When Your Spouse Refuses to Participate in the Divorce Process

Spouse Refuses to Participate in the Divorce ProcessThe best-case scenario for a divorce is an uncontested divorce, in which both parties agree to the dissolution of the marriage and cooperate in the dividing of marital property and determining things like alimony and custody (if necessary). But sometimes one spouse refuses to participate in the divorce process, making it difficult to complete the divorce process.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need both parties to sign the papers in order to finalize a divorce. All you need is to file a petition for divorce and make sure you can prove your spouse is aware of the petition. Further, you have to be able to show you gave them a chance to respond, and each state has their own time requirements before the Court will find someone in “default.” In Illinois, all contested divorce cases start by serving your spouse with divorce papers. If he or she does not respond within 30 days of receiving your petition for divorce, or otherwise file any motions with the Court, you can ask the Court to find your spouse in default and to set the case for hearing on a default Judgement. If your spouse does not show up to court on the appointed date, the court may decide to grant you a default divorce. By failing to respond or show up to court, your spouse forfeits their right to have a say in the divorce process or judgment.

However, there are some instances in which the spouse cannot be located. So long as you can attest to the Court that you have made all reasonable attempts to locate your spouse, you can get what is known as a publication by divorce, in which you publish notice of you your petition for divorce in the local media outlets of the last known whereabouts of your spouse. Your notice has to run a certain number of times before the Court will accept service by publication, so it’s important to check your local Court Rules or consult with an experienced attorney for the required procedure. If your spouse still doesn’t do not respond within 30 days, most courts will grant a default judgment.

If your spouse did file a response to your petition for divorce, but refuses to participate further in the process, the judge may proceed as though it is an uncontested divorce, but you might have to wait to be assigned a court date. If you get a court date and your spouse fails to appear in court on the appointed day, the judge may enter orders based on the divorce petition and response.

As always, a competent family law attorney can help with this process, as even seeking a default divorce can be stressful since there are specific rules you must follow. If your spouse thinks they can avoid divorce by simply refusing to sign the papers, a letter from your attorney can set them straight. When they see that the divorce can proceed with or without their cooperation, most people will choose to cooperate in the divorce. There are many reasons one might refuse to sign divorce papers, but an experienced family law attorney can usually ensure that the divorce proceeds according to your wishes.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Common Mistakes People Make During Divorce

Common Mistakes People Make During DivorceWe all make mistakes, especially when we’re stressed and feeling emotional. Few things are more stressful or more emotional than divorce, but that’s also when it’s most important to refrain from making any mistakes.

When litigating and/or settling divorce, it’s nothing less than our lives at stake. In addition to financial assets and alimony, any marriage with children will also have to deal with dividing decision-making duties and parenting time schedules. These are all things no one can afford to lose, so if you’re getting divorced, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes:

Not listening to the experts.

We’ve already talked about why it’s important to hire a divorce attorney rather than trying it DIY, but it’s equally important to listen to the attorney you’ve hired. They’re the expert and they’re able to look at the situation without all the emotional baggage you’re bringing to the divorce. You don’t have to take their advice if you don’t feel like it’s really what you want, but if your attorney is strongly advising you to do (or avoid) something, you need to take that under serious consideration.

Taking advice from people other than your attorney.

Just as important as taking advice from your attorney is not taking advice from people other than your attorney. When getting divorced, everyone will be full of advice, and it may be tempting to take advice from everyone from your best friend to your pharmacist. Even though they may have the best of intentions, they won’t necessarily know what’s best for you.  Even if you trust their opinion or believe they have all the facts because they went through a divorce or custody battle in the past, understand that they don’t have all the facts. Every divorce is different and more than likely, the Judge handling your case now did not hear your friends’ case. Outcomes in divorce vary greatly depending on the Judge you have, and it is your attorney’s job to advise you on how the Judge on your case may rule.   Also, as we posted previously, the laws changed significantly in Illinois in 2015, 2016 and 2017 via separate amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. So, all of these changes mean your divorce will be handled much differently than those heard by the Court even just a year ago.

Fighting over the children.

In many divorces, each party just wants to hurt the other, and few things hurt worse than denying someone access to their children. But it’s important to set aside your hurt feelings and pride and consider what’s really best for the children. If the other party wants to spend time with their children and they’re not putting them in any danger by doing so, the Court will insist that you allow them to have time with their children. Denying time or the ability to participate in a co-parenting relationship usually backfires on the parent withholding the children. Finally, your relationship will benefit from it in the long run and your children will benefit from having both parents remain active and present in their lives.

