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More and more research is continuing to confirm what some experts have been saying for decades: Children need both parents in their lives to be happy, healthy and successful. For many years, it was assumed that children of divorced parents would live primarily with their mother. Fathers, by comparison, often had only limited time with their children and were not considered an equal part of the parenting process. While society is moving toward healthier attitudes regarding child custody—known as the allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois—there is still room for improvement.
Joint physical custody is considered by many to be the best custodial arrangement for children who have two responsible, capable parents. Psychologist Richard A. Warshak says that the research is clear, “Children who spend at least 35 percent [of the] time with each parent, rather than live with one and visit the other, have better relationships with their fathers and mothers and do better academically, socially, and psychologically.” Children with two present parents are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol and have fewer instances of stress-related illnesses, anxiety, and depression.
How to Co-Parent Effectively
When you share parenting time of your child with your ex-spouse, your ability to control what the other parent does with his or her time is limited. Unless the child is being placed in danger, your former partner is essentially free to parent as he or she sees fit. For the most part, as long as your child is happy and safe, you are probably able to accept this particular aspect of post-divorce co-parenting. However, what about the times when the other parent needs to hire a babysitter or make other childcare arrangements during his or her parenting time? Do you have any say in the matter? Depending upon the terms of your parenting plan or parental responsibilities order, you may, in fact, have certain rights.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that divorced, separated, or unmarried parents may include the right of first refusal in their parenting agreement. As such, it important to understand what that right entails. According to the law, the right of first refusal means that if a parent intends to leave his or her child with a “substitute child-care provider for a significant period of time,” the parent must first offer the other parent the opportunity to care for the child. In other words, if the right of first refusal is included in your agreement and you need a sitter for a significant period of time, you must first ask the other parent if he or she wants to care for your child.