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Joliet family law attorneysIn many cases, a move to a new location after a divorce can be an important step in starting a new life, especially if it comes with a major change of scenery or a promising career opportunity. However, parents who plan to move with their children after divorce may need to consider not only their children’s best interests, but also the impact of the move on their former spouse. Whether your relocation happens with the other parent’s consent or you need to seek approval from the court, you will also need to prepare to update your parenting plan to account for the change.

What Parenting Plan Modifications Will I Need to Make?

In an ideal scenario, a relocating parent can work with the other parent to modify the parenting plan in a way that protects both parents’ relationships with the children and allows the other parent to feel comfortable with the move. However, it is not always possible for parents to reach such an agreement. When the parents are in conflict, an Illinois court will need to decide on appropriate modifications that are in the children’s best interests. Some of the most important factors the court will consider include the opportunities for the children in the new location and the impact of the move on the children’s relationships with both of their parents.

Regardless of how the modifications come about, here are some ways that your parenting plan may need to change to accommodate for the relocation:

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Will County family law attorneysUnder any circumstances, divorced parents may find it challenging to share parenting time in a way that meets the children’s needs, fosters a strong relationship between the children and both parents, and minimizes co-parenting conflicts. Over the course of the past year, the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have only further complicated these issues. Whether you are already divorced or you are going through a divorce now, an experienced attorney can help you handle parenting time to account for the current situation.

How Has COVID-19 Affected Parenting Time in Illinois?

The pandemic has brought about many changes to our way of life in Illinois and throughout the United States. Some of the changes that can directly affect divorced or divorcing parents include:

  • Family health concerns - Many parents are concerned about the spread of the virus when children transition between households, especially if each parent has a different perspective on upholding health precautions. Parents who are at risk of severe complications from the virus, or who live with grandparents and other older relatives, may be especially worried.
  • Changing work schedules - The increased prevalence of working from home means that many parents are sharing close quarters with their children during the day and trying to balance the responsibilities of work and parenting. Alternatively, health care employees and other essential workers may find themselves working greater or irregular hours, which can detract from their scheduled parenting time.
  • Remote learning - Whether a child’s school is closed for in-person learning or parents have chosen to keep their children at home, parents now often find themselves responsible for ensuring that their children are staying on task and keeping up with their education, and for ensuring that their children have the space and materials to learn effectively.
  • Travel limitations - Parents who rely on public transportation to exchange their children between households may be exposed to greater risk of contracting the virus. Additionally, parents who live across state lines may find themselves subject to restrictions on interstate travel, making it difficult to regularly exchange their children.

Adapting to Changing Realities

With all of these new challenges in mind, it is important for parents to take extra care when creating a parenting plan, or when carrying out the terms of an existing plan. Parenting plans may need to be adapted based on a parent’s work schedule, or to allow for the children to have a dedicated space for at-home learning. Parents may also need to be flexible and consider options including virtual parenting time via phone or video chat, or rearranging schedules to make up for missed parenting time due to an unexpected circumstance.

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Joliet family law attorneyThe stigmatization behind the term “mental illness” has been greatly reduced over the past few decades. Unlike in the past, being diagnosed with a mental illness is fairly common, and contrary to popular belief, the diagnosis does not necessarily impact your ability to perform everyday activities or hold responsibility. In the U.S. alone, nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness. 

If you are a parent whose former spouse or co-parent has a mental illness, you may be concerned about their ability to be there for your child. While having a mental illness is not enough to be considered incapable of parenting, if you have seen your co-parent’s mental health get in the way of their parenting capabilities, you may be wondering how to address this in court and have these concerns reflected in your parenting plan. With the help of a reputable attorney, you can have your concerns heard by the court and keep your child in safe hands. 

Levels of Mental Illness

Mental illnesses can come in many forms and levels of severity. The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes two categories of mental illness: any mental illness (AMI) and serious mental illness (SMI). AMI is defined as a behavioral, mental or emotional disorder that can vary in impact from mild to severe impairment. SMI is a behavioral, mental or emotional disorder which results in serious functional impairment and which greatly interferes with or limits major life activities. According to 2019 data, an estimated 20.6 percent of all U.S. adults have AMI, while only 5.2 percent of U.S. adults have SMI. As you can see, only a small number of Americans suffer from SMI, and in order for your co-parent’s mental health to weigh into your parenting plan, they will likely need to have severe impairment from AMI or be diagnosed with a SMI.

