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Kane County parenting plan lawyersParents often worry about how a divorce will affect their children. If you are divorced or soon will be, the safety and well-being of your kids are likely your top priority. You may be especially concerned about how your relationship with your ex-spouse will affect your children. While some divorced and unmarried parents remain friends, others can hardly stand to be in the same room together. If your relationship with your ex is closer to the latter, consider the following tips for maintaining a peaceful and effective co-parenting relationship.

Get Everything in Writing

A successful and non-combative co-parenting relationship starts with a strong parenting agreement. In Illinois, divorcing parents are expected to submit a “parenting plan” that describes the parenting schedule and other key parenting concerns. The parenting plan should be as detailed as possible. The more that you have in writing, the less you will be forced to figure out in the future. Furthermore, the elements of your parenting plan are legally enforceable. This means that if your ex refuses to stick with the plan, you can get the plan enforced by the court.

Make sure to include provisions addressing:

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Kane County family law attorneyDisputes over child-related matters can often be quite contentious. The resulting bitterness and resentment can affect the relationship between the parents for years to come. Issues involving child custody—now called the allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois—parenting time, child support, and any other concern related to children are complicated, and when parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will need to step in and make long-term decisions for the family. In some cases, the court will appoint an independent attorney called a guardian ad litem to assist in the decision-making process, and it is important for you to understand why he or she may have been appointed.

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do?

To appreciate the reasons behind the court's appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL), you must first understand the role that the GAL will play in your proceedings. The GAL does not represent either parent or the child; instead, he or she works essentially as an extension of the court and an expert witness. He or she has the power to investigate the family's situation by conducting interviews, reviewing documents, and examining any other relevant information. Based on the results of the investigation, the GAL provides a recommendation to the court of what the ideal outcome should be in the case. Because eligible GALs undergo specific training required by the county, their recommendations are given significant weight by the court.

Reasons to Appoint a GAL

Some family court judges prefer to appoint a GAL in nearly every child-related case while others may wait until a need becomes evident. If the court can see that reasonable progress is being made between the parents, the services of a GAL may not be necessary. If, on the other hand, the parents refuse to compromise or continue to make accusations against one another, a GAL is likely to be appointed.

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Kane County family law attorneysIf you are a parent whose time with your child has been limited due to a divorce, it can be very difficult for you to maintain the relationship with your child that you wish to have. This may be especially true if the other parent has been granted a majority of the parenting time and you only see your child a few days each month. Illinois law, however, allows parents in such a situation to include provisions in their parenting plan that could create extra parenting time opportunities under certain circumstances.

Defining the Right of First Refusal

Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), your parenting plan should address what is called “the right of first refusal” regarding your child. If you have the right of first refusal, it means that the other parent must contact you and offer you the opportunity to care for your child if the other parent would otherwise need to find a sitter or alternative childcare. Depending on how your parenting plan is structured, you may be required to offer the same opportunity to the other parent if and when you need someone to care for your child. It is important to note that including the right of first refusal in your parenting plan does not obligate you to accept every such opportunity; the right of first refusal refers to optional additional parenting time.

Setting the Parameters

If the right of first refusal is going to be a part of your parenting plan, specific rules on how it will be utilized need to be determined. One element is the duration. For example, will the other parent need to call and offer the right if he or she only has a two-hour meeting after work one day? Or, will the right of first refusal be reserved for longer periods such as overnights or a certain minimum number of hours?

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Kane County family law attorneysParents who are no longer married to or romantically involved with one another often face serious challenges in developing an agreement regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities. In most cases, both parents want to continue to play an important role in their child’s life and are willing to compromise to make that happen. Sometimes, however, the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own. When this happens, the court must step in and assign parental responsibilities and parenting time in a manner that promotes the child’s best interests.

The process of determining parenting rights and responsibilities was—until just a few years ago—known as “child custody” in Illinois. In 2016, however, an update to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act revamped the court’s approach to the subject and replaced the term “child custody” with the phrase “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Additionally, the law divides parental responsibilities into two primary areas, each of which may be determined separately.

Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities

The first consideration for divorcing or separating parents is the authority for significant decision-making regarding the child. Significant decisions include any concerns that will impact the child’s life over a long period of time, such as education, health care, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. Decision-making authority may be granted to both parents equally, solely to either parent, or any combination of the two. For example, one parent could be responsible for educational and healthcare decisions while the other parent is responsible for all religious training, and both parents share responsibility for extracurricular activities.

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Kane County family law attorneys

Parents often worry about how their children will cope with divorce. Most do everything they can to smooth the transition, but they do not always know if they are making the right choices. For example, how do parents decide where the child will live? How much time should they be spending with each parent? Should they switch houses every weekend, or is that too much?

The answers to most of these questions are circumstantial and can only be answered by the parents themselves. However, one study does suggest that children fare better if they spend time living with each of their parents. Furthermore, children seem to cope best when their schedule for switching homes is somewhat consistent.

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We serve clients throughout Kane County, Illinois including St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora, Elgin, Algonquin, Aurora, Barrington Hills, Bartlett, Big Rock, Burlington, Campton Hills, Carpentersville, East Dundee, Elburn, Hampshire, Huntley, Kaneville, Maple Park, Sleepy Hollow, Wayne, West Dundee as well as throughout DuPage County.

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In honor of the passing of our founder, Joseph F. Mirabella, Jr., our offices are closed Friday, January 31, 2020.I Agree