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Helpful Actions for Children While Going Through a Divorce

Each year, thousands of US children face the extreme stress associated with divorce. Parents should provide their children with understanding and support with patience, reassurance, and a listening ear as your children learn to cope with unfamiliar circumstances.

Going through the process of divorce is a challenging life transition for both parents and children. Many times the initial reaction is one of shock, sadness, frustration, anger, or worry. But kids also can come out of it better able to cope with stress, and many become more flexible, tolerant young adults. While you can’t make your child’s hurt go away, you can help them cope with the various disappointments divorce brings. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind.

Breaking the News

When it comes to telling your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up. Of course how you tell your children is a very personal choice, but try to make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing what you’re going to say before you sit down to talk.

Because children often assume that they are somehow to blame, begin by letting them know what happened is definitely not their fault and they are loved by both parents – and that will never change. If possible, try to break the news together with your ex partner. By demonstrating solidarity and maturity, you will help paint a picture of a drama-free future as their minds race to “what now?”.

The discussion should fit the child’s age, maturity, and temperament; with younger children try to keep things simple, older teens will be more in tune with what you, as parents, have been going through, so more details will be beneficial.

Avoid the Blame Game

It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. Confining negativity and blame to private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside the home will help children feel less “torn” between parents, therefore creating less stress on them.

If you and your ex can’t agree on matters like parenting time or allocation of parental responsibilities, save this information for your family law attorney as you navigate these new waters. Your message to the kids should be united, reassuring, and free of bickering and blame.

Expect the Unexpected

While many children will be confused, hurt, saddened and shocked, many also don’t react right away when faced with the news their parents are splitting. Sometimes it’s simply because they are overwhelmed and don’t know how to process the information, while others don’t want to upset their parents by acting as if everything is fine, or try to avoid any difficult feelings by denying that they feel any anger or sadness at the news. Let them know that that is OK, too and that they can talk when they are ready.

Whether your kids express fear, worry, or relief about your separation and divorce, they’ll want to know how their own day-to-day lives might change.

Be prepared to answer these possible questions:

  • Who will I live with?
  • Will I go to the same school?
  • Where will each parent live?
  • Where will we spend holidays?
  • Will I still get to see my friends?
  • Can I still do my favorite activities?

Being honest is not always easy when you don’t have all the answers or when children are feeling scared. But telling them what they need to know at that moment is always the right thing to do.

Helping Children Cope

Like any big life change, many children experience grief when parents are divorcing. Mourning for the family unit they once had is normal, but over time, you and your children need to work through the grieving process and accept and adapt to the new situation.

Here are some ways to help kids cope with the upset of a divorce, according to KidsHealth.org:

  • Encourage honesty. Kids need to know that their feelings are important to their parents and that they’ll be taken seriously.
  • Help them put their feelings into words. Kids’ behavior can often clue you in to their feelings of sadness or anger. You might say: “It seems as if you’re feeling sad right now. Do you know what’s making you feel so sad?” Be a good listener, even if it’s difficult for you to hear what they have to say.
  • Legitimize their feelings. Saying “I know you feel sad now” or “I know it feels lonely without dad here” lets kids know that their feelings are valid. It’s important to encourage kids to get it all out before you start offering ways to make it better. Let kids know it’s also OK to feel happy or relieved or excited about the future.
  • Offer support. Ask, “What do you think will help you feel better?” They might not be able to name something, but you can suggest a few ideas — maybe just to sit together, take a walk, or hold a favorite stuffed animal. Younger kids might especially appreciate an offer to call daddy on the phone or to make a picture to give to mommy when she comes at the end of the day.
  • Keep yourself healthy. For adults, separation and divorce is highly stressful. That pressure may be amplified by custody, property, and financial issues, which can bring out the worst in people. Finding ways to manage your own stress is essential for you and your entire family. Keeping yourself as physically and emotionally healthy as possible can help combat the effects of stress, and by making sure you’re taking care of your own needs, you can ensure that you’ll be in the best possible shape to take care of your kids.
  • Keep the details in check. Take care to ensure privacy when discussing the details of the divorce with friends, family, or your lawyer. Try to keep your interactions with your ex as civil as possible, especially when you’re interacting in front of the kids. Take the high road — don’t resort to blaming or name-calling within earshot of your kids, no matter what the circumstances of the separation. This is especially important in an “at fault” divorce where there have been especially hurtful events, like infidelity. Take care to keep letters, e-mails, and text messages in a secure location as kids will be naturally curious if there is a high-conflict situation going on at home.
  • Get help. This is not the time to go it alone. Find a support group, talk to others who have gone through this, use online resources, or ask your doctor or religious leaders to refer you to other resources. Getting help yourself sets a good example for your kids on how to make a healthy adjustment to this major change.