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Is My Co-Parent Purposely Damaging My Relationship with Our Child?When parents get divorced, their ongoing relationship can be tricky to navigate. Unlike other divorced couples, co-parents do not have the option of living completely separate lives. Maybe they spend time with their kids together or perhaps they only communicate regarding parenting arrangements and other necessary decisions. While it is always advisable to have an amicable co-parenting relationship, this is not always the case. In fact, some parents will go so far as to create a division in the relationship between their child and their co-parent in a tactic known as parental alienation.

What is Parental Alienation?

The term parental alienation syndrome (PAS) was coined in 1985 by child psychologist Richard Gardner to describe the behaviors seen in a child when they are subjected to parental alienation. When one parent discredits the child’s other parent, this can directly influence the child’s relationship with the discredited parent. The words and actions that are done to damage this relationship are known as parental alienation. This can come in many forms, a common example being one parent telling the child that their other parent does not love them or care about them. He or she can also provide in-depth details of why their marriage failed in an attempt to turn their child against their other parent. The severity of parental alienation tactics can vary and may not always be intentional. However, these criticisms can leave a lasting, damaging impact on the quality of the child-parent relationship.

Signs of PAS

Parental alienation syndrome is not an officially recognized mental health condition, but a court may acknowledge one parent’s efforts to damage the other parent’s relationship with their child. If you have suspicions that your child is being subjected to parental alienation, look for the following signs:

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4 Tips For Creating a Successful Parenting Plan For Your TeenFiling for divorce when you and your spouse share children together always makes things more complicated. Add in the challenges of raising a teenager and the process only becomes more difficult. Divorcing as a parent requires additional legal considerations to be made, including the drafting of a parenting plan. If you and your spouse are involved in a collaborative divorce, you will be able to build this plan together as you see fit. The unpredictability of kids when they are in their teenage years may leave you feeling overwhelmed when trying to determine what is best for your child moving forward. The following four tips can help you tailor your parenting plan to meet the needs of your teenager and maintain a relationship with them even though they may be living under two separate roofs:

  1. The More Detailed, The Better – Without a detailed plan in place, things can quickly go awry. Be sure to have a parenting schedule that outlines when your child will be with each parent and determines which holidays will be spent where. Since your child is of the age where they have their own circle of friends and life outside of your home, penciling in designated family time can make sure that your teen is still spending time with each parent.
  2. Consider Their Schedules – When creating your detailed schedule, it is important to take your teen’s schedule into account. Your child is at the point in their life where they have their own interests and activities. Failing to consider these key parts of their life will not end well. Have a copy of you, your spouse, and your child’s schedules in hand while designating each parent’s scheduled time.
  3. Financial Implications – Your teenager comes with some significant costs, especially if they do not have a job. Those over the age of 16 will need financial assistance for academic and social activities and college tuition costs if they intend on going in that direction. Consider these incoming costs and outline who will be responsible for what to avoid future conflicts in this area.
  4. Life Changes – You should include a clause regarding how things may change within your parenting plan and how you and your co-parent will make these decisions. The life of a teenager changes from day-to-day. From their academic responsibilities to their social lives, your teen is only going to become busier and more independent as the years go on. Take this into account when creating your plan so that you are prepared for any changes that may come your way.

Contact a Joliet Family Lawyer For Help

Whether you are in the process of filing for divorce or need help adjusting your parenting plan to meet your teen’s needs, The Foray Firm is here to help. Divorce is an emotionally taxing experience, especially when you have a teenager who has grown up with married parents up until this point. The best way to handle your divorce when you have a child is to have a detailed plan in place. Our Will County family attorneys believe in preserving the dignity of families, even in the instance of divorce. For help with your parenting plan, contact our Joliet divorce attorneys at 312-702-1293.

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