Continuing to litigate a case when settling would make more sense.

There are many reasons people choose to continue to litigate a case rather than settle. Sometimes people think they can get more money out of their spouse if they have their “day in Court.” Other times they just want to get revenge on their spouse, and they decide to do that by dragging out the matter as long as possible.

But in many cases, you can get more money by settling the case as soon as possible and saving yourself the additional legal fees involved in continuing to litigate. And while you may want revenge for the pain your spouse inflicted on you, choosing to drag out the litigation, rather than settling and getting it over with, can do as much damage to you (both emotionally and financially) as to the other party. There’s no point in taking the time and energy to hurt someone else if you hurt yourself in the process. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney can advise you when it is worthwhile to litigate the case than to settle.

These and many other mistakes can be made when you allow yourself to be carried away by the harrowing emotions that can come along with divorce. Instead of focusing on the negative feelings you’re experiencing right now, try to consider the kind of relationship you want with your ex-spouse and your children later on down the road. Let that foresight (and your attorney) be your guide in how you handle your divorce.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases, as well as all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Understanding Why A Do-It-Yourself Divorce Is Dangerous

do-it-yourself divorceThere are some projects where it might be practical to DIY – divorce is not one of those projects.

As wonderful as the internet is, it does not, in fact, contain all the answers. Conducting an internet search of the marriage laws in your state does not give you an idea of how those marriage laws actually play out in the courtroom. And TV courtroom dramas are nothing more than entertainment and are not meant to give the impression that being an attorney is easy and anyone can do it.

As appealing as it might sound to be able to pay a single, small fee for all the legal documents you’ll need for your divorce, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There’s no denying the fact that attorneys cost money and many people getting divorced are afraid they can’t afford it. But the fact is they can’t afford not to hire an attorney to help them with their divorce.

When two people have been married for any length of time, they have formed a life together. They have combined not just living space, but assets and possessions. If they had children together or were jointly raising children from a previous relationship, those children will be heavily affected by the divorce, and they deserve more than a packet of documents off the internet.

More often than not, trying to save money with a DIY divorce backfires, sometimes to the point of one partner having to file for bankruptcy after the divorce. If you weren’t trained to defend your case in a courtroom, you won’t be properly equipped to represent your best interests. Even if there’s no one more motivated to protect your rights than you, that doesn’t mean you know the best way to go about doing so in a courtroom.

By insisting on a DIY divorce, you could unintentionally get a bad deal for yourself when negotiating settlements and end up with a far smaller settlement than an experienced divorce attorney could have gotten for you. If children are involved you could end up with less parenting time and/or less child support than you are owed.

And are you aware of the developing laws regarding pets in divorce? Some state divorce laws are starting to treat pets more like children (since their owners certainly do), but Illinois still treats pets like property – meaning, if you both acquired the pet during the marriage, the pet will be divided along with the furniture, heirlooms, etc. If you and your spouse acquired a pet together, and you want to make sure the pet stays with you, you’re going to need a competent divorce attorney on your side.

Many couples who try a DIY divorce end up back in the courtroom a year or two later to sort out all the things their DIY divorce missed or failed to handle properly. That costs more time and more court fees. Further, they’ll probably end up having to pay the attorneys’ fees they were hoping the DIY divorce would avoid, only now the fees will be much higher because the attorney will require more time, effort, and resources to sort out the mess made by the DIY divorce. Obtaining your rightful property may also be impossible if you’ve already given it away, as property settlements are generally not disturbed 30 days after the Judgment. Bottom line: it is easier and less expensive to do it right the first time.

Finally, don’t ever assume that a Court will just accept the settlement that you and your spouse come up with in your DIY divorce. More and more judges are refusing to enter divorce agreements that are based on online forms, even the ones the parties paid for using an online document servicer/generator. This is not because Judges prefer to have attorneys, but rather because the Judge can usually identify the problems with the documents or potential pitfalls with the parties’ agreement. So, by rejecting the documents and advising the parties to go seek an attorney to review them, the Judge is actually helping the parties by avoiding a situation where one or both of them has to return to Court down the road to fix the problems.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases, as well as all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What Is Involved In Adopting My Stepchild?

adopting my stepchildFor the most part, adopting a stepchild is much like adopting any other child. In fact, sometimes the process can be expedited since the child and your spouse are related.

