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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Parents Who Share Child Custody

 Posted on December 19, 2023 in Child Custody

Blog ImageAs we come to the end of the year, many people take time to reflect on their lives and set goals for the future. For parents who share child custody, the new year may provide an opportunity to make resolutions that will improve their co-parenting relationships and ensure that they are providing for the well-being of their children. If you are currently going through a divorce, or if you have a child custody order in place, you may want to focus on how you can meet your children’s needs in the year to come.

At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, our family law attorneys can help you address concerns related to your children. We can provide you with legal representation during a legal case involving child-related issues, ensuring that your parental rights will be protected. We can also help you address any concerns you may have about an existing child custody order, and we will advise you on the best steps you can take to protect your children’s best interests at all times. As you prepare for the new year, you may want to make resolutions such as:

1. Understand How to Share Parental Responsibilities Effectively

The first step towards successful co-parenting is understanding your parental responsibilities. This includes knowing your rights and obligations as a parent, as well as understanding the legal framework surrounding child custody in Illinois. You may want to familiarize yourself with the provisions of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) that address child custody to gain a clear understanding of your rights and responsibilities.

Defining Parental Responsibilities

In Illinois, parental responsibilities refer to the major decisions that need to be made regarding a child's education, healthcare, religion, extracurricular activities, and overall well-being. The IMDMA emphasizes that both parents should play an active role in these decisions unless this would seriously impair the child's physical health or emotional development.

The law encourages shared decision-making whenever possible, but family courts recognize that sole decision-making responsibility may be appropriate in certain situations. The court may consider various factors in these cases, such as each parent’s willingness to collaborate with the other parent when addressing child-related concerns.

Creating a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a legal agreement created during a divorce or child custody case. Among other issues related to children, a parenting plan outlines how parents will jointly make important decisions related to their children. During the new year, you can make sure you and your co-parent will be able to address concerns related to:

  • Educational decisions: You may need to determine which schools your children will attend and sign any necessary consent forms for educational evaluations or services. You can commit to attending parent-teacher conferences and responding to any issues that your children may encounter at school.

  • Medical decisions: It is important to discuss healthcare options with one another before making important medical choices for your children. If you need to address concerns about elective surgeries, long-term treatment plans, or other medical issues, you will want to make sure you are both fully informed about the available options. You can then work together to make the best decisions that will benefit your children.

  • Religious decisions: While you and the other parent may or may not agree about your children’s religious upbringing, you can agree to be respectful of each other’s beliefs, and you can participate in religious activities or practices along with your children in ways that you believe are appropriate.

  • Extracurricular activities: Ideally, both parents will be able to collaborate when making decisions regarding your children's participation in extracurricular activities such as sports, music lessons, or clubs. You may also agree to certain levels of involvement in different activities, such as serving as a coach, transporting children to events, or purchasing any necessary equipment.

A well-drafted parenting plan includes a roadmap for communication, dispute resolution methods, and guidelines for addressing future changes. You can resolve to be flexible and open-minded when making decisions together for the benefit of your child in the new year.

2. Make the Most of Parenting Time

The parenting time schedule created during a divorce or child custody case outlines when each parent will have physical custody of your children. It is crucial to establish a fair and balanced schedule that takes into account both parents' availability and the best interests of your children. A parenting time schedule should take factors such as work schedules, school activities, holidays, vacations, and special occasions into consideration.

You can resolve to make sure the time you spend with your children is positive, that you will be able to meet your ongoing needs, and that you will be able to build lasting relationships with them. Some tips for getting the most out of your parenting time include:

  • Be present: When you have parenting time, put aside distractions such as work emails or phone calls and focus solely on your children. Engage in activities that interest them and actively participate in their lives. They will appreciate having your undivided attention.

  • Show interest in their lives: Taking an active interest in what is happening in your child’s life goes beyond just asking how their day was. Attend their school events, parent-teacher conferences, sports games, or other activities they are involved in. Showing up demonstrates that you care about what matters to them.

  • Encourage a positive relationship with the other parent: A successful co-parenting relationship involves supporting your child's relationship with the other parent. Encourage your children to spend quality time with their other parent and speak positively about them in front of the children. This fosters a healthy and positive environment for their upbringing.

  • Be flexible: Flexibility is crucial when it comes to parenting time arrangements. Life events and emergencies happen, so be willing to accommodate schedule changes or requests from the other parent. Cooperation can go a long way in ensuring both parents get quality time with your children.

