Kane County divorce attorneyWhen parents get divorced, they are encouraged to work together to build a parenting plan that describes child custody arrangements. Parents who negotiate an agreement about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time can avoid the stress and expense of child custody litigation. If you are getting divorced and you and your spouse are struggling with custody decisions, consider working with a mediator or family law attorney who can help you negotiate an agreement.

Parenting Agreements in Illinois

There is no one-size-fits-all parenting plan, but there are certain elements that are typically included in Illinois parenting plans. These elements can help ensure that the plan is comprehensive and meets the needs of both parents and children.

A comprehensive parenting plan should address:

  • Allocation of parental responsibilities - Parental responsibilities refer to the parents' authority to make decisions about the child's education, extracurricular activities, healthcare, and religious upbringing. In some cases, one parent has full authority to make any and all significant decisions about the child, such as where the child goes to school or the types of medical treatments the child receives. In other cases, parents divide or share parental responsibilities. For example, one parent may make decisions about the child's education while the other parent makes decisions about the child's healthcare.
  • Parenting time schedule - The parenting time schedule outlines when the child will be with each parent. Parents should be sure to include information about parenting time on holidays, school vacations, birthdays, and in other special circumstances.
  • The right of first refusal - The right of first refusal is a provision that allows one parent to have the first opportunity to care for the child if the other parent is unavailable. This can be helpful in situations where one parent works long hours or frequently travels for work.
  • Transportation arrangements - Parents should include detailed transportation arrangements in their parenting plan. This can help avoid conflict and confusion about who is responsible for picking up and dropping off the child.
  • Communication plan - Parents should develop a communication plan to ensure that they can easily communicate with each other about their child. This may include using a parenting app, scheduling regular phone calls, or sending emails or text messages.
  • Resolution of conflict - Parents should include a plan for how they will resolve disagreements or proposed modifications to the parenting agreement. This may involve working with a mediator or family law attorney.

The above are just some of the elements that can be included in an Illinois parenting plan. It is important to tailor the parenting plan to the specific needs of the parents and children involved.

Contact a St. Charles Child Custody Lawyer

Our Kane County family law attorneys understand that creating a comprehensive parenting plan can be complicated and frustrating. We are here to help. Call 630-584-5550 to reach Shaw Sanders, P.C. and schedule a free consultation.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1783364246-1.jpgMany divorcing parents in Illinois find themselves locked in a seemingly intractable dispute about issues related to their children. Maintaining objectivity during divorce can be very difficult, and hostility between parents can spill over into the children’s lives, negatively affecting them and making it very difficult to compromise about parenting time and parental responsibilities. 

In the most contentious divorces, it may not be immediately obvious to a judge which custody arrangement would most benefit a child and so he or she may appoint a professional known as a guardian ad litem. If you are getting divorced or modifying a parenting agreement and have had a guardian ad litem assigned to your case, read on. 

The Role of a Guardian ad Litem in Illinois

A guardian ad litem’s job is, essentially, to determine the best interests of a child during a very specific period of time - usually, during a divorce or custody dispute. Guardians ad litem in Illinois are licensed attorneys with special training that prepares them to do the appropriate investigation, fact-finding, and data collection necessary to determine a child’s best interests. 

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do? 

While one or both parents are usually ordered to pay for the guardian ad litem, he or she acts as an extension of the court. A guardian ad litem is objective, neutral, and is not interested in helping one party get more parenting time or parental responsibilities. Instead, he or she has the primary goal of undertaking any activities which would inform the court as to the child’s best interests. These can include: 

  • Interviewing the child and his or her siblings
  • Interviewing neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, and anyone else who may have knowledge of the child’s situation
  • Visiting the child at each parent’s home
  • Interviewing both parents
  • Ordering a psychological evaluation of both parents 
  • Reviewing relevant data, including a child’s grades, health history, police reports, and any other necessary documents 

Based on her investigation, the guardian ad litem creates a report for the judge, detailing her findings and making a recommendation for the outcome of the case. The guardian ad litem’s recommendation is considered expert testimony, and a judge may call a guardian ad litem to the stand to testify. Each parent’s attorneys are permitted to cross-examine the guardian ad litem and dispute any findings which may cast them in a negative light. 

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IL family lawyerCouples with children in Illinois who are separating or getting divorced will need to create a shared parenting plan to address issues related to the children. Although this can seem like a daunting task, especially if parents find it difficult to get along, Illinois law has recently changed to make modern parenting arrangements easier to create.

