St. Charles, IL parenting plan attorneyIn 2016, Illinois updated the language describing child custody. Today, the state recognizes “parenting time” and "parental responsibilities," which refer to physical custody and decision-making authority respectively. Divorcing parents will need to determine how they will make decisions about their child's education, involvement in church or other religious activities, medical care, and more. They must also determine how they will share responsibility for supervising the child and meeting his or her day-to-day needs. A parenting plan provides an agreement between two parents regarding who has what rights or responsibilities related to the children. Developing a mutually-agreeable parenting plan is rarely a simple task, so it is important to start thinking about these issues early in the divorce process.

Parenting Time, Parental Responsibilities, and Other Crucial Matters in Your Parenting Plan

Whenever possible, parents are encouraged to create their own parenting plans as opposed to letting the court determine the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time for them. Sometimes, this requires help from their respective attorneys or a divorce mediator.

As you work on your parenting plan, make sure you discuss the following topics:

  • The parenting time schedule - The parenting time schedule describes when the child will live with each parent. It may include who will have the child on holidays and vacations, as well as how transportation arrangements will be handled.
  • Parental responsibilities - The parenting plan should also address which parent has decision-making authority over certain matters pertaining to the child's upbringing, such as education or religion. The parents may also decide that they will make all major child-related decisions jointly. 
  • Resolving disputes - All parenting plans should include a dispute resolution procedure, such as mediation. Disagreements are bound to arise, and parents will have an easier time resolving disagreements if they have planned for this possibility in advance.
  • The right of first refusal - This clause states that one parent must notify the other if he or she is unable to care for a child during his or her designated parenting time. It specifies that the other parent must be given the opportunity to care for the child first before a third party such as a babysitter or grandparent is asked to watch the child.
  • Future modifications to the parenting plan - As the child grows up and the parents' lives change, there may come a time that the parenting plan needs to be modified. The plan should include a clause specifying how future changes will be handled.
  • How and when the child will communicate with both parents - A parenting plan should include a clause specifying how and when the child will communicate with a parent during the other parent's parenting time. This is an issue that can sometimes cause conflict, so it is best to address it early in the process and make a mutually-agreeable plan. For example, you may specify that the parent who has parenting time will have the child call the other parent before bed, or use text messaging to stay in touch with the other parent throughout the day.

Contact a St. Charles Parenting Plan Lawyer

The Kane County divorce attorneys at Shaw Sanders, P.C. can help you develop a parenting plan, address any child custody disputes, establish a child support order, and much more. Call our office at 630-584-5550 and set up a free initial consultation to learn more.

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St. Charles, IL child custody modification lawyerIn 2016, Illinois changed how courts handle child custody matters. Child custody now involves two components. The allocation of parental responsibilities refers to the allocation of child-related decision-making authority. Parenting time, which used to be called visitation, is the time each parent cares for the child.

In order to promote stability in a child’s life, the court only allows parents to modify their child custody order under certain circumstances.

Modifying a Child Custody Order in the First Two Years

The rules about child custody modifications depend on when the order was established or last modified. It is generally believed that maximizing consistency is in the child’s best interests after a divorce. Consequently, the courts want to prevent the parents from making unnecessary changes to the child custody order. If it has been less than two years since the child custody order was first established or last modified, there is a higher burden of proof needed to change the order. If you want to modify parental responsibilities within two years, you usually must submit an affidavit to the court affirming that the current allocation of parental responsibilities is endangering the child’s physical, mental, psychological, or moral health.

Modifying a Child Custody Order After Two Years  

The only thing certain in life is change. Many parents find themselves in a situation where they need to change their allocation judgment after a divorce. If it has been more than two years since the child custody order was established or modified, you will need to demonstrate the following to modify the order:

  • There is a substantial change of circumstances that directly affects the child
  • The modification is in the child’s best interests

Countless different situations may constitute a major change in circumstances. For example, if a parent moves a significant distance away, a child custody modification may be needed to change the parent with primary decision-making authority.

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St. Charles, IL child custody lawyerThe issues that need to be decided between a divorcing couple can be difficult. One of the most difficult is deciding how custody of children will be shared. In Illinois, child custody is divided between the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parents must agree – or the court will decide for them – which parent will be responsible for major decisions in a child's life, including their education, medical treatments, and religion, as well as how parents will divide the children’s time between them. 

One of the most difficult parts of parenting time scheduling is the emotional burden, as well as the physical burden, it puts on children. They go from one parent’s house to the other, with a bedroom, different clothes, and toys in each home, and it can be exhausting for them. This is why many parents are turning to “bird’s nest” custody where the children live in the same home all the time, and it is the parents who take turns living there.

How Is Bird’s Nest Custody Handled?

Under a bird’s nest custody plan, the marital home becomes the “nest.” A child lives in the home full-time. The parents will have come up with a parenting time schedule, but it is the parents who stay with the child at the “nest” during their parenting time and leave when the other parent arrives for their parenting time.

Bird’s nest custody can work for parents who have equal parenting time or even in parenting schedules where one parent may only have parenting time every other weekend. No matter what the parenting time schedule is, the most important component this arrangement brings is consistency for the child who sleeps in the same bed every night. This also allows them to go to the same school, play with the same neighbors and friends, and participate in their regular extra-curricular activities with no interruptions because they have to be at the other parent’s home, which may not even be in the same town.

What Are the Downsides to Bird’s Nest Custody?

While there are many benefits to this type of arrangement, there are some factors that parents need to consider carefully before agreeing to it. For one thing, instead of maintaining two separate residences, the parents would be maintaining three – the marital home where the child lives and then their own homes where they stay during their non-parenting times.

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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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