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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 child custody lawyersIn most cases in which a child’s parents get a divorce, and in many cases in which the parents have never been married, an Illinois court will attempt to reach a resolution in which both parents have substantial parenting time and a role in parental decision-making responsibilities. However, the child’s best interests are the most important consideration, and in cases in which a parent’s behavior could put the child at risk, the court may order a restriction of parental responsibilities. One such example is when a parent has problems with drug addiction or substance abuse.

Parental Responsibility Restrictions Due to Substance Abuse

The habitual abuse of alcohol, illegal drugs, and other controlled substances can not only impair a parent’s ability to perform parental responsibilities, but can also directly harm their child. Under Illinois law, parenting time and decision-making responsibilities can both be restricted if there is sufficient evidence that a parent has put the child’s physical, mental, or moral health, or emotional development at risk.

In cases involving substance abuse, the court may order that a parent must refrain from using or possessing a substance before and during their parenting time. The parent may also be ordered to complete a drug or alcohol abuse treatment program as a condition of any parenting time or visitation they are granted. Depending on the situation, additional restrictions may be warranted as well, including:

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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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Markham child custody attorney

When it comes to making the decision to get a divorce, one of the biggest reasons couples hesitate to begin the process is because of their children. A rather common question that couples have when deciding whether or not to get a divorce is, “How will it affect the children?” While there is no one specific way divorce affects children, it is known that children can and will bounce back after their parents get divorced. Many couples think that staying together for the children is the best option, but it is, in fact, the opposite. Here are a few ways that staying in a bad marriage can have a negative effect on your children:

 

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Joliet parenting plan attorney

Divorcing with children is difficult for many different reasons. In addition to typical divorce issues like property division and spousal support, couples with children also have other issues to settle, such as who the children will reside with and when, who will pay child support, and who will be able to make certain kinds of decisions about raising the children. Once you have decided that you and your spouse are getting a divorce, you must then take on the sometimes daunting task of telling your children about the upcoming change in your family’s life. Here are three tips to help you break the news to your children:

1. Tell the Entire Family All at Once

One important thing to aim for is making sure you discuss your divorce with all of your children at the same time. It is often the case that parents tell the oldest child first and then shelter the younger ones in an attempt to protect them. While this may seem wise, it is unfair to the older child to have to keep that secret, and it is sending the wrong message to the younger children that they cannot handle the situation.

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