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Kane County child custody attorneyWhen it comes to co-parenting, it is best to be as prepared as possible. This is one reason Illinois requires divorcing parents to submit a parenting plan to the court that describes the important details of their co-parenting agreement. If you are a parent who is thinking about divorce, it is important to understand what Illinois expects from parents during the divorce process, including what you will need to address in your parenting plan. You and your soon-to-be ex can agree on the terms of the parenting plan and submit the plan jointly, or submit separate parenting plans to the court for consideration.

The Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Illinois does not use the terms “child custody” and “visitation” to describe parenting duties anymore. Instead, child custody is broken down into two main components:

Parental responsibilities – Parental responsibilities refer to the parents’ decision-making authority. Parents will need to decide how major decisions about the child’s upbringing will be handled. Will both parents make decisions about the child’s education, or will one parent have the final say? What about the child’s health and religious upbringing?

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St. Charles family law attorneyIf you are a parent who is thinking about getting divorced, you may understandably be concerned about how the split will affect your kids. Divorce is difficult for everyone regardless of the time of year. However, dealing with a divorce during the back-to-school period can be even more stressful. As with many aspects of a divorce, planning how to handle parenting and school issues in advance can help make the process easier for everyone.

Plan How You Will Handle Child Custody and Child-Related Expenses

As part of your Illinois divorce, you will be asked to submit a parenting plan to the court which explains how you and the other parent will share parenting time and parenting duties. Even if you have not officially filed for divorce, you can still create a written plan detailing when your children will stay with each parent to ensure that you and the other parent are on the same page. Plan in advance which parent will have the child on what days and how parents will handle school events like parent-teacher conferences and back-to-school nights. Consistency and structure will help your child cope with the divorce. Make sure to also address how the parents will pay for school supplies, extracurricular fees, and other school-related expenses during the split.

Consider Telling Your Child’s Teacher About the Divorce

Of course, your marriage is no one’s business but your own. However, letting your child’s teacher know that you will soon be divorced may help in several ways. First, it lets the teacher know that he or she should communicate with both parents regarding school reports, disciplinary actions, or other child-related concerns instead of assuming that one parent will share the information with the other parent. Secondly, it gives the teacher the opportunity to provide emotional support to your child if he or she does get upset or acts out at school because of the divorce.

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Kane County child custody attorneyIf you are a parent who is getting divorced in Illinois and you wish to share custody of your children, you will be asked to create a parenting plan. The parenting plan or parenting agreement is a detailed description of how the parents will share parenting time and parental responsibilities. The parenting plan is not merely a formality. A carefully considered and well-planned parenting agreement can reduce co-parenting conflicts, help the parents avoid future legal disputes, and benefit the child’s adjustment and overall well-being. One provision you may want to include in your parenting plan is the “right of first refusal.”

Understanding Parenting Time Schedules

A key element of your parenting plan will be a schedule describing the allocation of parenting time. Formerly called visitation, parenting time refers to the time the child spends with each parent. You may decide that the child will live with one parent Monday through Wednesday and the other parent Thursday through Sunday, or that the child will spend time with a parent every other weekend. You may even assign parenting time to one parent during the school year and the other parent during the summer months. Parents have the freedom to design whatever parenting time schedule meets their needs, as long as it is in the child’s best interests. However, it is also important to consider what happens when a parent cannot fulfill his or her parenting time obligation.

How the Right of First Refusal Affects Parenting Time

Consider the following scenario: A mother is responsible for watching the children on weekdays. However, a work trip requires her to be out of town Monday through Wednesday. Does the mother hire a sitter or ask the father to watch the children on those days? The right of first refusal is intended to address just such a situation.

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kane county child custody lawyerWhether you have been divorced for several months or just separated from your spouse, it is important to stick to the child custody and visitation order you agreed upon. However, if your child does not want to see the other parent, it can make the situation much more difficult. If you do not comply with the parenting time schedule described in your parenting plan, the court could even find you in contempt of the court order.

Common Reasons Why Children May Refuse Visitation

While it would be ideal if all children complied with visitation schedules, it does not always work out that way. Children may not want to see their parent for a wide range of reasons. Perhaps they do not like the rules they have to follow at the other parent’s house or maybe they do not get along with their parent’s new significant other. Other children may refuse to see their parent because he or she lives far away from their school and friends.

How to Handle a Child Who Is Refusing Visitation

If your child does not wish to visit their other parent, you can take the following steps to rectify the matter. 

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St. Charles divorce attorney parenting time

Not all divorces and separations are amicable and they do not always result in the desired outcome. In fact, when children are involved, few do. The allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time (previously referred to as child custody and visitation) is a contentious and emotional issue, as the court’s decision will affect the child and both parents for years to come.   Co-parenting requires a couple to find some grounds for cooperation and mutual understanding when, in reality, neither of those two factors was strong enough in the relationship to make it last in the first place. So how do you deal with it now? 

For some parents, the task of entrusting their child to a partner they do not believe is fit to be a guardian is too much to bear, and they may wonder if they can simply refuse to allow parenting time to continue. If you are heading down this path or need legal counsel to re-address custody or visitation rights, contact the family law attorneys at our office as soon as possible, we can help guide you in the right direction.

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