But the biggest difference between adopting a stepchild and any other adoption can often be the biggest hurdle to overcome: you need permission from the child’s other parent (provided they’re still living), and granting that permission requires them to give up all their parental rights. It’s easy to understand why it might be difficult to convince a parent to give that up.

On the other hand, giving up all parental rights also means giving up all responsibilities, including child support. If the other parent does not have a strong relationship with their child, they may even welcome an opportunity to stop making those payments.

In some cases, the other parent may recognize that surrendering their parental rights so the child can be adopted by the stepparent is in the best interests of the child, in which case they’ll be more likely to provide their consent. In order to voluntarily surrender their parental rights, the other parent will need to sign appropriate Court documents to surrender their rights and attest that they understand what they are doing in front of a Judge before the adoption can proceed.

If the other parent refuses to give up their parental responsibilities, and you can provide evidence that they are an unfit parent, you can have their parental rights terminated. It’s an extreme measure and it requires being able to meet a very high burden of proof. There are several bases to claim unfitness, but the more common issues that arise are abandonment, physical abuse or neglect, and/or significant drug use.

In order to prove abandonment, you must be able to demonstrate that the other parent has not communicated with the child, by no fault of your own, and they also provided financial support for the child for a defined length of time. In many cases, the Judge will want to see that the parent has been out of touch for at least several years, even if the statutory duration is a shorter period.

If you accuse the other parent of being an unfit parent, most courts will respond by conducting a fitness hearing, which it will use to determine whether the other parent has been abusive, neglectful, incarcerated, suffers from an addiction, or fails to visit the child. If parental rights are terminated, the Court can move on to the secondary issue of whether the adoption will be granted, which is a separate proceeding.

As explained above, obtaining the permission of the other parent (or having them deemed an unfit parent by the prevailing court) is just the first step. Once the Petition for Adoption is filed, the Court will also be appointing a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate the facts of the case and make a recommendation to the Court on whether or not the adoption is in the best interest of the child. The GAL also has very specific duties under the statute, and everything about the adoptions process must strictly adhere to the applicable laws. If it strays in any way, it could subject the adoption to being overturned later down the road, which could cause a lot of distress and/or damage for the child.

The basic takeaway from adoption law in Illinois is that you really need to have an experienced attorney handling these proceedings for you. There are several factors at play and procedures to complete, even for an “uncontested” adoption where one parent is agreeing to terminate his/her rights.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases, as well as all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Need Help With Fees For Summer Camps And Activities?

It is that time of year – time to sign the kids up for the summer camps and activities to keep them busy while they are out of school. But if you are dealing with an ex-spouse, this can be difficult. Learn more from Barbara Sherer here.

If you are the parent receiving child support, and there is not a separate allocation for extracurricular fees such as summer camps or daycare during breaks, you can petition the court and ask for additional amounts to be allowed for this.

What if you are the parent that is paying the child support and order is vague on this issue? Another good question. It depends on your income, what the order does say, etc. Every situation is different.

The best way to have your questions answered is to contact our office today.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

How Do I Get Temporary Support Until My Divorce Is Final?

temporary supportDivorce agreements commonly include orders for alimony and/or child support, but the divorce process can take months, or even years, to complete. So what do you do if you can’t wait that long to pay your bills?

Fortunately, you can file a petition for temporary relief. Once the court receives the proper form (which varies, depending on the court), a brief hearing will be scheduled in which you can make your case as to why you need financial assistance now. Under the new amendments passed to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) in 2016, hearing on temporary child support or temporary maintenance (a.k.a. alimony) can be heard on a summary basis, unless one or both parties request a full evidentiary hearing with good cause. A summary hearing means that the Judge will review the parties’ Financial Statements, which must be filed in all divorce cases, and supporting financial documents that are attached to the Financial Statements to make a ruling on temporary support. No testimony is presented during these hearings, but the Judge rather reviews the documents alone. However, if a party wants to present evidence, perhaps to counter the other party’s arguments for support, then an evidentiary hearing may be scheduled in lieu of a summary proceeding.

In any hearing for temporary relief, the judge will first determine whether you should receive any alimony or child support, and if so, how much you will receive. The Judge can also divide the party’s use of and access to assets, such as real estate, cars, and access to bank accounts, all on a temporary basis until the divorce is finalized. The temporary order will likely include a provision that prohibits either party from selling significant financial assets before the divorce has been made final.

If you can’t afford an attorney, you do have the option of filing a petition for temporary relief on your own. Most of the court’s forms can be found online or at your local Family Court. You may file the paperwork yourself and receive a valid order for financial support from a Family Court Judge without having to pay for an attorney, but it is always suggested that you seek legal counsel, as these motions do require a lot of financial documentation as well as submission of various forms and affidavits.