When creating a parenting plan, parents must address two main areas: Parental responsibilities and parenting time. These two areas share some overlap and are both important, but it is important to understand exactly what they are and how they differ.

Parental Responsibilities

The term “parental responsibilities” refers not only to time spent with children, caring for them and ensuring their needs are met but also to the authority parents have to make important decisions for their children. Included among these issues are:

  • Education - Where a child attends school and whether that school is public, private, secular, or parochial can have a major impact on a child’s life.
  • Healthcare - Healthcare coverage, primary care doctors, when a child gets braces, and whether a child should be placed on certain medication all fall under the purview of healthcare decisions.
  • Extracurricular activities - Learning to play an instrument, playing on sports teams, or joining the school newspaper are all great ways to enrich a child’s social and emotional wellbeing. However, all activities carry costs and risks and a parent must help guide children as they develop their interests.
  • Religious involvement - Some parents feel very strongly that their children are raised in a particular religion, and clearly delineating how parents address the issue of religion can help prevent future conflict.

Parents may agree to share these decision-making responsibilities, or one parent may be in charge of healthcare and religious upbringing while the other parent handles educational decisions and extracurricular activities. What matters is that each parent understands his or her responsibilities, prioritizes the needs of the child, and abides by the terms of the parenting plan.

Parenting Time

“Parenting time” refers to the time-sharing arrangement between parents regarding the children. Although parenting time does not address important decision-making responsibilities, parents are still responsible for the important daily tasks of caring for the children when they are with them.

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IL divorce lawyerThere are many different pieces to an effective parenting plan, and something called the “right of first refusal” is one of the most important. Understanding the right of first refusal, and how it can help you spend more time with your children, is essential to creating a parenting plan that works for you. In this blog, we will answer some common questions about the right of first refusal and how it can benefit divorced parents in Illinois.

What Is the “Right of First Refusal” in Illinois?

When making decisions regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time agreements, Illinois courts and judges prioritize the wellbeing of children above all else. In recent years, an abundance of research has been done that supports the idea that children do best when both parents have an active presence in their lives. This means that, whenever it is safe and possible to do so, courts will give preference to parenting plans that allow each parent to maximize the time they spend with their child.

The right of first refusal is one effective way to do this because it requires divorced parents to ask each other to provide childcare rather than hiring a babysitter or asking another family member. Of course, this is not always possible or practical, so parents have wide leeway in creating a right of first refusal arrangement that works best for their circumstances.

What are Common “Right of First Refusal” Arrangements?

Each family’s circumstances are unique; so too will be the situations that trigger the right of first refusal. If parents live very close to each other and transferring the children between households causes little disruption to the children, then parents might agree to require the right of first refusal whenever they are gone for just a few hours.

If parents live far away from each other, or if contact between parents frequently causes arguments, a parent’s absence from the children may be longer before the right of first refusal is invoked. Other circumstances may also affect the right of first refusal. For example, if a parent must be gone for six hours and an absence of that length would generally oblige them to offer the other parent the right of first refusal, but it would be on a school night and the children could not get to school from the other parent’s house, invoking the right of first refusal would not make sense.

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IL family lawyerDivorces, and the accompanying disputes about parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities, are exhausting. Unfortunately for some parents in Illinois, the troubles do not end with the divorce. Some parents refuse to adhere to the terms of the parenting agreement, causing problems for the children and headaches for their other parent.

But parenting agreements are legally binding orders, and there are strict rules regarding their implementation. Parents cannot simply decide which parts of the agreement they will not follow. In addition to the harm done to the children and the working relationship with the other parent, violating the terms of the agreement can result in serious legal consequences.

Enforcing a Parenting Order

To bring violating parents into compliance, Illinois allows parenting order violations to be tried as a civil and a criminal offense. The first two times a parent violates the order, it is considered a minor offense. Even with a minor offense, the violating parent can face changes to the parenting schedule, fines, and even jail time. The third time a parent knowingly violates a parenting order, the violation is a Class A Misdemeanor, which carries larger fines and potential prison time.

Document Violations

Whether prosecuting violations civilly or criminally, the case must be brought before a judge. This means the parent who is bringing the case will need to prove that the violation occurred. Documenting evidence might include text messages, emails, or other communication, but it is important to remember that recording phone calls without the other party’s knowledge is generally illegal in Illinois.​​

Successfully proving a violation occurred also requires showing that the violation was “willful.” The parent bringing the case must prove the violation occurred, but the parent accused of the violation must show that it was not wilful. If the violating parent had a good enough reason for violating the order, then they may not be held in contempt.

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