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Across the country, there is growing concern over the level to which a divorced or unmarried parent can impact his or her child’s view of the other parent. Despite mountains of research and constant encouragement toward cooperative parenting, the unfortunate reality is that many parents allow their own personal feelings toward their former partners to impact their children’s ability to maintain healthy relationships with them. Such negative influence is known as parental alienation and was the center of a recently published study that looked to understand how families are impacted by it and how it may be seriously addressed.
“Sweeping it Under the Rug”
Researchers Jennifer Jill Harman and Zeynep Biringen, both professors at Colorado State University, said they have been receiving messages and information from parents and families long before their parental alienation study actually began. After speaking with many affected parents, the two realized that there was a lack of scholarly research on the topic, and hoped that conducting a study would bring awareness to the problem.
Over the last few months, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding recent changes to the family law statutes in the state of Illinois. By this point, you may be aware that at-fault divorce has been eliminated, along with mandatory separation periods and the elimination of “heart balm” civil lawsuits. You may also have heard that the state’s approach to child custody has been dramatically changed as well, attempting to refocus such proceedings more intently on the child’s best interests.
Under the recently-amended Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, what was previously known as child custody has become the allocation of parental responsibilities. The update reflects a more fluid, cooperative method for determining the role each parent will play in his or her child’s life and upbringing. As part of the new process, the statute identifies two separate classifications of parental duties: significant decision-making responsibilities and caretaking functions.
If you have been divorced or separated from your child’s other parent for any real length of time, you are more than likely subject to a child custody agreement. You may share legal custody of your child through a joint custody arrangement, the details of which may be outlined in your joint parenting agreement. Alternatively, you may be the custodial or non-custodial parent in a sole custody situation, in which only one parent is granted primary legal authority over the child’s upbringing.
As time goes on and your family’s resources and needs change, the law permits you to seek a modification of your custody order so that you and the other parent can continue to provide for your child’s best interests. In the past, many such modifications were relatively minor, addressing concerns such as schooling, medical care or insurance, and each parent’s time with the child. Transforming an order from sole to joint custody or vice versa was a major undertaking, and one typically reserved for cases with the most significant changes in circumstances.
Changes for 2016
As part of the new approach to parenting and child-related concerns in Illinois, divorced, separated, or unmarried parents will be expected to actively participate in their child’s upbringing. While the expectation of active parenting is not necessarily a new concept, recent changes to the law require parents to become more engaged right from the beginning, even before determinations are made regarding their specific responsibilities.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
The entire notion of child custody, as it has been understood for many years, is being revamped beginning in January 2016. Labels and titles such as custodial and non-custodial parents, sole custody and joint custody are being eliminated in favor of more cooperative attitude toward parenting. The new take on child custody is meant to keep the focus of both parents on the child where it belongs, rather than on “winning” or “losing” a custody battle. Instead of assuming predetermined roles with small variations based on individual circumstances, parents will now be expected to develop a parenting plan that is entirely customized to meet the needs of their own family.
Over the last few months, Illinois has been preparing for a new era of family law that is set to begin on January 1, 2016. Thanks to a sweeping reform measure that was passed by the state legislature in the spring and signed by Governor Bruce Rauner this past summer, major changes are coming to the state’s approach to divorce, child custody, and other family-related concerns. A few weeks ago, a post on this blog talked about the law’s effect on existing statutes regarding moving with a child out of state while subject to custody order. The new law provides more restrictive limitations for moving, even within the state, and also offers specific criteria to be considered by the court when a parental relocation petition is under review.
Parental Relocation Defined
The new law defines a parental relocation as a move that constitutes a significant change in circumstances for the purposes of modifying an order child custody (parental responsibility arrangements, per the new law) and visitation (parenting time). To eliminate objective arguments over substantial change, parental relocations are also determined by the distance of the intended move. Specifically, a parental relocation is a move by parent with primary residential parenting responsibilities from: