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Naperville IL parenting plan attorneyOut of all the issues that divorcing couples must decide on, the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time can often be the most difficult. Even in the most amicable of divorces, child custody decisions can become heated. This is why it is important to have a skilled DuPage County family law attorney working for you when drawing up an equitable parenting plan agreement.

Important Considerations in an Illinois Parenting Plan

Although it may seem impossible to be proactive for every situation that may come up, there is a range of decisions that you and the other parent will want to make sure you address in order to avoid serious parenting disagreements in the future. These topics include:

  • A basic parenting time schedule – The parenting schedule should clarify how much time the child will spend with each parent. The schedule should also spell out clearly who will be responsible for transporting the child for parenting time exchanges. If there are no safety concerns, and both parents get along fairly well, exchanges are usually done at each other’s homes. However, if there is too much acrimony between parents, then a neutral location may be better. In cases where safety is a concern, such as when domestic violence has been an issue, then locations such as police departments may be chosen.

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DuPage County parenting plan attorneysThis is the start of a new school year that is unlike any that students and parents have experienced before. With COVID-19 looming as a continuing threat, some schools are forgoing in-person classes or using a hybrid of remote and in-person learning. For students who are attending in person, parents must monitor their children’s health and news of possible outbreaks at the school. The ongoing health crisis makes it more important than ever that divorced or separated parents work together to make sure they are protecting their children, which may require reviewing and modifying their parenting plan.

How Does Remote Learning Affect Parenting Time?

Parents do not normally have to worry about parenting time when a child is at school, but remote learning means that parents must determine who will be with the child during their “school day” if the child is too young to be left on their own. You and your co-parent need to consider several factors:

  • Is one of you already going to be at home during the day?
  • Are you available to help your child if needed?
  • Can your child create a constructive learning space at your home?

It may turn out that the parent who is most available is not the one who normally has parenting time on school days. If the best situation for your child’s remote learning does not match your parenting plan, you will need to modify the plan.

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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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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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Staying Connected in a Long-Distance Parenting SituationA long-distance parenting relationship after a divorce is difficult for both parent and child because there is no substitute for the everyday contact that they normally share. Depending on the distance between them, the parent may see the children only a couple times a month. As a long-distance parent, you may fear losing your connection and intimacy with your child. Though your situation is less than ideal, your parenting plan can help you maintain your relationship with your children:

  1. Regular Contact: Calls and messages will replace much of your in-person parenting time with your children. You can treat your phone or video calls with your children similarly to parenting time. Schedule set times during the week when you can talk to your children, much like when you have days that the children stay with you. This does not preclude you from talking to your children outside of these set times, but it is comforting to them to look forward to a time when they are certain they can talk to you.
  2. Your Visits: It may be too burdensome to expect your children to always come to you for your in-person parenting time, especially if it would take hours of travel time. You can see them more regularly if you are able to travel to them for their visits. You can plan activities that you will do with your children, but it is also important to have a private area where you can be alone with them. Your accommodations could be a hotel or a nearby family member’s home.
  3. Longer Stays: Most long-distance parents schedule the dates when they will host their children during a time of year when the children can stay for a week to a month. This most commonly occurs during the summer break from school, though shorter visits are possible during breaks in the middle of the school year. Short visits feel more like special occasions when you are excited to see each other. A longer, uninterrupted visit allows you to establish a normal routine with your children, which is a more natural and healthy way to continue your relationship.

Contact a Naperville Divorce Attorney

You will need to modify your parenting agreement if either you or your co-parent are relocating after your divorce. You must carefully plan your parenting time because the effort that each visit requires will give you less flexibility in your schedule. A DuPage County divorce lawyer at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can help you negotiate a revised agreement with your co-parent. To schedule a consultation, call 630-393-3111.

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Parenting Plans Should Be Specific, Yet FlexibleWhen it comes to a document as important as a parenting plan, you want to avoid vague language and unanswered questions. A weak parenting plan can create conflict between the co-parents, which may also harm the children. Your parenting plan can be as specific as you need to prevent your co-parent from interpreting it differently. However, the plan should also be flexible so that you can respond to unusual circumstances with practical solutions. A good parenting plan thoroughly addresses all of the known issues that are involved in co-parenting while allowing flexibility to adjust to unforeseen issues.

Detailed Document

Parenting time is rightfully the most discussed aspect of a parenting plan because it is the most fundamental part of co-parenting. However, there are numerous areas of co-parenting in which there is a potential for conflict if the plan does not specifically address them. Some of the most common questions that the plan should answer include:

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Do Not Underestimate the Impact of Divorce on Your ChildrenDivorced spouses may feel relieved to have ended their contentious marriage. The hostility between them made their lives miserable. If the former spouses are parents, they may believe that the divorce will benefit the children, as well. After all, children feel stressed and unhappy when living with parent who are often fighting. However, children are unlikely to view the divorce in that way. The positives that come from not witnessing their parents' hostile relationship are outweighed by feelings of loss and betrayal. Parents must understand how their divorce will affect their children.

Through a Child’s Eyes

For children, there is no fresh start or optimism after their parents separate. The divorce has abolished the two-parent home that they knew and replaced it with an unfamiliar living arrangement. Normally, parents put their children's needs first. A divorce tells the children that their parents' needs are more important than keeping the family together. Though they may not say it, children can blame their parents for not saving their marriage. If not their parents, they may blame themselves. Adults understand that divorce is a natural and often necessary outcome when spouses have irreconcilable differences. For children, divorce is unnatural because it destroys their family.

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