Tagged as joint custody

Separating Parents: What’s Best for Children?

How does a parent contemplating divorce or separation keep a child feeling loved, supported, and safe? This is a question often posed by clients and it was covered recently in an article published by The Washington Post, “Separating parents want what’s best for their 2-year-old. What is that?” Here are a few tips to help separating parents:

Understand the child’s perspective.

For instance, a young child does not understand time and cannot comprehend a parenting time schedule. To help a child feel safe at either house, a good solution is to have things that remind the child of a parent at both parent’s homes such placing a photo of the other parent in the child’s room, developing the tradition to wish (mommy or daddy) a good night too, re-telling family stories such as the child’s birth story that includes both parents, or asking the other parent to provide a recorded bed-time story for the child.

Allocate 5-10 minutes for drop-offs and pick-ups of the child.

Plan with the other parent to discuss simple topics such as the weather, upcoming child events, or just make small talk. If both parents are discussing simple topics in a calm manner, the child will likely remain calm during the transition as well. Please save your irritation or anger at the other party for the ear of a dear friend or counselor. Drop-offs are not a time to express dissatisfaction with the other parent.

Do not take a child’s rejection personally.

Even if both parents do their best to make transitions calm, the child may cling to the parent they are leaving. This is natural and common. As the article states, a young child “just wants and needs to be with her main attachments.” She may cling to you one day, and then cling to the other parent the next day. Try not to take it personally. It is common for parents to report their child does not want to visit the other parent’s house when in fact it might just be the child expressing its natural attachment.

Parenting is hard. There are often no right or wrong answers but there are tips and tools that can be used to help a child feel loved, supported and safe in both parent’s homes. If you are contemplating separation or divorce and are worried about your children, please contact me to discuss
developing your parenting plan.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over fourteen years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Modifying Child Custody After Your Illinois Divorce

Child CustodyAfter a divorce many couples realize that although some decisions looked great on paper, they don’t always work in real life. This is particularly true for child custody agreements.

Once everyone has actually lived with the agreement, one parent may decide that they would prefer sole custody of the children rather than joint custody, or vice versa. However, it is not easy to modify the custody agreement of a DuPage County divorce–especially right after the divorce is finalized.

CHILD CUSTODY IN ILLINOIS DIVORCE LAW

Illinois courts encourage stability for the children of divorce in their custody decisions and generally will not modify a custody agreement earlier than two years from the original implementation date. This means it will be very difficult to modify your child custody arrangements within the first 24 months after your divorce unless your situation meets the Court’s high standard of “serious endangerment” to the child.

Specifically, the requesting parent must provide affidavits stating that the child’s current situation may be seriously endangering his emotional, physical, moral or mental health. The Court then applies the standard of clear and convincing evidence to determine whether modification is in the best interests of the child.

JOINT CUSTODY IS NOT ALWAYS AN ADVANTAGE

It’s important to note that modifying custody is not necessarily easier if a parent already has joint custody. A joint agreement that provides for sharing major decisions but not sharing parenting time does not necessarily give an “every-other-weekend” joint parent an advantage when later requesting sole custody. Joint Custody and equal parenting time, however, could be more of an advantage for a parent seeking sole custody.

Parents, however, should be aware that equal parenting time is granted in very limited circumstances and only when parents can demonstrate an ability for frequent effective communication, mutual approval of the shared parenting time agreement, and acknowledgment that the parenting schedule has worked for a period of time.

Therefore, parents should be cautioned not to believe the myth that settling for joint decision making is a stepping stone to gain sole custody in the future.  It is best to focus on the current parenting agreement as it may be binding for a very long time.

REQUESTING CHILD CUSTODY MODIFICATION

Any requests to alter a child custody arrangement must begin by meeting with a court-approved mediator. A custody evaluation with a mental health professional may follow, and absent an agreement, the case will proceed to a trial in court.

If you have any concerns over how child custody will work after your divorce, it would benefit everyone to work out the issues through DuPage County mediation prior to the actual divorce proceeding. Often a mediator will make suggestions such as enacting a proposed custody agreement pre-divorce to ensure that it meets the needs of both the parents and the children, which can potentially prevent modification after the divorce.

Contact me to learn more about my Illinois divorce mediation services and how I can help you create workable child custody arrangements.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

New Illinois Family Law Effects Joint Custody Parenting

A new Illinois law, concerning the first right of refusal for parenting time, will have an effect on parenting with a joint custody arrangement.  Effective January 1, 2014, if the court awards joint custody, a parent who is unable to care for the child or children must offer parenting time to the other parent prior to finding alternate care or paying for a babysitter. Read more here about the new law 750 ILCS 5/603.2.

Illinois Divorce Attorney, Erin Birt, based in DuPage County, recommends that all parenting agreements contain a first right of refusal provision.  Divorce attorneys in Illinois  have been including such a provision for many years, and it is best practice to customize such provisions for each family.  To discuss what is an appropriate amount of time for a ‘first right of refusal’ provision, contact  The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C. for a consultation.

Illinois Divorce: Case Law Update

In an Illinois divorce case, hiding assets or failing to disclose assets during a divorce is costly.  It may affect the classification and distribution of assets and it may be cause for a court to sanction a party.

A recent Illinois Appellate Case, In re the Marriage of Bradley, illustrates how the failure to disclose an asset in discovery can bar a party from claiming it is nonmarital property, permit the court to sanction that party, and require that party to pay the spouses attorneys fees.  In Bradley, the husband failed to disclose farm property until 2 weeks prior to the divorce trial.  The Court barred him from claiming it was non-marital and granted sanctions which required the husband to contribute to the wife’s attorney’s fees due to the increase in litigation caused by the husband.

In Illinois custody cases, the distinction between sole custody vs. joint custody often comes down to three major issues: health/medical needs, eduction, and religion.  If the parties can agree, or have no major objections, on the three major issues joint custody may be appropriate.  If the parties do not agree, or there are factors that prevent the parties from being able to communicate and discuss these issues on a regular basis (such as domestic violence, mental health issues, substance abuse issues) and reach an agreement, then sole custody may be appropriate.

A recent Illinois custody case, In re the Marriage of Voris, illustrates how a sole custody parenting agreement can be modified.  In this case, the non-custodial parent was affecting the mental health of the children and attempting to alienate the children from the custodial parent via religious exploitation.  Although the major issue of religion is present in this case, it was the non-custodial parent’s actions, i.e. attempts to alienate, which in turn had adverse affects on the health of the children, that justified a modification to the parenting agreement.  In Voris, the parenting agreement was modified to include supervised visitation between the children and the father.

Please contact The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C. at 630-891-2478 or via our Contact Page with any questions about the above cases and how they may apply to a particular situation or for additional information about divorce, collaborative divorce, asset classification and distribution, or custody matters for families in Illinois.