The process of explaining the issue and giving suggestions to your children will help them see divorce in a better perspective.

Adjusting to a New Life

While it’s good for kids to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new circumstances at once can be very difficult. Help your kids adjust to change by providing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives.

It’s crucial that you and your ex create a schedule that lessens the likelihood that your child will experience divided loyalties because they may feel like they have to choose sides. When both parents work together to determine schools, activities, social calendars and all the other aspects of the child’s life, it fosters a cohesive daily experience for the child, no matter whose house they are at on a given day.

At the end of the day, children are the most important assets a married couple can own. When children are confident of the love of both of their parents, they have an easier time adjusting to co-parenting after divorce.

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Masters Law Group – Experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

Divorce certainly has the potential to change the lives of parents and children, and while it is a difficult process, help and support is available.

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation for everyone involved. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients assurance and well being in mind. Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

Divorce cases involving children require specialized knowledge.  The attorneys at Masters Law Group are highly experienced in the following legal areas associated with separating parents:

Don’t go it alone. Schedule a Consultation with us here today to speak about your family law case.

Illinois Child Custody Basics: Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Legally speaking, the term “child custody” is now called “parental responsibilities“. This includes parenting time and decision-making power. If you live in Illinois and are engaged in a custody battle for your child, you should know the basic rules and be able identify specific factors that courts consider in making custody decisions.

In a divorce proceeding, determining who will have residential custody of a child can be the most emotionally difficult part of the entire process. If you are a parent who is considering ending your marriage, you probably have concerns about how you and your ex-spouse will share responsibility of your child/children. Some couples are able to come to a custody agreement between themselves, however for many, couples require legal and court intervention.

FACTS ABOUT ALLOCATION OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES AND GUARDIANSHIP

There are three basic types of child allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois — joint allocation of parental responsibilities, sole allocation of parental responsibilities and shared allocation of parental responsibilities:

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities requires parents to cooperate in decision-making regarding education, health care and religious instruction. It does not mean that the children live with each parent for an equal amount of time. The parties will agree or the court will assign a residential parent. The non-residential parent will pay child support and exercise parenting time. The amount of time the children spends with the non-residential parent is addressed in a parenting time agreement or order.

Sole allocation of parental responsibilities is the term that describes the arrangement that gives one parent the responsibility for deciding everything related to the child’s welfare. It does not mean that the other parent is out of the picture. Parenting Time and parenting time can be the same in a sole allocation of parental responsibilities case as it is in a joint allocation of parental responsibilities case.

Shared allocation of parental responsibilities is a form of joint allocation of parental responsibilities. It is appropriate when the child spends equal time with each parent, the parents reside in the same school district and are able to joint parent.

ILLINOIS-SPECIFIC LAWS

Illinois law encourages the “maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents regarding the physical, mental, moral, and emotional wellbeing of their child.” However, if the parents appear unable to agree on decisions about the major aspects of a child’s upbringing, the court is must decide how to allocate each of these responsibilities.

