Calabrese Associates, P.C.

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What Is a Social Distancing Contract for Divorced Parents?The COVID-19 pandemic has forced divorced parents in the U.S. to adjust their parenting plans. Social distancing guidelines have changed what is necessary to protect children from harm, which may include limiting their travel between homes and making sure that they are not exposed to the virus. Some parents have gone as far as to create “social distancing contracts” that stipulate what they should be doing to protect their children from the coronavirus. Creating such a contract may seem prudent given the state of the world, but divorce professionals warn that some parents are trying to use the contracts to control their co-parents.

Potential for Manipulation

Co-parenting can be difficult if your co-parent has a history of manipulative behavior, and the public health crisis gives them a new way to try to control you. Your co-parent may try to pressure you into signing a social distancing contract that they wrote, claiming that it is in your children’s best interest. Provisions you see in the contract may include prohibiting you from:

  • Allowing any guests into your home, including family members
  • Meeting new people outside of your home
  • Attending non-essential gatherings

Limiting these activities may be necessary to protect your children during a pandemic, but a contract lets your co-parent decide who you can see and what you can do with no room for your own judgment.

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How Your Parenting Plan Can Determine Religious UpbringingYour parenting schedule is only one part of the parenting plan that you will create during your divorce or separation. The plan also states who is allowed to make decisions regarding your children, including their religious upbringing. This means that the plan can tell you which religious beliefs and customs your children should follow, as long as they are conscionable. Parents are encouraged to come to an agreement on religious upbringing, but this can be a contentious subject if you have different religious beliefs than your co-parent. The family law court can make its own ruling on religious upbringing if you cannot reach an agreement.

Points of Contention

Your agreement on religious upbringing may include instructions on:

  • Attending regular religious services
  • Following customs at home
  • Sending your children to a religious school
  • Allowing trips out of the country to visit religious sites

You may come into conflict with your co-parent if you disagree on which religion your children should follow or how much of a role religion should have in your children’s lives. Attending religious services may also interfere with your parenting time. For instance, a parent whose time with the children is during the weekend may not want to spend their Sunday mornings attending church if they are not religious. If your co-parent shows a sudden increased interest in religion following your divorce, it is possible that they are using religion as a way to control the children and gain more parenting time.

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Can Divorce Improve You as a Parent?Parents who are getting a divorce worry about how it will affect their children. Besides the pain that the breakup causes, there is the challenge of being a single parent to your children. Can you handle the demands of being solely responsible for your children when they are with you? Can you perform the tasks that you normally left to your co-parent? Divorced parents must resolve to be the best parent they can for their children. Fortunately, there are a few ways that your divorce may actually help you become a better parent:

  1. You Have Shed the Negativity of Your Marriage: It is only after divorce that you realize how much the stress of your marriage was affecting you. While there may be some sadness after divorce, you should no longer feel the anger and dread of coming home to your spouse. Your children may notice that you are happier, which may help with their own moods.
  2. You Are More Focused as a Parent: Without your spouse, your children are unquestionably the most important people in your life. Your time at home will focus on interacting with them and meeting their needs, without the distraction of your marriage. Your attention is one of the things that your children most need from you when they are adjusting to the divorce.
  3. You Can Strengthen Your Relationship: Parents often fall into roles during a marriage, such as one parent being the primary caretaker and provider of emotional support. As a single parent, you need to fill all of the roles when you are with your children. This gives you an opportunity to spend more time interacting with your children and talking to them when they have a problem. As a result, you may feel like a more complete parent to them.
  4. You Have Learned Compromise Skills: When co-parenting, you must move beyond your conflicts with your former spouse and find ways to reach agreements that benefit your children. Learning to compromise will help you in all of your relationships, including with your children. The act of compromise is also setting a good example for your children that people who do not like each other can still find ways to work together for a common good.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

How you allocate your parenting time and decision-making responsibilities is an important aspect of adjusting to life as a single parent. A Naperville, Illinois, divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., will help you negotiate a fair parenting agreement that benefits your children. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.

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When Does Illinois Allow the Termination of Parental Rights?Illinois family courts rarely decide to terminate parental rights. An unfit parent may lose a significant portion of their allocation of parental responsibilities, but courts want to avoid terminating someone’s parental status and leaving a child with one legal parent. The child support obligation is the most pressing issue because losing financial support from one parent could hurt the child. There is also an emotional benefit to the child knowing they have two parents, even if one is less active in their lives. Despite the negatives, there are two situations in which a court will consider terminating a parent’s rights:

  • Cases involving adoption; and
  • Unfit parent cases brought by the state.

Adoption

As previously mentioned, a family court is highly unlikely to grant a request to terminate the parental rights of one of the biological parents, whether it is voluntary or involuntary. However, it may consider the request if there is another adult who is willing to adopt the child. This adult would most likely be someone who has married one of the biological parents and become a stepparent. The process is simplest when a biological parent voluntarily surrenders their rights as a parent. Contested cases are more difficult because the parent requesting the termination will need to prove that the other parent is unfit and has shown no interest in the child.

Juvenile Cases

The state can initiate a parental termination case on a recommendation from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. There are three reasons that the DCFS may claim that a parent is unfit:

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Creating a Parenting Agreement for Your Special Needs ChildParents of children with special needs must consider the many ways that a divorce will affect their child, as well as how having a special needs child will affect their divorce. The type of special need can determine how you explain the divorce to your child, as well as the details of your parenting plan and child support. Your divorce agreement may need a plan for how you will share responsibility for your child for the rest of your lives.

Emotional Needs

All children need special attention and emotional support when their parents are getting divorced. However, parents must use extra care when explaining divorce to a child with cognitive disabilities. You know what your child is capable of understanding and how he or she reacts to change. You may need to explain the divorce multiple times and in a way that he or she comprehends. Your child may still not understand the divorce until he or she sees the result. You can be prepared for a bad reaction to the divorce, but your child may still surprise you.

Parenting Time

It may be impractical to have a normal shared parenting schedule, where each parent has the child for a few days during the week. If your child has physical disabilities, you must consider:

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