? If you are experiencing more conflict than usual between you and your spouse or within the family circle, it might be time to re-evaluate your dynamic and current parenting plan arrangements. While some conflict can be brought on due to external family changes, such as school or job performance, or a new significant other stepping onto the scene, some conflict cannot be resolved by time or circumstantial change. It might be time to seek professional assistance to ensure your parenting plan is as efficient--and healthy--as it can be for your entire family.

How the State Can Help

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Lombard family law attorneyMany divorced or separated parents often struggle with their new reality of limited time with their children. This is quite often the case for a parent who has been granted a relatively lesser amount of parenting time compared to the other. While you may understand logically that creating an equal parenting time schedule is not truly possible in most cases, knowing that does not make it any easier to be away from your children. There is a way, though, to include extra possible parenting time in your agreement with your ex. It is called the right of first refusal and, when utilized properly, this right can offer both parents and the child substantial benefits.

Understanding First Refusal

When you have precious little time with your child, you may be looking for any and all possible ways to see him or her more often. Changing permanent arrangement or schedule can be rather complicated, but including the right of first refusal is fairly simple. When the right of first refusal is part of your parenting agreement, it means that your child’s other parent is required to offer you the chance to care for the child when he or she would otherwise need to make other childcare arrangements. In short, this means additional parenting time opportunities for you. As the name implies, you have the right to refuse the opportunity, but if parenting time is at a premium, may be unlikely to turn down such a chance.

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co-parenting, Lombard family law attorneyIf you are a parent, the decision to divorce your spouse or to break up with your child’s other parent will have an effect on more than just the two of you. Your children and the stability of their lives are also likely to be greatly impacted. While things may never be the same for your children as they were during your marriage, it does not mean things will necessarily be worse, just different. As you and the other parent look toward the future, there are some things you can do to help build a positive foundation for co-parenting together for years to come.

Find Common Ground

Every element of effective co-parenting is dependent upon your ability to communicate with your child’s other parent, despite the issues that may have driven you apart. More than likely, the two of you still have a great deal in common, and, at the very least, you both want what is best for your child. Using that as a basis, begin developing a parenting plan around the elements upon which you can agree, including who will be responsible for the majority of the parenting time, which school your child will attend and other fairly straightforward considerations.

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remarried, Lombard family law attorneyThere are many reasons why it may be difficult for you to see your former spouse on the verge of getting remarried. Some, of course, may be mostly nostalgic—a longing for the "good old days" when you were blissfully happy together. Others may be based on jealousy, if you are being honest with yourself. Your ex has found someone that is not you, and no matter what occurred between the two of you, being replaced hurts. Finally, there may be more practical concerns for you regarding the upcoming nuptials of your ex-spouse, especially if you have children.

No Right or Wrong Answers

The most important thing for you to remember as you think about the impact of your ex’s remarriage on your children and parenting arrangements is that there is no manual for dealing with the issues. Changes are almost certain but they do not need to be seen as negative. As long as you and the other parent can communicate and cooperate, you can continue to provide for your child’s best interests, allowing him or her to benefit from the addition of a stepparent. You will need to find a solution or approach that meets the unique needs of your family, allowing all parties to remain involved as a valuable component of the process.

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parenting plan, cooperation, Lombard family law attorneyFor the last several months, posts on this blog have discussed at length a number of changes being effected in the state of Illinois, particularly as they relate to divorce and family law concerns. Most of the updates are intended to facilitate and encourage a more amicable divorce process, which is beneficial not only to the spouses themselves, but to any others who may be affected, most especially children. A divorce or separation in which contentiousness and acrimony can be minimized often allows for a much more stable future, free from most divorce-related grudges and hurt feelings. While encouraging reasonable negotiation between divorcing couples of all types, the new law expects active cooperation from parents, in particular, requiring them to be more a part of the decision-making process than ever before.

New Year, New Outlook

Prior to the new laws taking effect at the beginning of 2016, parents going through a divorce were often left to fight over who would provide what for their children. Too often, the battle over sole or joint custody could turn ugly, leaving the child caught directly in the middle. Going forward, however, the law explicitly requires the parties to a proceeding for the allocation of parental responsibilities—the new name for child custody in Illinois—to submit to the court a proposed parenting plan within 120 days. Such a plan, which may be developed separately by each parent or negotiated jointly, must include a number of elements necessary to ensure the child’s best interests are being met.

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