Illinois allocation of parental responsibility laws stipulate that children 14 and older may choose which parent to live with, but the judge may overrule this decision if he or she determines the child’s decision is not in his or her best interests. A parenting plan generally recognizes the following:

  • The continuity of the parent-child relationship typically is in the child’s best interest.
  • The needs of children change and grow as they mature.
  • Custodial parents make daily decisions (including emergencies) while child is with that particular parent.
  • Both parents are to have access to a child’s official records

Parenting responsibility plans also identify how children spend birthdays and other holidays (plus iron out details such as transportation arrangements, when supervision is required and other considerations.)

The newest changes made to Illinois child custody law were made back in 2016.  Highlights of those changes include:

  • As mentioned above, “custody” and “visitation” have been replaced with “allocation of parenting time and responsibilities” to describe when each parent is responsible for the child and what those responsibilities entail during that time.
  • The terms “joint decision-making” and “sole decision-making” have been added to describe whether one or both parents must make decisions about education, religion, medical care and extra-curricular activities.
  • A court order is required for the custodial parent to move more than 25 miles from their current location if they live in the Chicago metropolitan area.  If the residence is outside of the metropolitan area, a court order is required for a move greater than 50 miles.

GETTING STARTED

Beginning the allocation of parental responsibilities process can vary from county to county, but in general, this the steps to follow include:

  1. Familiarize yourself with your county’s rules. Consider seeking legal representation.
  2. File a petition. The petition may be submitted independently or as part of a divorce, separation, order of protection or parentage case. You must file all forms electronically, unless you have been granted an exemption.
  3. Notify the other parent you are asking for a certain amount of parental responsibilities. To do this, you must serve them a “summons” along with the filed petition. The server may be a sheriff’s deputy, a private process server, a private investigator or — with permission from the court — an adult with no relation to the case.
  4. Wait to hear from the other parent. The other parent has 30 days to respond.  If the parent does not respond, ask the court for a default judgment.
  5. File a parenting plan. Each parent has 120 days from the initial filing to submit a proposed parenting plan. These plans help the judge make custody decisions.

Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. We help clients put aside their grief and educate them about their options in child allocation of parental responsibilities.

If you are in the midst of a dispute regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities, contact our experienced attorneys here today.

5 Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

While Illinois has no law requiring you hire a family law attorney in a family law case, there are good reasons why working with an experienced professional is in your best interest. 

Divorce, divorce mediation, child custody, parental responsibilities, domestic abuse. These (and more) are all daunting cases for any individual having to face them, especially because these sensitive subjects of law involves loved ones. To manage emotions and avoid a complicated legal process, hiring an experienced family law attorney could be extremely advantageous.

Here are five reasons to work with a legal professional in your Illinois family law case.

Objectivity

As an “outsider”, a family law attorney can be much more objective about your case than yourself, and/or family and friends. Especially when experiencing a highly complex issue and emotions are running high. Having a family law attorney in your corner means that you have a professional who can offer objective, fact- and experience-based advice regarding your divorce. A family law attorney can help you avoid going for a quick resolution that leaves you at a long-term financial or parenting disadvantage.

Legal Protection

From bullying-tactics, “I’m taking everything from you.” to unlawful threats “You’ll never see the kids again.” – It’s hard for anyone to know the legalities behind battling a family law case when they’re experiencing it for the first time. An experienced attorney however, is well aware of the law and experienced in outcomes of similar cases.

In addition, for cases involving domestic abuse, you can have an attorney help you observe the precautions you need to follow to keep you and your children safe, such as orders of protection.

Family Law and Legal Proceedings Knowledge

There’s a lot of red tape and substantial paperwork when it comes to family law proceedings. And that’s before it goes to trial. This alone can be especially overwhelming if you’re trying to go it alone. If you haven’t prepared the correct paperwork, the judge could exclude any – or all – of the paper work presented to him/her. By hiring a family law attorney, you can rest assured the correct paperwork is submitted at the correct time. Consequently, you will not have to sweat about your case being thrown out as early as possible.

