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Kane County parenting time attorneyA divorce can be one of the most difficult experiences one can go through, especially if children are involved. The allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation) are two important issues that need to be resolved during the divorce proceedings. A couple can create a parenting plan, which essentially outlines details such as what days of the week the child is with each parent. If they cannot agree on the terms, a decision will be made based on the best interest of the child by the court. 

Courts will also weigh other factors before making a decision on parenting time in order for both parents to take an active role in child-rearing. However, in these uncertain times, with stay-at-home orders issued in many states, parents are being creative by using technology for virtual visits if they cannot be done in person.  

Determining Factors for Visitation

Illinois courts recognize that children benefit from a relationship with both parents. This is generally true as long as there is no evidence or history of abuse or that a parent poses a threat to the welfare of a child. Otherwise, parenting time may be denied or supervised visitation ordered. 

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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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St. Charles family law attorneysMany couples who are unhappy put off filing for divorce if they have children together. The thought of hurting their kids by breaking up the family can be overwhelming. However, ending a dysfunctional marriage may benefit everyone in the long run. In Illinois, parenting time (visitation) refers to when a parent sees his or her child after a divorce or breakup. Parents can develop their own arrangement for parenting time, but a judge will still have to approve the schedule. When a couple cannot reach an agreement, the court will determine an appropriate parenting time schedule for the parents.

Illinois Divorce Laws

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) is divided into two main elements. The first aspect involves decision-making authority for important issues, such as education, religion, and healthcare. The second basic element of parental responsibility is parenting time, which may include the right of first refusal. This means that if a parent intends to leave a child with a caregiver for a substantial amount of time, that parent must first offer the other parent an opportunity to take care of the child. Examples of third parties include a babysitter, relative, stepparent, friend, or daycare facility. 

First Refusal Rights

When divorcing parents or the court includes the right of first refusal in a parenting plan, the plan must address details of how the right can be exercised. This includes:

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St. Charles family law attorneysParenting children under the same roof can be challenging in and of itself, but parenting them from separate homes almost always requires an even greater amount of effort. Yet, studies have consistently shown that children usually fare best in a divorce if they have the continued support of both parents. Illinois’ family laws encourage parents to work together in meeting the mental, emotional, and financial needs of their kids during and after their divorce. Most often, this goal is met through the drafting of a parenting plan, which contains two major components: the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as child custody) and parenting time (previously referred to as visitation). 

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities 

Throughout the course of a normal day, parents make multiple decisions about their children’s lives and future. While most decisions are relatively minor and require no prior “clearance” or approval from the other parent, there are certain aspects of their kids’ well-being that are considered “protected.” Examples include choices regarding education and religion. Parents also have certain legal obligations to their children, such as ensuring that the children’s medical needs are met. These issues are covered under the allocation of parental responsibilities. 

Under the Illinois Marriage and Marriage Dissolution Act (IMDMA), the law seeks to ease the often difficult transition related to the division of parental rights and responsibilities, including the decision-making authority between the parents in addition to where the children will live. In handling these sections of their parenting plan, some divorcing parents may reach an agreement easily. However, they must also figure out how disagreements will be handled, should they arise in the future. 

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St. Charles parental relocation attorneysWhether you are accepting a position with a new employer, can no longer afford your current residence, or need to be closer to extended family or friends, the decision to relocate in the midst of divorce is not an easy one to make. When you share a child with the other parent, planning a move after the separation can be especially challenging, yet circumstances can arise that leave you little choice in the matter. Whatever your situation, if you have children and find yourself planning to relocate during the divorce process, Illinois law will require you to adhere to specific guidelines as you begin putting your relocation plans into motion.

Relocation Guidelines for Divorced Parents

The state of Illinois considers the relocation of a parent after divorce to be a significant change in the lives of any children involved and for the family as a whole. As the state recognizes the impact a move can have on children of divorce, laws have been put into place to govern how the relocation process should be handled. 

Here are some basic guidelines that you will be expected to follow:

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St. Charles family law attorneysMany things change after a couple decides to separate. In some cases, one parent may have been a stay-at-home parent before the divorce, but now they must find a new job. When they land a job, they may need to move to be closer, and they will, of course, want to bring their children.

If it is a short distance, the parents should have no trouble relocating with their children. However, in the Chicago metropolitan area, a parent cannot move over 25 miles within Illinois or out of the state without permission from the other parent and/or the court. In other parts of Illinois, in-state moves of over 50 miles require prior permission. 

What Are Some Reasons to Want to Move?

As already stated, a new job may be a reason for the primary parent to move, but it is not the only reason a parent will elect to move. Sometimes, a move is necessary to:

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Kane County divorce attorneysToo often, children believe that a divorce is their fault and that if they had behaved better, maybe mom and dad would not be splitting up. Parents know that this is not true, but these thoughts can lead youngsters down a path of mental disturbance.

This is why having a proper parenting plan put in place is important for children whose parents are  involved in a divorce. As part of a parenting plan, both parents can decide on a schedule for visitation—now called parenting time in Illinois—after the physical separation of the family.

Keeping Parents Involved

Child development experts and mental health professionals tend to agree that is usually best for children of divorce to have both parents continue to play an active role in the children’s lives. There are exceptions, but children who grow up with only one active parent seem to be at a higher risk for:

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