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St. Charles parenting plan attorneysThe COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people on a global scale, from China to Italy to the United States, as well as many other countries. This novel (new) coronavirus is highly contagious and results in respiratory illness that can range from mild to life-threatening. Those who have pre-existing medical conditions or who are over the age of 65 are reportedly at a higher risk of fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is aggressively responding to the worldwide outbreak of the virus, with updates and guidelines for citizens to follow. Some of these directives include isolation or quarantine orders if someone tests positive for the virus. During this unsettling time, parents who are divorced may be worried how it will affect their parenting plans

Illinois’ Response to Coronavirus 

Here in Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker and his administration are committed to the health and safety of citizens across the state. In an effort to flatten the curve on the number of new cases, Pritzker issued a “stay at home” order that began March 21 and tentatively runs through April 7. This means that all “non-essential” businesses are closed, including schools, restaurants (dine-in service), bars, casinos, shopping malls, salons, and more. Students are doing online schooling and people who can work from home are doing so. Government offices, medical facilities, gas stations, and grocery stores are still open. Health and county officials are urging people everywhere to practice social distancing. This means keeping six feet away from others and refraining from large gatherings or traveling unless absolutely necessary.   

Child-Related Issues Amidst the Outbreak

In an Illinois divorce, one parent is typically awarded the majority of the parental responsibilities (child custody). The non-custodial parent has designated parenting time (visitation), which is outlined in a parenting plan. This document is basically a schedule of when the children are with which parent. For example, some parents alternate weeks or weekends and holidays. However, what happens when the kids are off school for a prolonged period of time, such as during the COVID-19 outbreak?  

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Kane County divorce lawyerAlthough it would be nice if all divorces were amicable, that is rarely the case. Even if a couple mutually decides to end their marriage, they may disagree on many of the marital issues that need to be resolved when divorcing. Some typical points of contention include dividing assets or property, determining spousal support, and creating a parenting time schedule. When children are involved, it can be hard for parents to reach common ground, especially for the allocation of parental responsibilities. Child custody disputes during the divorce process can cause both parents and children to feel anxiety and guilt. In some situations, it may be necessary to seek the professional opinions of subject matter experts in addition to a skilled divorce attorney to come to a resolution.   

How Can a Professional Evaluation Help?

When determining which parent will be awarded the majority of the parenting time, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the children when making any decisions. A judge may order one or both parents to undergo a mental health evaluation. This is often the case when one parent is worried that the other parent may pose a risk to their children due to a mental illness, substance abuse problem, or similar psychological issues. The judge then uses the findings to determine whether one parent is better equipped to care for the children. In certain cases, the results can affect parenting time rights. 

A psychologist or a licensed clinical social worker can conduct an evaluation using different personality tests and interviews. He or she then submits recommendations to help the court decide what would be best for the children’s emotional well-being. This third-party evaluation will address the developmental needs of the children and the capacity of each parent to meet those needs. He or she will consider several factors regarding the parents, including: 

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