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geneva child custody lawyerParents who decide to end their marriage and get a divorce will need to make decisions about a variety of issues related to child custody. In many cases, parents may be able to agree on how to handle these issues either by negotiating a settlement or participating in mediation. If an agreement cannot be reached, litigation may be necessary, and the final decisions will be made by the judge in their case. Matters related to child custody will be addressed in a document called a parenting plan that will be incorporated into the couple’s final divorce decree.

Terms of a Parenting Plan

The two main components of child custody that will be addressed in a parenting plan are the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parental responsibilities, which are commonly known as legal custody, refer to the parents’ rights to make decisions for their children. A parenting plan will describe whether parents will share some or all of the areas of responsibility equally or whether one parent will have primary or sole responsibility in certain areas. The types of responsibility that will be addressed include decisions related to children’s healthcare and medical treatment, educational matters, choice of religion, and children’s participation in religious services and training, and extracurricular activities.

Parenting time, commonly known as physical custody, refers to when children will be spending time with each parent and staying in each parent’s home. A parenting plan will specify a schedule for regular, daily parenting time, detailing the days and times when children will be in the care of each parent. Parenting time schedules will also need to be created for days that fall outside of the regular schedule, such as summer vacations, spring break, school breaks during the winter holidays, other major holidays, and special days such as children’s or parents’ birthdays, providing a full understanding of which parent will care for children on these days.

Geneva divorce attorney for parenting plansA divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences of your life, regardless of whether you were married for a few years or a few decades. When you and your spouse have children together, adapting to life after the marriage ends can be very difficult. You will have to learn how to co-parent your children, even if you do not see eye-to-eye on everything. However, the most important thing to remember in a high-conflict divorce is to keep your children’s best interests in mind. “Parallel parenting” is an arrangement in which divorced spouses can co-parent by disengaging from each other, with limited direct contact, while remaining fully connected to their children. This version of co-parenting can be appropriate for ex-spouses who are unable to communicate with each other in a healthy or civil manner. 

Co-Parenting With Your Children’s Best Interests in Mind

One of the obstacles that divorced parents often face is determining how to resolve disputes over child-related issues, such as the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation). In some cases, parents can agree who will be granted the majority of the decision-making authority, including decisions regarding medical care, education, and religious upbringing. If they cannot reach a mutual arrangement, then the court will decide for them based on factors that affect the children’s best interests. For example, one parent may assume the decision-making responsibility for medical decisions, while the other parent handles anything related to educational goals. While both parents may agree on major decisions regarding their children’s upbringing, they may separately decide the logistics of day-to-day parenting when the children are in each parent’s care. That means each household might have a different set of rules related to discipline or other issues.

With parallel parenting, the ex-spouses typically only communicate through written means, such as email or text messages. That means there is limited in-person contact, face-to-face interaction such as video calls, or even phone conversations. This type of co-parenting can be especially helpful for high-conflict divorces in which the former partners do not get along and are prone to arguing. By using this method, you and your ex can work out the details of where children will stay on certain holidays via electronic means instead of getting into a heated dispute in front of the kids. 

Geneva child custody lawyersWhen a couple with children gets divorced in Illinois, they are required to create a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a formal document that lays out each parent’s responsibilities and rights regarding the child and provides a foundation for ongoing, cooperative parenting. If the parents cannot come up with a workable plan on their own, the court may do for them.

Under Illinois law, there are over a dozen considerations that must be included or addressed in a parenting plan, including things such as a parenting time schedule and the child’s permanent address for school enrollment purposes. Other elements can also be included at the discretion of the parents or the court, including the right of first refusal. If the right of first refusal has been included in your parenting plan, you need to know what it means.

Bonus Parenting Time

For the purposes of a parenting plan, the right of first refusal applies when a parent needs childcare during his or her allotted parenting time. Depending on how the right is structured in your plan, the right of first refusal could apply when one parent has meeting some evening or it could be saved for longer periods, such as an all-day event on a weekend when the parent was supposed to have parenting time. If the right of first refusal is invoked, the parent who needs child care must let the other parent know and give the other parent the chance to have extra parenting time.

Kane County family law attorneyIn just a few short weeks, your children will be out of school for the summer. They are probably already looking forward to the freedom to sleep in and to spend time recreating with their friends. As a parent, you may also be excited for summer, but it is also common for parents to approach the extended break from school with at least some concerns. Such worries are often amplified for parents who share parental responsibilities with an ex-spouse. If you are subject to an Illinois parenting plan or custody agreement, it is important to prepare well in advance for the months ahead.

Review Your Existing Arrangements

Before planning any trips or summertime events, it is important to know what your parenting plan says about the summer break. Many parenting plans give the bulk of summer parenting time to the parent who sees the children less often during the school year—particularly if that parent lives relatively far away. Other plans keep a schedule similar to that which is in place during the school year. If your plan makes definitive arrangements regarding summer parenting time, you need to follow them or come up with a compromise so that both you and the other parent can enjoy the summer as well.

Geneva family law attorneyIf you are a parent considering divorce, your number one concern is probably about how the divorce will affect your children. Fortunately, there are many good resources for parents planning to divorce. One thing parents should do if they are planning to share custody of their children after the split is create a parenting plan or parenting agreement.

Every Plan is Different

If you are a parent getting divorced in Illinois, the courts will require you to draft and submit a parenting plan. In it, you should define the proposed custody and visitation schedule (technically called allocation of parental rights and parenting time respectively) as well as solidify other parenting decisions. Only the custody and visitation schedule is required, but many experts suggest parents use a court-required parenting agreement as an opportunity to get on the same page regarding the children. Each family is different, so your parenting plan will not look exactly the same as another family’s plan.

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