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Barrington family law attorneyAs what seems like a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the nation, resulting in record-breaking infections, hospitalizations, and deaths since the beginning of this crisis, it appears no particular city or state in this country is immune to the ravages of this devastating disease. Chicago and Illinois in general are no exceptions. As such, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker both announced recently that new restrictions on public interaction are necessary, including more stay-at-home orders for all nonessential services and workers. If you are a co-parent with a parenting agreement that entitles you or the other parent to child visitation or parenting time rights, you might be concerned about breaking these orders to maintain your time with your children or the possibility of infecting your children in order to continue with visitation. You should not worry too much about this aspect of the orders, though, and here is why. 

Child Visitation Is Considered Essential in Illinois

Similar to last time this happened, court-ordered parenting time with your children is considered essential. This means just as you are permitted under these orders to visit the doctor, the pharmacy, or the grocery store, you can also visit your children if required by the courts, provided you take the proper precautions (social distancing, mask wearing, etc.) 

4 Ideas for Maintaining Your Visitation Routine During Stay-at-Home Orders

It can be difficult to stay safe with the pandemic raging now, worse than it has ever been, and even more so when you are trying to maintain a healthy relationship with your children after a divorce. Soon, we might all need to hunker down in Illinois again and stay inside for a while longer until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed. This might make child visitation less likely and even less safe. In order to stay compliant with court-ordered parenting time rights and keep the co-parents’ relationships with their children positive, consider these activities:

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Barrington, IL family law attorney legal guardianship

In some instances, both biological parents raising their child is not a possibility. Maybe the child has lost his or her parents or perhaps the parents have a history of abuse and therefore lost custody of their child. When a parent dies or is deemed unable to care for a child, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) will typically look to the child’s next of kin to be his or her caregiver. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents are valid options to care for the child as a legal guardian. However, grandparents may struggle to financially support the child, especially if they are retired and do not have a biweekly income. Luckily, the state of Illinois offers a number of financial assistance options to help these guardians support their grandchild.

Assistance Options

The Illinois government provides legal guardians with financial assistance in a number of ways. Depending on your financial situation, you may be eligible to receive the following assistance:

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Ways to Divide Parenting Time in Your DivorceDivorced parents share parenting time with each other in most cases because their children benefit from having a strong relationship with both parents after a divorce. For a court to give all of the parenting time to one parent, the other parent would have to be a danger to the children or show complete disinterest in seeing the children. There are many different ways that parents can divide parenting time – from one parent receiving a vast majority of the time to an even split of parenting time. Each division has its own implications for creating a parenting schedule and financial factors, such as child support and taxes.

80-20 and 70-30 Divisions

Illinois law presumes that children benefit the most when one parent has a majority of the parenting time because:

  • The children have a primary residence and neighborhood that they call home.
  • Frequent transportation between parents’ homes is more disruptive.

Giving one parent a majority of the parenting time may be sensible in your situation if one of you is more available to be with the children or more capable in a caretaking role. A 70-30 division of parenting time would work if you want to split your parenting schedule between weekdays and weekends. An 80-20 division would likely have the children spending every other weekend with their nonresidential parent, which may make sense if a parent has a busy work schedule or lives far enough away that seeing the children every week is impractical.

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Four Misconceptions About Divorce Parenting AgreementsEntering a divorce with misconceptions about how the allocation of parental responsibilities will be settled is doing a disservice to yourself. Some misconceptions are myths, while others are based on antiquated ideas about parenting after divorce. All of the misconceptions can potentially hurt you during your divorce negotiations because you have an assumption about how the parental responsibilities will be resolved that makes you resigned to defeat or recklessly overconfident. Here are four myths about parenting agreements during a divorce that are inaccurate:

  1. Mothers Are Assumed to Be the Primary Parent: This is probably the biggest parenting misconception in divorce. Mothers are more likely to receive a majority of parenting time but not because of their gender. The primary parent after divorce is the one who is most capable and willing to devote time to his or her parental responsibilities. Mothers traditionally but not exclusively fulfill this role in a marriage. A father who is the greater caregiver of the two parents may be better suited as the primary parent.
  2. A Working Parent Is Unlikely to Be a Primary Parent: When one parent stays at home instead of working, that parent normally takes on the primary parenting duties. After a divorce, the stay-at-home parent is often the most sensible choice as the primary parent. However, the stay-at-home parent will likely have to find his or her own job in order to fulfill child support obligations. The issue then becomes which parent is better capable of balancing his or her work and parental responsibilities.
  3. Teenagers Decide Which Parent They Live With: A court will consider a child’s preference for his or her living situation if the child is mature enough to give thoughtful reasons. However, child preference is one of a list of factors that courts use to determine which parent the children will primarily live with. A court will not adhere to a teenager’s choice if a majority of the evidence shows that it is not in his or her best interest.
  4. False Abuse Allegations Will Help Win Cases: Domestic violence charges and orders of protection will limit a parent’s contact with the children. If the parent is a danger to the children, he or she can be prevented from seeing the children or limited to supervised visits. However, a parent caught making false allegations will likely be the one who is punished. Besides the criminal consequences, the false accuser may lose parental responsibilities because he or she is considered untrustworthy.

Creating a Parenting Plan

The primary requirement for a parental agreement during divorce is that it serves the best interests of your children. A Barrington, Illinois, divorce attorney at Joseph M. Lucas & Associates, LLC, can help you make a parenting plan that works well for all parties. To schedule a consultation, call 847-381-8700.

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What Is Your Child's Best Interest During a DivorceParents going through a divorce will often hear the term “best interest of the child.” According to Illinois law, the allocation of parental responsibilities must protect the best interest of the child above all else. Responsible parents will agree on this point but may have different definitions of what their child’s best interest is. As a parent, you may argue that your child’s best interest is to spend as much time with you as possible. This may be presenting your own best interest as your child's best interest. Illinois divorce courts presume a child benefits the most when parents share responsibility. There is not a uniform parenting plan that is in the best interest of all children. Parents and divorce judges must consider each case on its individual merits.

Continued Relationships

Divorce and parenting researchers advocate for shared parental responsibilities because of the importance of children having a relationship with both parents. Following a divorce, children have lost the comfort of their familiar two-parent household. It is vital for their mental and emotional development to continue having two parents who love them and spend time with them.

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