If you and your spouse are still getting along fairly well and they make a verbal promise to continue supporting you, that’s great, but don’t rely on it. Attorneys always recommend you get a promise in writing, especially when your livelihood is at stake. Even the best intentions can go unfulfilled, so don’t rely on a verbal contract alone.

If you and your spouse have managed to reach your own agreement regarding spousal and/or child support, you can request that the Court enter an Agreed Order memorializing these terms. The judge will then review the terms to make sure the agreement is fair to both parties before approving any agreed order.

The process of getting divorced is stressful enough. You don’t need to make it more stressful by wondering how you’re going to pay the bills. Fortunately, the courts recognize this and have put in place systems to help give you one less thing to worry about.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

CONTACT US TODAY!

Child Support Changes In Illinois

Child Support Changes In IllinoisIn the past, when a couple with children got divorced, one parent (the non-custodial parent) would be made to pay child support to the custodial parent. But in 2016, Illinois changed its divorce law to exclude titles like “custodial” and “non-custodial.” Instead there is only “parental responsibilities” and also “parenting time,” which get divvied up between the two parents.

At this time, Illinois law still requires the parent with less parenting time to pay child support to the primary caregiver, but that’s all about to change in July 2017. The current system is outdated in that it presupposes a household in which one parent earns the family income and the other parent stays home to raise the children. While many families do still operate this way, an increasing number of families have two parents who work outside the home and the Illinois Legislature recently passed a new law that takes into account these changes.

Rather than ordering one parent to pay a certain percentage of their income based on the number of children being supported, the new law orders the courts to determine how much it costs to raise a child depending on the combined net incomes of the parents. Based on this figure, the Court then decides what each parent must pay toward the cost to raise the child, allocating their responsibility based on his or her income.

For example, let’s assume that based on the parents’ net income, the Court determines that the cost to raise a child is $2,000.00 per month. Husband makes 70% of the household income and Wife makes 30% of the household income. Wife also has primary parenting time with the children. Husband may be looking at paying $1,400 per month of this $2,000 cost, and the Wife would be paying $600. Once you offset these amounts, Husband’s direct contribution to Wife would be $800.00 per month.

As referenced above, the new law also takes into account how much time each parent spends with the children. If the parents share 50-50 parenting time, or one parent has at least 40% of the time with the children, the new guidelines may not apply, and the Court will have to determine a proper child support figure.

Although that last provision was no doubt created with the best of intentions, it may have some unintended consequences. One or both parents might try to spend at least 40-50% of the time with the children, at least on paper, as a way of avoiding paying extra child support, rather than because such an arrangement would be best for the children.

A parent may likewise argue that the other parent should not get to spend that much time with the children because they want more child support, without taking their children’s best interests into account. If both parents start fighting to have the children for a minimum of 40% of the time (or approximately 146 nights each year), a judge may have to step in and determine whether the parents are acting in their own financial interests or the wellbeing of their children.

If one parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court will assume their income is 75% of the current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for an individual. If that’s case, they will be required to pay a minimum child support obligation of $40 each month.

The new law will go into effect on July 1, 2017, so there’s still time to prepare for these changes.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

CONTACT US TODAY!

Who Can Claim Children As Dependents? What To Do When Your Divorce Does Not Specify

Who Can Claim Children As DependentsIllinois marital and divorce law was recently changed to redefine “custody” as “parenting time.” Under the new law, the parenting time is split between the parents. In most cases, one parent ends up with the majority of the parenting time (determining which party gets the most parenting time depends on a number of factors to be considered by the judge ruling in the matter). In some cases, especially in amicable divorces, the parties may agree on a parenting plan that divides up the parenting responsibilities between them. They then merely ask a judge to approve their plan.

The parent awarded the majority of the parenting time is known as the “custodial parent,” for situations where certain federal or state statutes still require use of the designation. Generally, this distinction also falls on the parent who gets the primary parental and decision-making responsibilities of the children, but sometimes, such as in the case of a 50-50 parenting arrangement, it is a technicality defined in the parenting plan. Although the term “custody” no longer has any meaning in the context of Illinois family law, it is still used for the purpose of designating one parent that can claim the children as dependents on their tax returns.

