Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family law attorneyThere is nothing easy about the process of blending families after divorce, but thankfully the task is possible with the right approach, direction, and support. Today, more than ever, divorce rates continually illuminate the reality that for many couples,the challenge to merge families after remarriage is incredibly common. Countless people must find ways to come together and recreate their lives post-divorce with their existing children, as well as adjust to any new additions to the family.

Setting Up for Success

As you and your family begin to immerse yourself in a new routine and lifestyle, The American Psychological Association suggests the following to help ensure a healthy transition as you work to blend both families together:

Be clear about financial and living arrangements - Between the time after divorce and a new marriage or live-in partnership, individuals establish their own new routines and practices, including how they handle money and where they choose to live. Once a new marriage is imminent or a new partner is about to move in, those key areas must be revisited and reevaluated. This is especially important when children are involved. The APA encourages adults to discuss and plan how they will spend their money and what their living arrangements will be beforehand, in order to prepare the entire family for any impending changes.

Be patient with new parenting integration - Becoming a parent to your new partner’s child is intimidating, but the key is to take things slow. Do not force yourself on the child. Instead of attempting to assume an instant parental role, first try to become a friend or mentor. The APA has reported research that reveals that adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14 tend to have the most difficult time adjusting to new stepfamilies. Research has also shown that children prefer to have verbal affection rather than physical closeness from their new stepparent. Compliments are much better received than hugs or kisses.

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Illinois family law attorney, Illinois custody lawyerAs divorcing spouses work through the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation) arrangements following their separation, there are a number of important areas parents must address in order to protect the best interests of the child. Everything from living and school arrangements to religious upbringing and financial agreements contribute to the production of a solid parenting plan that benefits the whole family.

To create custody and visitation plans that each party can agree on requires a significant amount of evaluation, however. According to Illinois law, the child’s best interests must first be considered to successfully identify which arrangements will work in the family’s favor. The court considers all the following factors when determining the child’s best interest:

Residential Circumstances

The distance between the parents’ houses, each parent’s daily schedule (as well as the child’s schedule), and the general logistics behind transporting the child to and from the parents’ homes are referred to as “residential circumstances” and are examined thoroughly when discussing the allocation of parental responsibilities.

Prior Agreements 

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Illinois child custody laws, Illinois child custody attorneyDivorce and separation can be difficult on the entire family, especially when it comes time to address the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation), as these issues impact the lives of both parents and children. A new lifestyle is born, and new routines are put into place, forcing everyone to adjust and adapt to many big changes at once.

Unmarried Parents Versus Married Parents

One question that often plagues the mind of parents undergoing divorce is whether or not their rights are equal. The subject of father’s rights are particularly concerning, as many children end up residing with the mother after a divorce. Do fathers receive the same rights? Is their desire to participate in the lives of their children taken just as seriously as the mother’s needs and wants?

If the couple is not married, these questions are doubly important. When couples are married, most states automatically assume that the husband is the father of the child and is therefore entitled to certain rights. The same is not true for unmarried couples sharing children.

What Rights Can I Expect to Have as a Father or Mother Going through a Separation?

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Illinois social services, Illinois family law attorneyNon-custodial parents (also referred to as NCPs) face a number of challenges during big family transitions such as divorce. Whether you are in an unmarried partnership or are getting ready to go through a divorce or legal separation, if you share a child with someone, chances are you might run into some roadblocks as you navigate the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation).

Parenting Time

Parenting time (also known as visitation) is an important part of building and maintaining a healthy relationship with your child. As a part of the divorce process, it is very common for couples to disagree on lifestyle arrangements for their children. For example, disagreements can arise about everything from religious upbringing and school choices to which parent gets to spend time with the child and how often. Typically, parents work with an attorney, the state, and a mediator to put together a parenting plan, which establishes the groundwork for all these issues and creates guidelines for how the child will be brought up following the separation. This is especially helpful for the child, as it provides structure and encourages a safe, stable environment for them after their parents’ relationship ends. Never-married couples having trouble seeing their children also have options for managing their parenting time. The state’s Access and Visitation Program can help with mediation, counseling, enforcement of visitation orders, and much more.

Financial Struggles

It is not uncommon for newly single parents to struggle financially after a divorce or the end of a relationship. This can make it difficult to provide for yourself as a parent as well as continue to provide for your child and family. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) offers a variety of employment and training programs for non-custodial parents needing assistance in this area. Supervised job searches that utilize structured job search activities as well as something called the “Earnshare” program exist to support NCPs with resources and tools that can help them earn and provide for themselves and their children. Earnshare is a state sponsored program that offers paid on-the-job employment training and is typically referred by the Court and other administrative sources.

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Illinois child custody attorney, Illinois family law attorneyAs of the of January 1, 2016, Illinois law refers to child custody as the allocation of parental responsibilities. The concept behind the term child custody still remains the same, however. Divorcing parents work together with the court and an attorney to create new lifestyle arrangements for their children and determine who is responsible for making what decisions for them. The agreements include everything from where the child will live, who they will live with, and how the child’s education, extracurricular activities, and religious practices will be managed.

Asking for Parental Responsibilities

The filing process for allocation of parental responsibilities will vary from county to county, but throughout Illinois you can expect to go through the following steps:

  • Obtain legal representation and file the petition;
  • Make an appointment for a case management conference (This must be done no later than 90 days after you file the petition); and
  • Serve the other parent the filed petition with a summons.

After you complete the initial first stages of the process, you await a response from the other parent. If they fail to respond, the next step is to ask the court for a default judgement.

Create a Parenting Plan That Suits Your Family’s Needs

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