Court Experience

If a trial becomes necessary, a family law attorney can avidly represent you in court and work toward achieving the best possible jury verdict in your favor. Experienced attorneys can make sure that their client is prepared for everything that is going to happen when they enter the room, and will know exactly how to handle any particular situation that arises during the pendency of a family law case. This will keep the judge happy and the proceedings running smoothly and efficiently.

Peace of Mind

Ultimately, one of the best benefits of hiring a family law attorney to represent your interests in a case is the fact that you will be able to trust your legal issues are being duly dealt with. Whenever you have an issue or a family matter that requires legal representation, it’s essential to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced professional.

Legal issues around family law are incredibly emotional and time consuming, and your attorney will take a great deal of stress off your plate. Your attorney will also provide peace of mind by reassuring you that your case is in experienced, capable hands.

Family Law with Masters Law Group

If you are facing a family law issue, contact the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group. Located in Chicago, Illinois, the firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and related family matters.

We offer a wide range of services tailored to our clients’ unique legal needs. Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to view our practice areas. And click here to set up a consultation today.

Illinois Super Lawyers Recognize Masters Law Group Attorneys

Masters Law Group is proud to announce the firm’s Attorneys named by Super Lawyers in  both ‘Rising Stars’ and ‘Super Lawyer’ categories. 

Masters Law Group attorneys Erin Masters was named Super Lawyer list by Illinois Super Lawyers Magazine in 2020 and now 2021. Additionally, the firm’s Illinois-based attorney, Anthony Joseph was also granted the 2020 Illinois Rising Stars list as well.

The Super Lawyers designation, conferred upon the most respected legal practitioners in the state, is based upon peer recognition and professional achievement. No more than five percent of the lawyers in each state are selected by the research team to receive this honor. Rising Stars are those up-and-coming attorneys who are 40 years of age or younger and have practiced law for 10 years or less. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team to receive this honor.

About Erin Masters

Erin E. Masters is the principal of Masters Law Group, located in Chicago, Illinois. The firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and Hague Convention/ international child abduction matters.

Ms. Masters earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, where she attended on a merit based scholarship, was a member of the Athlete Honor Roll, a participant of the NCAA Division II Track and Field Team and graduated in three (3) years with Provost’s Honors.

Ms. Masters received her Juris Doctorate and Certificate in Child and Family Law from Loyola University of Chicago, School of Law, in May of 2004. She was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2004 and to the General Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2005 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020. Ms. Masters was admitted to the United States Supreme Court in March 2009.

In addition to representing clients, Ms. Masters is also a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Further, she has also been appointed by the Circuit Court of Cook County to mediate complex family law cases. Since 2016, Ms. Masters has been named “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers and has been named as an “Emerging Lawyer” by Leading Lawyers.

About Anthony Joseph

Anthony G. Joseph is an attorney at the firm of Masters Law Group, LLC. Mr. Joseph received his B.A. degree in Global Economic Relations from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

He obtained both his J.D. degree and Certificate in Trial Advocacy from The John Marshall Law School. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2010, the Federal General Bar and Trial Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2012 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020.

Mr. Joseph is an active trial lawyer. Mr. Joseph publishes in the area of civil litigation. Mr. Joseph has also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University. Mr. Joseph is “AV” Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review, which is the highest peer review rating available and has been named a “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers in both 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Mr. Joseph concentrates his practice in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities and child support. Mr. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time as well as prosecuted and defended Orders of Protection. Ms. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support,. Mr. Joseph has also litigated cases in both state court and multiple United States Federal Courts involving The Hague Convention and international child abduction issues.

About Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

According to Super Lawyers, the “Rising Stars” and “Super Lawyers” selection process is a comprehensive, good-faith, and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers who have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards, and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their field.

Selection Process

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.

For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Contact Masters Law Group

Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Schedule a consultation here to speak with an attorney regarding your family law matter today.

Q&A: Child Support During COVID-19.