In some cases, parents may agree to a Parenting Plan that divides the parenting time equally between the parties and gives them both parental responsibility of the child. As mentioned above, even if the parents are able to work out such an agreement, Illinois law requires one of them to be labeled the “custodial parent” for tax purposes. In order for the other parent to be able to claim the child as a dependent on their tax forms, the designated “custodial parent” must fill out a Form 8332 in order to sign off on the other parent’s right to claim the child dependency tax exemption.

If you and your ex-spouse agreed to evenly divide the parenting time and responsibilities between you, one of you should still have been labeled the “custodial parent.” If that title went to the other party, you can ask them to fill out Form 8332 so you can claim your children as dependents on your tax form and take the coinciding deduction.

It is most common for parents to agree to alternate the child exemption, regardless of who was given the title of “custodial parent.” The reason being that the non-custodial parent is still often paying child support for purposes of assisting with the child’s needs when the child is in the care of the custodial parent.

If such was the case for you and your ex-spouse, you might want to check in with them regarding whose turn it is. Whoever did not get to claim the tax credit the year before should get to claim it this year. If this is your first time filing taxes after the separation or divorce, talk with the other parent to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to filing taxes. You can choose to have the “custodial parent” claim the exemption first and switch off from there or work out another system that works for both of you. It is always best for there to be a court order that clearly defines the tax dependency arrangement, including who can file and whether that parent can file in even or odd tax years.

When filing your taxes, it also helps to get a written declaration from the custodial parent that they will not claim the child as a dependent and have them attach the declaration to their tax return. This would expedite the resolution of any issues filing your return.

No matter your situation, it is always best to maintain open and respectful communication with your ex-spouse regarding the parenting of the children and the terms of the divorce. It makes everything much easier, including the children’s ability to adjust to their new circumstances.

If you are having any family law issues, consulting a knowledgeable attorney can help. At Sherer Law Offices, we can guide you through the legal steps you need to take to ensure your rights are protected.

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What is Required for Planning for A Special Needs Child During Divorce?

special needs child during divorceThere are very few things that are harder to deal with when going through a divorce than planning for your children’s future when you have a special needs child. The burden of supporting your child on the day-to-day basis can fall squarely on your shoulders as the parent with the majority of parenting time. The daily living and special moments may test your self-confidence to parent your child alone.

A pending divorce that involves a special needs child brings up unique issues of decision-making, parenting time, and also property division that can become more complex to negotiate. During the process of your divorce, you must consider what your child’s special needs entail and work with your attorney to determine what a day would be like caring for your child, particularly from a financial standpoint.

The State’s child support guidelines don’t normally address the extra expenses that come with a child of special needs, but there are special laws that allow for additional support above and beyond percentages of income. There may be a need for special medical care, therapy services, medical equipment, nutritional needs, and even paid respite care for the parent who has been awarded the majority of parenting time with the child. The uncertainty of the future costs makes it difficult to estimate the related expenses of a special needs child during a divorce.

Legally, the goal is to identify what the child’s best interests are and to understand them. Some examples include:

  • Who will the child live with?
  • What amount of contact will the parents or other parties have with the child?
  • What amount of child support will be paid to the parent who is caring for the child for the majority of the time?
  • Are there going to be transportation issues relating to the parenting schedule?
  • How will the parties share medical expenses and other costs that go above and beyond just daily needs?

The devised parenting plan should spell out all pertinent information and instructions on the special needs child’s care, daily routine, medications, and safety plans. A great staring point would be to look at how much you and your ex agree concerning your child’s disabilities and abilities. Additionally, when putting together a divorce agreement, special attention must be paid to parenting arrangements, estate planning, and the child’s eventual transition into adulthood. Legislation and case law are always evolving in this area and more family attorneys are dealing with an increasing amount of cases involving a special needs child.

In a divorce decree, it is important to discuss with your attorney the unique issues that come up in the child’s transition into adulthood. These may include:

  • Guardianship
  • Recreation
  • Social skills
  • Independent living
  • Custodial care

In most cases, child support and custody (now “parental responsibilities” in Illinois) end at the age of majority, or when they graduates from high school. The Court does, however, have the ability to extend child support beyond high school for students attending college or for children with special needs. Divorcing parents of a child with special needs, particular those who have severe impairments, face the reality of life-long care giving and co-parenting beyond just age 18

When considering spousal maintenance and child support, you need to think about the child’s eligibility for public benefits as a minor and as an adult. It is very important that your family law attorney work with a special needs attorney and an experienced financial advisor to eliminate the possibility of forfeiting the child’s benefits. It is not always known how child support payments made to the custodial parent will affect, negatively or otherwise, government programs like SSI and Medicaid. Support of any kind should be considered to preserve government benefits. It is imperative to consider these issues during the divorce proceedings. Finally, it would be wise to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, as special needs trusts can be established and both parents can be required to contribute to a trust within a divorce agreement, as well as be ordered to maintain life insurance benefits naming the child’s custodian or trust as the beneficiary.

