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Can a Parent’s Mental Health Impact Parenting Time in Illinois?According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one out of every five American adults will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives and nearly 10 million adults live with a chronic and serious mental illness. Mental illnesses can vary greatly when it comes to the severity and how they affect your life. Having a mental illness can mean you have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, an eating disorder or even post-traumatic stress disorder. By far, the most common mental illnesses are depression, which affects around seven percent of adults, and anxiety disorders, which affect around 18.1 percent of adults.

When it comes to divorce, mental illness can definitely play a part in how the divorce is hashed out. Depending on the type and severity of the mental illness, it can even affect things such as parenting time and parental responsibilities in a divorce.

Understanding the Child’s Best Interests

When it comes to any issue involving the children in a divorce, the court’s first and foremost concern is the child’s wellbeing. The court’s main goal is to ensure that the child is being taken care of and is given every possible opportunity to flourish in life. If decisions are left to the court, the court will make child-related decisions based on the child’s best interests. The court will take into consideration factors such as:

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Do Not Forget About the Right of First Refusal During Parenting Time NegotiationsCo-parenting is not easy. Balancing the responsibilities of taking care of children between you and your co-parent is challenging even for couples who are together. When you become a single parent, balancing these responsibilities become more difficult to manage. Many divorcing parents often worry about the fact that they will most likely have to split their parenting time with their soon-to-be-ex-spouse. It is hard for many parents to cope with the fact that they may not see their children every day anymore or be there for every one of their child’s milestones or achievements. One small solace that can be awarded to divorcing parents is what is known as the right of first refusal.

What is the Right of First Refusal?

Illinois courts strongly encourage parents to come to their own agreement on child-related issues such as parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, then the court will step in to allocate parenting time and decision-making responsibilities in the child’s best interest. If the court must step in, it may award either parent the right of first refusal, which is a clause in the parenting plan that states that the other parent must be the first person to be offered the right to care for the child if the parent cannot watch the child during his or her designated parenting time. The parent must ask the other parent if they are able to or would like to care for the child before they seek alternative options for childcare.

Right of First Refusal Agreements

The court is not the only one who can create a right of first refusal agreement. If the parents agree to come up with a parenting plan on their own, they are permitted to include information about the right of first refusal if they please. Clauses about the right of first refusal should include:

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Are You a Victim of Parental Alienation?Your children are some of the most important people in your life. Their happiness, safety, and security are often placed well above your own. During a divorce, some parents may be overwhelmed with emotions that they may not know what to do with. If the divorce is especially contentious, parents may begin to lose sight of what is truly important – the children. In these situations, the parents’ hate and contempt for each other overshadows their love for their children, and certain actions are taken that can be detrimental to the children’s wellbeing. One of the most common things that happens during these kinds of divorces is called parental alienation.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation happens when one parent tries to get their child to turn against the other parent. This often occurs because one parent is mad at the other parent and is trying to hurt them in any way they can. Essentially, parental alienation is when one parent uses their child as a weapon against the other parent. The alienating parent may use bribery, false allegations, negative comments or keeping the child from seeing the other parent to paint a negative picture in the child’s head of that parent. Both mothers and fathers are equally as likely to be the alienating parent, but the alienating parent is also likely to suffer from a personality disorder, such as narcissism.

Parental alienation is detrimental to a child’s mental health and wellbeing. Children who are victims of parental alienation become almost brainwashed, hating the alienated parent in an almost irrational way. Children have the right to have a relationship with both of their parents – they naturally want to have a relationship with both parents. When one parent destroys that relationship with the other parent, the child suffers.

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Helping Your Child Cope With the Stresses of Your DivorceDivorcing is never easy and is even more difficult when you have children to worry about. Most divorcing parents’ number one concern during divorce is how their children will deal with the news that Mom and Dad are no longer together. While some children are able to accept the divorce and adapt to the life changes that come with the situation, other children may need a little more guidance and attention during the transitory period following the divorce. Just like adults, no two children are the same, so a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Still, many children of divorce go through issues that are similar to each other. Here are a couple of tips to help your child cope with the stress of your divorce:

  1. Do Not Overshare: There is a fine line between what is appropriate to share with your children during a divorce and what is not. What you tell your child should be based on their age and maturity level but also on how appropriate the information is. Your child does not need to know if their parent had an affair with another person. Your child should mostly just know about changes in their living arrangements, schools or parenting time – not the messy details.
  2. Make Sure They Know It Is Not Their Fault: It is common for children to believe that they are somehow at fault for the divorce. You should be sure to clearly explain to your children that the divorce is a parent issue, not a child issue. Reassurance can be key here – try to periodically reassure your child that both you and your co-parent still love them very much, even though you are no longer married to each other.
  3. Maintain a Sense of Stability: Divorce is a time of great change, which can really throw some children off. Many children are flexible and can adapt to change, but several changes at once can be hard for anyone. To help alleviate some of this stress, try to maintain as much of a sense of stability as possible, especially during the divorce process. Keeping parenting time schedules consistent and routines the same in both households can help your child feel safe and secure.

A Will County Divorce Lawyer Can Help

Children can be some of the most affected family members during a divorce. Depending on their age and maturity level, they may not completely understand what is going on, which can make things difficult. If you and your spouse are planning on getting a divorce, you should talk to a skilled and compassionate Homewood, IL, divorce attorney. At The Foray Firm, we know that everyone in the family is affected by divorce, though children can be especially vulnerable. Call our office at 312-702-1293 to schedule a consultation today.

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How Shared Parenting Time Can Benefit the Children After an Illinois DivorceEvery parent wants what is best for their child. Some parents may think the best thing for their child is for them to spend all or a vast majority of their time with them and not their other parent. While this can be true in some cases, the majority of divorce cases will end with both parents having shared and fairly distributed parenting time.

When making decisions about child-centered issues such as parenting time, the judge will decide based on what is in the child’s best interest. This is why Illinois courts assume that a shared parenting time agreement is in the child’s best interest unless there are reasons that would point to otherwise. Studies have shown that children do their best when their parents each have at least 35 percent of the parenting time. Here are a few ways your child can benefit from a shared parenting time schedule:

  1. The Child Gets to Have a Relationship With Both Parents: When the parents split up and no longer live together, children often fear that they will not be able to have the same type of relationship with the parent who moved out. This creates unnecessary stress for the child that could lead to other issues. With shared parenting situations, the child gets to foster a relationship with both of his or her parents, which is important for healthy development.
  2. The Quality of the Parent-Child Relationships Is Better: A shared parenting agreement also helps to ensure that the relationships between the child and each parent are good relationships. With sole parenting arrangements, the parent who moves out often feels distanced from the child and vice versa. The parent who is now acting as the single parent for the majority of the time can begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed by being responsible for all of the caretaking duties. These feelings can cause strain on the parent-child relationships and can cause stress in the family.

Create a Parenting Time Agreement With a DuPage County Divorce Attorney

Perhaps one of the biggest decisions you will have to make during your divorce is how you will care for your children. While a sole parenting time agreement is not out of the question, it may not be what is best for your child. At The Foray Firm, we understand that the decisions that are made about your children are not made lightly. Let our compassionate and skilled Plainfield, IL, parenting time lawyers work with you to develop a parenting time agreement that will benefit both you and your child. Call our office today at 312-702-1293 to set up a consultation.

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