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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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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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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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Children Need Relationship with Both Divorced ParentsDetermining the allocation of parental responsibilities can feel like a competition between parents to see who can receive more parental powers after a divorce. Parents will present their own strengths and the other parent’s weaknesses, with the prize being a greater share of parenting time. However, a focus on winning parental control may ignore what is in the best interest of a child. A parent with a majority of the parental responsibilities should help the other parent maintain a strong relationship with their children.

Parental Roles

Illinois family courts presume that it is in a child’s best interest to have two strong parental figures unless one of those parents is demonstratively harmful to the child. Children benefit from an active relationship with both parents because:

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Repairing Your Relationship With Your Children After DivorceObtaining a fair share of parenting time is one part of being a good post-divorce parent. You also must use your parenting time to develop a positive relationship with your children. In your children’s eyes, you are not the same parent as you were before your divorce. Your children may also seem like different people if their moods and behavior have changed because of the divorce. They are likely still feeling pain and betrayal but are also looking to you for comfort and guidance. The onus is on you to create a new and healthy relationship with your children as a single parent.

Communication

Understanding your children’s feelings and needs starts with talking to them. Their time with you should include opportunities to discuss what is going on in their lives and how they are feeling. Ask them to share both the good and the bad so you are a more complete part of their lives. When they are with their other parent, encourage them to remain in contact with you, via:

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Consistent Parenting Time Healthier for Divorced DadsStatistical studies have calculated that people who are divorced are more than twice as likely to commit suicide than their married counterparts. While that number is concerning, the statistics become more alarming when comparing suicide rates between divorced men and divorced women. According to one study, divorced men are nearly 10 times more likely to commit suicide than divorced women. Researchers have searched for a reason for the disparity between men and women. One logical conclusion is that divorced fathers feel more anger and depression because they often have less parenting time than mothers.

Health Risks

Suicide is the most extreme consequence of post-divorce depression. Divorced men and fathers tend to lead more unhealthy lifestyles and make poorer choices. This may include:

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Coping With Your Children's Absence After DivorceSeparation anxiety applies to parents and children after a divorce. As a parent, you have developed a bond with your children and are not used to extended time apart. With a post-divorce parenting plan, you will likely not see your children for days at a time. The change can be jarring. While your children will always be with one of their parents, you are suddenly alone when your children are staying with their other parent. This can be depressing if your life has centered around taking care of your children. However, you can also think of your free time as a chance to find a purpose and structure that is not reliant on being a parent. There are several actions you can take to help you towards this:

  1. Rediscovering Personal Passions: When you became a parent, you may have put aside some of your favorite hobbies and activities. Taking care of your child came before your personal interests. You now have the free time to continue those interests. Participating in fun activities gives you something enjoyable to do while keeping your mind off your children's absence.
  2. Reconnecting with Friends: Parenthood also changes your social interactions. Your leisure time is often spent doing activities with your family or other parents. With your children away and being cared for, you are free to meet with friends for more adult social outings. The important aspect is being with other people at a time when you are feeling alone.
  3. Adjusting Your Work Hours: If your job gives you flexibility in your hours, you may be able to change your work schedule to fit with your parenting schedule. On days when you know you will not have the children, agree to work longer hours. In exchange, you may be able to work shorter hours on the days when you do have the children.
  4. Being Productive: Some people feel satisfaction when accomplishing something in their free time. Your time without your children is a good chance to work on personal projects, such as fixing up your home or continuing your education. You can also volunteer your time towards charitable efforts. These activities can give you a sense of purpose in your life.

Dividing Your Parenting Time

The days you spend apart from your children make the days you are together more important. Your parenting schedule should give both parents days with your children that do not involve work or school commitments. If your children are always gone on your days off work, you are missing your chance to bond with them. A DuPage County family law attorney at Calabrese Associates, PC, will help you create a fair parenting agreement. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.

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Change of Circumstances Allows Immediate Modification to Parenting TimeWhen former spouses determine parenting time during a divorce, they are creating a schedule that works best at that moment. The needs of children and parents change as they get older. So, it is natural that a parenting time schedule will need to change at some point. A court must approve any modifications to a written parenting time agreement for them to be legal. The difficulty of the process may depend on: 

  • How significant the changes are;
  • How much time has passed since the agreement was created; and
  • Whether both parents agree to the changes.

New Laws

If your parenting time agreement was approved before 2016, you may hear unfamiliar terms when you return to court to modify it. For instance, your parenting time schedule may have been called a visitation schedule. Illinois enacted new divorce laws in 2016, and the new terms reflect a change in philosophy for creating parenting agreements. Parents are allocated responsibilities instead of being granted custody, and parenting time is one of the primary responsibilities. The language in your visitation agreement may be out-of-date, but the agreement can still conform to the law. As long as the court is satisfied that the agreement is in the child’s best interest, you may be able to preserve the parts that you do not want to change.

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Unfit Parent Claim Can Restrict VisitsIllinois law presumes that both parties in a divorce are fit parents, allowing them an equal right to the allocation of parental responsibilities. The parenting time and decision making may not be evenly split between the parents, but the divorce settlement will give reasonable responsibilities to each side. However, a court can limit or deny a parent’s responsibilities if it determines the parent is a threat to the child. Unfit parents may be required to use supervised visits in order to see their children.

Determining Unfitness

A parent can claim that the other parent is unfit during or after the divorce. Because of the presumption of fitness, a parent who believes his or her former spouse is a danger to their children must provide evidence to support the claim. A court needs documentation or reliable testimony that a parent may harm a child’s physical or mental health, such as:

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Summer Break Planning for Divorced FamiliesSummer break is just around the corner for children in school. While this is normally a happy family time, it can be a shock for children whose parents have recently divorced:

  • Spending more time at home may remind them that their family has broken up;
  • Family summer traditions may be changed or eliminated; and
  • Summer parenting time schedules can greatly vary from the regular schedule.

Parents entering the first summer after a divorce may need to change the normal summer routine to prevent their children from getting the summertime blues.

Dealing with Absence 

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