  • Create memories: Take advantage of your parenting time by creating lasting memories with your children. Plan activities that they enjoy, such as day trips, outings to amusement parks, picnics at the park, or special family traditions. These shared experiences will strengthen your bond and create cherished memories for years to come.

3. Work to Resolve Conflicts Amicably

Conflicts are inevitable in any co-parenting relationship, but resolving them amicably is essential for maintaining a healthy environment for your children. You can resolve to communicate respectfully with your ex-spouse about any issues that arise regarding child custody or visitation arrangements. If you encounter disputes that need to be addressed in family court, you may use a variety of dispute-resolution methods, including:

  • Mediation: As you work to resolve legal issues, you and the other parent may work together with a neutral third-party mediator to facilitate communication and reach agreements. The mediator can help you identify common ground, and they can facilitate productive discussions without taking sides. This can help you find solutions that will be agreeable for both of you, while also encouraging cooperation in the future.

  • Collaborative law: You and the other parent may agree to work together with your respective attorneys to resolve any outstanding legal issues related to your children. When you participate in the collaborative process, you will both commit to openly exchanging information and working together towards finding mutually beneficial solutions outside of court. This can encourage ongoing cooperation while ensuring that both of you can effectively communicate your needs and concerns.

  • Parenting coordinators: A parenting coordinator is an impartial professional appointed by the court or agreed upon by both parties to assist with resolving ongoing disputes related to parenting time or decision-making issues. They help facilitate communication, suggest possible resolutions, and make recommendations when necessary. They can provide guidance when communication difficulties persist or when decisions need prompt resolution during co-parenting disputes.

  • Court-appointed evaluators: In some cases, the court may appoint a mental health professional or an attorney known as a guardian ad litem to evaluate the situation and provide recommendations on matters related to your children's best interests. These professionals may conduct interviews, gather information, and offer opinions to assist the court in making decisions. Evaluators can provide an objective perspective based on their experience and training to help resolve conflicts if you and the other parent are unable to reach agreements on your own.

The methods you may use to resolve conflicts will depend on your unique circumstances and the types of disputes you encounter. Formal dispute resolution procedures may be necessary if you are working to complete the divorce process or need to make changes to your parenting plan, while less formal methods may be used if you need to address disagreements and determine how you can work together effectively as co-parents.

4. Address Children's Changing Needs

Your children will change as they grow, and it is important to adapt your parenting strategies accordingly. You and your ex may agree to make a resolution to keep each other informed about your children's developmental milestones and adjust your co-parenting approach to meet their evolving emotional, physical, and educational needs.

If you, the other parent, or your children experience significant changes in your circumstances, it may be necessary to modify your parenting plan. For example, if either parent’s work schedule has changed, you may need to make adjustments to the parenting time schedule. Adjustments may also address changes to your children’s schedules for school or activities. If you or the other parent plan to relocate to a new home, you may need to make changes to parental responsibilities, parenting time, or other aspects of your child custody agreement. 

Your attorney can help you understand what steps to take to modify your parenting plan. If you and the other parent can agree on these changes, you may be able to file your modified plan in court, and it will be approved by a judge as long as they decide that it protects your children’s best interests. However, if there are any disagreements about what changes may be necessary, your lawyer can help you advocate for modifications that will meet your family’s needs.

5. Work Together to Protect Your Children's Best Interests

Above all else, the best interests of your children should guide every decision you make as you share custody. You can resolve to prioritize your children's well-being over personal conflicts or disagreements with your ex-spouse or partner. Some effective strategies for doing so include:

  • Open communication: Maintain regular communication with your co-parent. Use systems like email or parenting apps to share important information about your children's well-being. Be respectful and prompt in responding to each other’s concerns.

  • Collaborative decision-making: Make an effort to discuss major decisions with one another before they are made. Consider each parent's opinions and perspectives while keeping your children's best interests at heart.

  • Foster consistency: Aim for consistency between households in terms of rules, discipline methods, schedules, expectations, and values. This will provide stability for your children.

  • Socialize peacefully: If possible, both parents can attend events with your children so that they can witness your ability to cooperate and get along despite any personal differences you may have had in the past.

Contact Our DuPage County Child Custody Lawyers

While you may resolve to protect your children’s best interests at all times in the coming year, situations may arise in which you may need to address child custody issues. At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, our Elmhurst child custody attorneys can provide the legal assistance you need in these cases. We can help you create or modify an effective parenting plan, working to protect your rights and ensure that you can provide for your children’s needs. Contact us today at 312-605-4041 to set up a consultation and learn how we can assist with your legal needs.

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