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When Is Equal Parenting Time Appropriate for Children?Illinois law requires courts to divide parenting time in a way that is best for the children. There is a rebuttable presumption that the children are better off when one parent receives a majority of the parenting time because it is more stable than frequently transporting children between parents. A group primarily made up of fathers’ rights advocates has spent years trying to change that presumption so that an equal division of parenting time is the default. State legislators have introduced equal parenting time bills multiple times in recent years, but none of them have progressed to a full vote by either chamber. It is difficult but possible to get a court to approve a 50/50 division of parenting time. There is no denying that children benefit from having an equally strong relationship with both of their parents. Other factors determine whether equal parenting time is the best arrangement for the children:

  1. Parenting Cooperation: Parents with equal time with the children need to work together more often because shared decision-making often accompanies shared parenting time. The parents must communicate about their children and sometimes receive permission from each other to make decisions. An equal parenting time plan will collapse if you are constantly clashing with your co-parent.
  2. Proximity: An equal parenting schedule involves either frequent child exchanges or staying with each parent a week or more at a time. Either way, the schedule will put stress on the children unless the parents live near each other. Proximity will shorten the travel time between homes, making each child exchange less of an ordeal. You should ideally live within the same school boundaries to make school transportation easier.
  3. Availability: Parents with equal parenting time must both be available to care for the children. This may mean having a work schedule that is compatible with the children’s schedules and forgoing other activities when it is their time to be with children. It is not fair to the children to have equal parenting time but to frequently use childcare during your parenting time.
  4. Capability: Children are solely reliant on a parent during their parenting time. Each parent needs to be capable of protecting and nurturing their children on their own. A lapse in care or discipline between parents is harmful to the children.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Attorney

The argument over equal parenting time is about which parenting arrangement courts should presume is best for children, not what the parenting arrangement should be for all cases. A Naperville, Illinois, divorce lawyer at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can help you determine what division of parenting time will be best for your children given your situation. Call 630-393-3111 to schedule an appointment.

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Your Rights When a Child Refuses Parenting TimeParents normally understand the importance of each of them having parenting time after a divorce. It is a legal right that each parent is presumed to have, and the children benefit from the regular contact and relationships they form. However, what should parents do if a child refuses to visit one of them? Teenagers can insist on their right to decide which parent they spend time with, not thinking that it would violate a legal agreement. Both parents are responsible for solving any conflicts related to parenting time.

Right to Parenting Time

You can force your child to attend your parenting time, but he or she is likely to be miserable if he or she does not want to be there. You should ask your child why he or she does not want to visit you. You may need to ask specific questions if your child does not give you a clear answer, such as:

  • Are you comfortable spending time with me and living in my home?;
  • Is there anything I can do to make our time together more enjoyable?; and
  • Is there something else you would rather be doing when you visit me?

The last question may be crucial when talking to a teenager, who may feel that your scheduled visits disrupt his or her social life. Your teenager may be mature enough to have a say in your parenting schedule. Be willing to adjust your schedule to fit his or her needs, but tell your teenager why you still want to see him or her regularly.

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Answering Your Children's Questions About DivorceYour children will have many questions about your divorce, some of which may be difficult for you to answer. Some questions have obvious answers, such as “Do you still love me?” and “Is the divorce my fault?” There are other questions that you may not have immediate answers to, such as “Who will I be living with?” You can assure your children whatever parenting time decision you make will be in their best interest. The trickiest question is the big one: “Why did you get divorced?”

Preparing for the Question

You know that your children will ask about the reason you got divorced. Unfortunately, you do not know when or where they will ask the question. Your initial reaction could have a major effect on how future conversations on the subject will go. You should decide how honest you want to be with each child. No child wants to hear salacious details about your marriage, but children who are at or near adulthood may be able to handle more of the truth. The main points of your answer should be that:

  • They were in no way responsible for your decision to divorce;
  • It was a difficult decision to make, especially because of how it would affect them;
  • Parents may stop getting along for reasons that are no one’s fault;
  • Parents are best off getting a divorce when their marriage becomes unhealthy for them; and
  • Nothing about the divorce will ever change the fact that you love your children.

Detailed Questions

Your children may eventually ask you specific questions about the reason for your divorce that they were afraid to ask when they were younger. A question may be uncomfortable for you if it is about something you or your spouse did wrong, such as having an affair. Rather than deny what happened, you should be honest about your faults that may have contributed to your divorce and use it as a teaching moment:

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Creating a Parenting Schedule for the HolidaysYour first holiday season after your divorce can be stressful for you and your children because it is the first time you are not celebrating the holidays together as a family. Your parenting schedule should not add more stress to the season. Divorced parents often have unique schedules for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. You may have already included one in your divorce parenting agreement. However, you will not know how well the schedule works until you put it into action. You may need to adjust your holiday parenting schedule to something that works better for your children.

Qualities of a Good Schedule

You should build your holiday parenting schedule around what will create the most enjoyable experience for your children. This requires sacrificing some of your own time with the children so that both you and your co-parent can celebrate with them. How you divide your time depends on your individual circumstances. You should ask yourselves:

  • Which home will the children be most comfortable spending a holiday at?;
  • Which parent is most capable of hosting a holiday celebration such as a dinner?;
  • What other family members will the children be able to see when staying with each parent?;
  • Are the children old enough to handle traveling between parents on the holiday?; and
  • Is one parent more closely associated with certain holiday traditions than the other?

Types of Schedules

There are four ways that you can structure your holiday parenting schedule:

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Helping Your Children Adjust to a Second HomeHaving two homes is one of the most difficult changes that children experience after a divorce. It will take time for them to adjust to their new living environment and the parenting time schedule that has them switching between homes. Your job as a parent is to make the transition as comfortable as you can while understanding that your children may be initially anxious and upset. Here are five keys to helping your children through the adjustment period:

  1. Familiar Space: At least one of your children’s homes will be new to them. Encourage your children to decorate their rooms so that they feel comfortable and more at home there. Allow them to bring some familiar items from their other home. Have duplicates of items that would be impractical for them to take back and forth for each visit.
  2. Shared Schedule: You have already created a parenting time schedule as part of your divorce. Have a calendar with your parenting schedule prominently displayed in your home. Your children can see when they are visiting each parent and become familiar with the schedule.
  3. Dropping Off: Divorced parents are advised to drop their children off at their new home instead of the other parent picking them up from their familiar home. This can make a psychological difference to the children during their first couple of times staying in the new home. When you pick your children up, they may feel like you are taking them away from their home to an unfamiliar place. Delivering them to the new home may be less traumatic.
  4. New and Old Routines: Preserving old routines can create familiarity in a new home. You may have regularly watched a television show with your children, cooked a special meal on certain days, or helped them with their homework after dinner. You can also start new routines that fit your schedule with the children.
  5. Staying Calm: How you react to your new parenting schedule can determine your children’s reaction. The first time you drop your children off at your co-parent’s home may feel traumatic to you, but you must try to keep your emotions in check. Showing that you are upset will make your children upset. They are already worried about the change and need you to comfort them.

Your Parenting Plan

You and your co-parent should craft a parenting schedule that best accommodates your children and tries to keep disruptions to a minimum. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can help you negotiate the allocation of parental responsibilities. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.

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