Managing the care of a special needs child is a full-time job. The effects it can have on the income of the custodial parent should be considered when deciding the amount of maintenance or support. Because caring for your child with special need may extend past the age of majority, you need to have your divorce agreement tailored for the long term. Use special needs trusts in tandem with public benefits. Effectively channel support obligations and tailor parenting plans within the divorce settlement to provide fully and adequately for your special needs child.

Make the system work for you by taking a hard look at what special needs exist and how they are addressed during your divorce. The family law attorneys here at Sherer Law Offices can guide you during this difficult process and give you all the advice you need to make sure that the future of your special needs child is taken care of fully.

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4 Ways To Make Visitation After Divorce Bearable

visitation after divorceDivorce, as well as visitation after divorce, is a difficult experience and it takes a toll on all family members, especially children. Parents need to collaborate and continue to parent together for the sake of their children, making them feel comfortable about the new arrangements. The more cooperation parents can establish regarding decisions involving their children, the better parenting visits will be for everyone. The following are some ideas that you can implement during your visitation, now referred to as “parenting time” in Illinois, to make sure all goes smoothly:

Set a Calendar

Both homes should have a calendar for the kids. Together, you can mark weekly events like weekday dinners, school events and overnight outings. Be on time for your parenting time visits and be there for your kids. Remember: your email and text messages can wait. Also, try to be upbeat and optimistic, setting realistic expectations for time spent together. As your kids get older especially, stay “in the know” of what is going on with each child – who has instrument lessons and soccer practice and at what time. The task of keeping a calendar will be more difficult for the parent who never may have managed the family’s calendar in the past. Take a breath and remember you’re doing this because spending quality time together lets your children know that they are important to you.

Create a Positive Atmosphere

Your goal is to make your children feel comfortable and cared for during the transition of being a “nuclear family unit” to a separated household. Further, you will want to connect with your kids individually as much as you can, and remember to celebrate their individuality and independent choices. Finally, creating a positive atmosphere is more important than ever.  So, under no circumstance should the other parent be discussed in a negative or disparaging way. Children become much more alert and sensitive to questions and comments about their other parent, as naturally a child is loyal to both of their parents. It should come as no surprise then that children will feel conflicted when talking about the other parent and/or feel they should not mention them at all. By maintaining a positive and upbeat attitude about the transition, it will help put the children at ease and reassure them that neither parent will put them in an awkward position.

Do Not Argue

Let’s face it – Arguing is uncomfortable to witness for everyone! In the same vein as “create a positive atmosphere” above, keep in mind that if you argued in front of your kids as a married couple, make sure those habits don’t carry over into parenting time. Visits are for them, including drop-off and pick-up times. When you have disagreements about parenting choices, create a separate time to discuss these issues. Do not try to hash these out at exchanges, as the kids will be paying close attention to how these go. If you need a mediator, contact your attorney who can suggest the best form of mediation for your situation.

Phone Numbers and Phone Calls

Equip your child with a notebook of information including phone numbers for both parents, close family members and trusted caregivers. It is important for you to show them it is okay to stay in touch with the other parent, creating a positive relationship between parents and children. If you are the parent exercising parenting time, be cognizant that calls to the other parent should be allowed and/or encouraged for instances like saying “good night” or letting the other parent know if something unusual or exciting happened that day. The bottom line is that you want your child to feel it is okay to communicate with your co-parent.

It’s also important to let your kids know that missing the other parent is okay. If the other parent is being missed, have your kids draw pictures, do crafts or write a note if the child is old enough to write. Raising a child is a team effort, and letting your children express their emotions while in your care is very important. The sweet token, whether it’s simply a page they colored for their mom or dad, can be presented at the conclusion of the visit and represents your willingness to work together to raise a happy, well-adjusted child.

It is essential for parents to create a collaborative effort so that parenting time can be pleasant, constructive and comfortable for everyone, especially for children. For assistance or legal advice for your family regarding divorce, setting up visitation parenting plan or any other divorce-related issue, contact Sherer Law Offices. Expert divorce attorneys are available to advise you throughout all steps of divorce, including legal advice to help you set up the best visitation schedule for you and your family.