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Will County divorce lawyerFor both parents and children, a divided parenting time schedule is one of the most difficult adjustments to make after a divorce. While Illinois courts tend to prefer arrangements that allow both parents to spend time with their children, this still means that each parent will spend significant time away from them. In many cases, the parenting time balance is at least slightly skewed toward one parent, and this can make the situation even more difficult for the parent with a lesser share.

If you have been granted less parenting time in your divorce resolution, it does not necessarily mean that you are a lesser parent. Often, such an arrangement is simply best for your children so as to provide stability and minimize interruptions to their routine. While maintaining your relationships with your kids under these circumstances may require a little more effort, it is certainly possible.

Keeping Your Relationships Strong

Here are some suggestions that can help you maintain a strong bond with your children, even if you do not see them as often:

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Joliet IL family lawyerParents of children with special health or developmental needs are well aware of the challenges that come with raising and providing for them. Unfortunately, these challenges can often become more pronounced when parents are going through a divorce. In addition to the mental energy that the divorce process requires, parents may also be concerned about how best to handle decisions regarding child support and parental responsibilities in a way that prioritizes their children’s interests and needs.

Child Support for Special Needs Children in Illinois

One of the most significant challenges for parents of children with special needs is the financial cost. Estimates from the U.S. government indicate that from birth to age 18, the cost of raising a child with special needs may be at least five times as high as the cost of raising an average child. While many sources of financial assistance may be available, a good portion of the expenses is likely to fall on the child’s parents.

When the parents of a child with special needs decide to get divorced, child support is a crucial element of the resolution. Illinois law typically bases child support obligations on the average amount that parents within a certain income bracket tend to spend on a child’s basic needs, but the law allows for a significant deviation from the usual calculation to account for a child’s extraordinary developmental, medical, or physical needs. You should be sure to consider costs including ongoing medical care and treatment, special education, in-home accommodations, transportation to appointments, and the services of child therapists and developmental specialists.

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Will County family law attorneyFor divorced and unmarried parents in Illinois, a parenting plan is crucial to establish the terms of the co-parenting relationship and ensure that the children’s best interests are protected. Like many other family law orders, the terms of a parenting plan are legally binding once they are approved by the court. Parents should be sure to abide by them, both for their children’s sake and in order to avoid legal consequences. If your child’s other parent has violated your parenting agreement, you can take action to enforce the order.

Parenting Plan Violations in Illinois

Illinois parenting plans must be fairly comprehensive when it comes to addressing parenting time, decision-making responsibilities, and communication between co-parents. As such, there are many ways that a parent could violate the terms of the agreement. For example:

  • Keeping the children beyond the end of their scheduled parenting time

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Joliet child custody lawyerAs a recently divorced parent who puts your children’s wellbeing first, you may understand the importance of co-parenting with your former spouse, both for the sake of maintaining a consistent routine and ensuring that your kids continue to have strong relationships with both parents. However, when it comes to actually communicating with your ex to make this possible, you may be struggling, especially if the emotional pain of the divorce is still fresh. Learning how to communicate effectively with your co-parent can be one of the most challenging responsibilities you have as a parent, but it is also often one of the most important.

Tips for Better Co-Parenting Communication

Some of the details of your co-parenting strategy will be laid out in your parenting plan, while others develop with time. Communication is a skill that takes work, and the following tips can help you continue to improve.

  • Find the right method of communication. Some co-parents are able to communicate face-to-face without a problem, but it is okay if this does not work for you. Talking on the phone or communicating through text or email are perfectly acceptable. Written communication may even be better in some cases, like when you have important plans to share with your co-parent.
  • Know when to communicate. You should also know when communication with your former spouse is appropriate. Your parenting plan likely specifies situations that require communication, like an emergency, upcoming travel plans, or significant decisions for which both parents should provide input. Communication surrounding parenting time exchanges is also often important. However, texting or calling your ex at all hours is rarely necessary, and it could even interfere with his or her parenting time.

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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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