Don't Forget to Include These Key Issues in Your Co-Parenting Agreements
In Illinois, co-parenting plans govern how parents will continue to raise their children together after a divorce. They set out how time will be shared between the parents as well as rules for raising the children.
When preparing a co-parenting plan, it is common to focus on how time with the children will be split, such as which parent will get to spend certain holidays with the children. However, other important issues regarding how children will be raised can sometimes get overlooked. The following are a few key issues you should consider when developing your co-parenting plan, whether as part of a collaborative divorce or a contested divorce.
Keep Kids out of the Middle
It is not healthy for children to know the dirty details of a divorce, convey messages between parents, hear one parent disparage the other, or otherwise serve as middlemen. Parents can help reduce the negative psychological impact of divorce on children by keeping their children out of the divorce.
Ideally, both parents in an Illinois divorce will simply keep children out of the divorce because they are able to put their children's needs before their own. However, in reality, sometimes, one parent starts putting the children in the middle.
The co-parenting plan should include provisions that memorialize keeping children out of the middle so that there are enforcement options if one parent fails to do the right thing. For example, the co-parenting plan can prohibit the use of children as messengers, discussion of court proceedings, and negative comments about the other parent or their relationship with the other parent.
Contact with Other People
The co-parenting agreement can include provisions related to the level of contact children are allowed to have with certain third parties. There may be people that one parent associates with that the other parent does not want the children around or does not want them around without supervision. The co-parenting agreement can and should spell out the contact rules for these types of people.
Additionally, the agreement should address contact the children can have with new romantic relationships of each parent. For example, it could set a period of time before a parent can introduce the children to a new romantic interest or require the other parent's permission before the introduction.
Travel and Relocation
There are some default rules regarding travel and relocation with children under Illinois law. However, it is usually advisable to add more restrictions or detail to a parenting plan.
As far as travel, some questions to think about include: Is notice required before a parent can take the other children on vacation in the state? Out of state? To a foreign country? Are certain locations prohibited? Is the parent traveling with the children required to give the other parent notice of the itinerary?
As far as moves, must one parent give the other parent notice of all moves even if they are within Illinois? If so, this should be included in the co-parenting plan.
How Much Supervision
Most parents agree that supervision of children is important but may have different opinions on just how much supervision is needed. These views can range from “free range” parenting on one side of the spectrum to “helicopter” parenting on the other. Discussing these differences and reaching a consensus on supervision rules for children before they become an argument is key.
The supervision rules agreed to should then be incorporated into the co-parenting agreement. The supervision issues will change as children get older, and the co-parenting agreement should be updated accordingly. For example, a concern for younger children may be whether they can walk to the bus stop alone, while an issue for older children may be how late they are permitted to drive.
Electronic Device Usage
Electronic devices have become a part of our everyday lives, and children begin using them at younger and younger ages. They are often useful tools but can have detrimental effects when overused. How electronic devices may be used for staying in touch with the non-custodial parent and how children should be permitted to use them should be addressed in the co-parenting agreement. We discuss these issues in greater detail in Child Custody: Co-Parenting Issues with Electronic Devices.
Birt Law Can Help with Your Parenting Plan
At The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C., we offer personalized family law services using modern approaches like virtual legal services. If you are looking for a caring and knowledgeable DuPage County divorce attorney to help you create or modify your co-parenting plan, contact us today here or at (630) 891-2478.