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Naperville child custody lawyerUnmarried and divorced parents have a legal right to parenting time with their children. However, if the court finds that a parent’s involvement in a child’s life puts the child in danger or has a negative effect on his or her wellbeing, the parent can lose this right. One issue that can sometimes lead to the loss of parenting time is parental alienation. Parental alienation occurs when a parent or other family member attempts to destroy the relationship between a parent and a child.

Turning a Child Against His or Her Parent

Sharing a child with someone you used to be in a relationship with can be a very challenging situation. Parents may hold grudges against each other and harbor resentment because of disagreements that happened while they were in a romantic relationship. Some parents may also feel bitterness toward their child’s other parent because they do not want to be away from their child during the other parent’s parenting time. Whatever the reason, the tension between parents can have a major impact on children’s mental wellbeing. When a parent makes an intentional effort to break down the relationship between their child and the child’s other parent, this may be considered parental alienation. Actions such as refusing to share essential information about the child with the other parent, telling a child that the other parent does not love them, or using lies to convince a child that the other parent is evil may cause a child significant psychological harm.  

Consequences of Parental Alienation

It should be noted that making mildly disparaging comments to a child about a parent such as, “Your father is always late!” or “Your mother should get you to bed earlier,” will likely not be considered parental alienation. However, if there is an intentional aim to ruin a child’s relationship with his or her other parent through the use of manipulation or deceit, the courts will likely consider this conduct that impairs the child’s mental health and emotional development. This may result in the reduction or elimination of his or her parenting responsibilities, mandatory supervision during parenting time, and other consequences. Proving parental alienation can be very difficult. Physical evidence such as text messages or voicemails as well as expert witness testimonies from child psychologists or social workers may help a parent prove that parental alienation exists and is harmful to the child.

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DuPage County child custody attorneysDivorcing and unmarried parents sometimes have disagreements about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. When these disagreements require court intervention, an Illinois family court judge may appoint an attorney called a guardian ad litem who is tasked with representing the child’s interests. A parent involved in a child custody dispute may also request a guardian ad litem (GAL) to appointed during a child-related legal dispute.

Guardian ad Litem Investigations

GALs are often appointed in family law cases involving especially contentious child-related disputes or allegations of domestic violence. Because children cannot adequately advocate for their own best interests in court, a guardian ad litem advocates on the child’s behalf. The GAL will typically conduct an investigation in order to learn more about the circumstances of the dispute so that he or she can offer an informed recommendation to the court. This can include investigating the parents’ homes and everyday lives as well as investigation of other individuals important to the case. The GAL may also interview school officials or other people involved in the child’s life. He or she may review court documents, financial statements, the child’s school reports, and other relevant documents.

Making a Recommendation to the Court

Once the guardian ad litem has conducted a thorough investigation, he or she will use all of the information gathered to decide what he or she thinks is best for the child with regard to the child custody case. The GAL then makes a formal recommendation to the court explaining his or her findings. GALs receive special training and are considered expert witnesses during legal proceedings. Although the court is not mandated to follow the GAL’s recommendation, courts typically put a great deal of importance on the GAL’s advice.

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DuPage County family law attorneysWhen it becomes evident that you are headed for divorce, it is important to start planning for the process. You will need to have a good understanding of your current financial situation and what constitutes your ideal post-divorce scenario. Depending upon the circumstances of your relationship with your spouse, you may be able to begin negotiating the terms of your divorce agreement. At first, of course, such discussions would need to be relatively informal, but you and your spouse can at least start talking about the future. The conversation is even more important if you have a child or children together, so that you can both better understand the role you are to play in your child’s upbringing.

Determine a Primary Residence

Among your first child-related concerns should be which parent will assume responsibility for a majority of the parenting time. This is an important consideration in determining where the child will attend school. The parent who does not have the majority of the parenting time will most likely be responsible for paying child support. Just because one of you has less parenting time than the other is not considered to be a reflection on your parental rights; rather it is more of a logistical determination.

Significant Decision-Making

You and your spouse will also need to discuss how you will make significant decisions regarding your child’s life. You may agree to cooperate and make each decision together, or you may determine that each of you should have separate but complementary responsibilities for decisions about your child’s education, medical care, or religious training. You and your spouse may have particular areas of strength or strong feelings about a specific area of your child’s life that make one of you better equipped to handle related decisions.

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Naperville parenting plan attorneysIf you are a parent who is considering a divorce, there is a good chance that you probably worried about how your divorce will affect your children. While you most likely realize that children are resilient and able to adapt, it is understandable that you might have fears about how your kids will handle your divorce and the related concerns.

One of the best things that you can do for your children is to commit to cooperating with your ex-spouse when it comes to child-related issues. Cooperative parenting—also called co-parenting—starts with a comprehensive parenting plan. A parenting plan is also required under Illinois law for divorcing parents who wish to share parental responsibilities. Your parenting plan must contain provisions for dividing decision-making authority, each parent’s days with the children, and other important matters. It must also address whether one or both parents will have the right of first refusal for extra parenting time.

Understanding the Right of First Refusal

The phrase “first refusal” might sound negative, but the right of first refusal can actually be a very good thing. The right of first refusal refers to the right of a parent to be offered additional parenting time when the other parent requires child care during the other parent’s scheduled time. The parent who is offered the additional parenting time is not obligated to accept it; instead, he or she has the right to refuse it.  

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Naperville family law attorneysWhen parents get divorced and wish to share custody of their child in Illinois, they are expected by the court to create a parenting plan. This plan outlines how parental responsibilities will be shared as well as how decisions about the child’s upbringing will be made after the divorce is finalized. There are certain elements of a parenting plan that are required under Illinois laws, but many experts suggest including other aspects of childrearing in the plan as well.

If you are considering a divorce, it is a good idea to learn about what you must include in a parenting plan. A qualified family law attorney can help you make your parenting plan the foundation of a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Requirements for Illinois Parenting Plan

At a minimum, a parenting plan in Illinois must include:

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