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McHenry County family lawyerAs anyone who has children can attest, it is not easy to be a parent. Parenting is infinitely more challenging after a divorce or breakup, especially if the other parent has been granted substantially more parental responsibilities and parenting time than you have. Under the law in Illinois, you have the right to reasonable parenting time with your child, but exercising that right can be difficult. Additionally, you might have personal issues of your own that have led the court to restrict your parenting time rights. A situation such as this can be extremely challenging, but it is not necessarily a permanent state of affairs, and there are some steps you can take toward getting your full parenting time rights restored.  

#1. Understand the Reasons

According to Illinois law, your parenting time rights cannot be restricted simply because a judge does not like you or the way you are living your life. The court must issue a finding that you or your lifestyle poses serious physical, mental, moral, or emotional dangers to your child, and the finding must be specific enough for you to address the court’s concerns. Common grounds for parenting time restrictions include alcohol or drug abuse issues, concerns regarding instances of physical or emotional abuse, and association with dangerous individuals. Only after you understand why the court has restricted your parenting time can you start taking steps to improve your situation.

#2. Be Compliant With the Restrictions

As you work to resolve the issues that led to your parenting time restrictions, whether they are substance abuse problems, domestic abuse concerns, or your social circle, it is absolutely critical that you comply with any restrictions the court has handed down. If the court has allowed you just one supervised hour with your child each week, make every minute count. Do everything you can to show your dedication to becoming a better person and parent. If you attempt to get around the restrictions, your actions are likely to damage your case, and you could have your parental rights terminated altogether.

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McHenry County family law attorney parenting time

Unlike divorcing couples with children, parents who were never married do not automatically receive rights to parenting time. Instead, they must pursue it. Further, an order requiring the payment of child support does not guarantee parenting time to the paying parent. With this in mind, it is important to understand how you can get time with your child if you were never married.

Why Pursue Parenting Time?

Fathers who are not married to the mother of their child often wonder if it is worth pursuing parenting time with their child. They may be concerned about cost, or they may fear their rights will not be acknowledged by the courts. Rest assured that as long as you are not considered to be a risk to the child’s safety or emotional well-being, it is likely that your presence may be considered a positive influence on the life of your child. Further, studies have shown that children often fare better when they have two loving and connected parents. Since you may be required to financially contribute to the rearing of your child, regardless of whether you pursue parenting time or not, why not consider making an emotional contribution as well?

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Crystal Lake parenting plan attorneyA divorce will certainly shake up your home life, but this does not necessarily mean that it will continue to do so over time. With this in mind, it is important to create an agreement that is long-lasting, rather than temporary, especially in situations where children are involved. Everyone needs some sense of stability and routine in their day-to-day lives, even those who thrive under spontaneity, and psychologists believe having a stable routine offers many benefits for children. Parents should do everything possible to offer their children a stable environment when creating a parenting arrangement after their marriage ends.

Steady Routines Promote Future Success

Routine is not just about going to bed at the same time every day or eating dinner together as a family every night. The most important thing you can do for your child is to provide as much stability as possible throughout the day. Psychologists suggest that when a schedule is predictable, children can relax and trust in their environment. Even in a situation where a child visits two homes regularly, the daily routine should not change significantly. The details may be different in each parent’s home, but the routine should remain consistent in each environment. Such routines also include knowing which days and holidays a child may expect to see each parent.

How to Create a Parenting Plan That Works

One of the most important things to remember is that children need significant time with both of their parents to create a bond. Studies show that children who have equal or close to equal amounts of time with each parent go on to have more stability in their lives as adults. Therefore, it is usually in your children’s best interests to make a co-parenting arrangement that prioritizes time with both parents, and maintain it by not skipping visits or shorting the other parent of their allotted parenting time.

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When Can Parenting Time Be Restricted in Illinois?There is arguably no relationship more sacred than the one between a parent and child. For children, solid, loving relationships with their parents are crucial for their healthy development and well-being. Because of this, many states, including Illinois, have placed a specific emphasis on allocating parenting time to both parents of a child, rather than solely to one parent. Though it may not always be a 50/50 split, most cases involve both parents having parenting time with their children, and it is typically in the child’s best interests to spend time with both parents. However, there may be cases in which the court finds that it is necessary to place restrictions on parenting time.

When Are Parenting Time Restrictions Appropriate?

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5) specifically states that both of a child’s legal parents are presumed to be fit to care for their child, and in the vast majority of cases, the court will not restrict or limit parenting time. When children are involved in a divorce or a parental dispute, the duty of the judge and the court is to ensure the child is being taken care of adequately. If the court finds that the physical, emotional, or mental well-being of the child would be seriously endangered by allowing a parent to exercise parenting time, the judge can restrict parenting time for that parent.

How Can Parenting Time Be Restricted?

Before it is determined that a parenting time restriction is in the best interest of the child, a hearing will be held. During such a hearing, the court will do its best to investigate the situation and determine if spending time with the parent in question would truly endanger the child. The court will examine issues such as each parent’s work schedule, living arrangement, and any history of domestic violence, mental health issues, or substance abuse.

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Why Illinois Uses ‘Allocation of Parental Responsibilities’ Instead of ‘Child Custody’In 2016, Illinois made major changes to its law regarding parents who have divorced or separated. The term “child custody” was replaced with “the allocation of parental responsibilities,” and “visitation” was replaced with “parenting time.” These were more than simply new names for legal terms. They represented a new approach to co-parenting that the state hoped would be better for children. This summer will mark the five-year anniversary of the bill that created these changes being signed into law – making it a good time to revisit what these terms mean and what they are trying to accomplish.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Child custody is a common term in family law statutes across the country and in popular vernacular. In Illinois, the law at one time granted sole or joint custody of the children following a divorce or separation. Illinois changed its laws so it is assumed that both parents will share responsibility for the children, including:

  • Dividing parenting time in a way that is best for the children
  • Determining how the parents will raise the children
  • Defining what decision-making power each parent has and when they must get the other parent’s consent

The word “custody” is often associated with one parent having primary control over the children. Illinois changed the term to “the allocation of parental responsibilities” because it better describes how each parent has rights and responsibilities and an important role in continuing to raise the children. “Custody” is now used to describe when a non-parent assumes responsibility for a child.

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