The current global pandemic has caused devastating blows to both public health and the financial security of millions of Americans. For parents who have court orders to pay child support, the financial outlook may be especially bleak.  Read more

Child Custody During COVID-19 and The Holidays

Dealing with child custody issues is stressful enough. Dealing with child custody issues during the COVID holidays poses an entirely complicated dilemma. Here’s how keep the magic alive for your children and ensure that the 2020 holidays are your best yet.

Shared custody is raising COVID-19 concerns as kids travel between households for the holidays this year. Millions of children split their time between parents every week and even more so during the holidays, but concerns over pandemic safety can make that time even more stressful.

Parents are facing unforeseen issues this year such as:

  • The child having to travel to another part of the state, or another state altogether, to visit their parent
  • One parent living in a COVID-19 hotspot
  • One parent had COVID-19 or is currently experiencing symptoms
  • One parent is not being careful about COVID-19 and could be putting the child in danger
  • One parent does not feel the virus is a true health threat
  • One parent is immunocompromised and in isolation
  • There may be a second wave and more shelter-in-place orders

These new and complex issues may be even more difficult if the courts backed up with cases because of the nationwide lockdowns this past year.

If you’re concerned about COVID-19 and your child’s holiday visitation schedule, then there are steps you can take to work it out with your co-parent, and then go directly to the court to ensure it is legally binding.

Parenting Time COVID Rules

Unless your specific court order prevents out-of-state travel or has other restrictions, then generally speaking, each parent may choose to travel during the holidays even during the pandemic, whether or not the other parent agrees. However, violating state travel laws, CDC and state quarantine guidelines and court-ordered visitation arrangements can potentially affect a custody case. Furthermore, personal issues may also arise when one parent feels safe with airline travel or interstate travel and the other parent prefers to stay at home and self-isolate.

First and foremost, if you chose to travel with your children during the holidays, check in advance for any quarantine restrictions. Following state-imposed guidelines while traveling and attending events during the holidays will help minimize or reduce any potential impact to your custody arrangement.

In Illinois, the Department of Public Health (IDPH) is offering recommendations on how to celebrate safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.  During a time when social distancing and limiting the number of people at gatherings is important, special considerations should be taken.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “While the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually, we know, for many, the holidays are all about family and friends, so we want to provide some tips on how to celebrate safer.”

The guidelines also say if you are hosting a holiday gathering, limit the number of guests and try to have as many activities outside as weather permits.

What this Means for Separated Parents

This is going to be a long winter for our country, businesses, schools, and families — no doubt. It will take a child-focused, selfless perspective by countless co-parents this holiday season in how to best approach visitation and traditions with families and children.

First and foremost, you must remember that child custody agreements in Illinois, and in every other state, are legally binding. As long as a parent is following these state guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions, most judges will not alter custody orders to prevent one parent from traveling with the children.

While it’s tempting to want to ask that you have your children for the entire holiday season, you should not be angry or upset with your ex-partner if you are denied this due to the schedule set by the court. This year, it is highly suggested that people who live together celebrate together, rather than mixing households. Consider hosting a virtual holiday get together or check in with your kids and mailing your gifts instead. We know it hurts to not be able to visit your children for the holidays, but if it means risking your own life to do so, it’s worthwhile to heavily consider the alternatives.

If you believe a holiday visitation or celebration could place your child and your family at a heightened risk for COVID-19, you should communicate this fact to the other parent and/or your attorney. Offer some safer options and attempt to be as flexible and compassionate as possible. Always try to set emotion aside and as parents, choose what is best for your children and your family as a whole.

Final Thoughts

This is going to be a long winter for our country, businesses, schools, and families — no doubt. It will take a child-focused, selfless perspective by countless co-parents this holiday season in how to best approach visitation and traditions with families and children. Most of all, keep in mind who the holidays are the most special for: your children.

If you need legal assistance to modify a child custody or parenting time agreement to reflect new choices that better keep your family safe, contact the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group. We represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule.