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Lombard family law attorneyIf you are a parent who is in the midst of a divorce, you probably have many questions about the future. “Where will I live?” “Will I be able to make enough money?” “What will happen to my kids?” As you probably know, the laws regarding child custody have undergone substantial changes in the last few years. The changes were designed to reduce competitiveness and friction between divorcing or unmarried parents and to encourage cooperative parenting. But what if your former partner is uninterested in taking responsibility for your child? Or, what if it scares you to leave your children with him or her? Fortunately, it is still possible for you to seek an amended version of what used to be called “sole custody” of your child.

New Names for Legal Custody and Physical Custody

At the beginning of 2016, sweeping reforms to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) took effect. The updates largely eliminated the term “child custody” and replaced it with the more nebulous phrase “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Under the amended law, parental responsibilities are divided into two primary areas. “Significant decision-making authority” replaced the previous concept of legal custody, and “parenting time” replaced the old idea of physical custody. Sole and joint custody were two different types of legal custody arrangements as they were established to clarify which parent or parents had the responsibility to make important decisions about the child’s life.

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Lombard family law attorneysSince 2016, child custody has been formally known as the allocation of parental responsibilities in the state of Illinois. If you and your child’s other parent are involved in a dispute over how such responsibilities should be divided, you may have had several discussions with your child about the situation. In fact, your child may even very strong feelings about where he or she wants to live and how much time should be spent with each parent.

When you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement on your own, the court will be required to step in a make custody decisions for you. In doing so, the court will hear from both you and your former partner, but what about your child? Does he or she get the chance to be heard? The answer, in most cases, is yes, but the court is by no means obligated to give the child what he or she wants.

A Combination of Variables

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Lombard family law attorneyOn June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that states could no longer legally ban gay individuals from getting married. Since then, many same-sex couples have married, and some have chosen to start families of their own. Being a same-sex couple can bring up certain legal complications when children are involved, but fortunately, Illinois has measures in place to help potential parents obtain parental rights. One method some same-sex couples use to legally adopt a child into their family is second-parent adoption, also called co-parent adoption.

Second Parent Adoption Does Not Require Terminating Anyone’s Parental Rights

In most circumstances, when a person wishes to adopt a child, the child’s original parent or parents must terminate their parental rights. For example, when a woman places a baby up for adoption after giving birth, she signs documents which relinquish her rights to that child. A second-parent adoption is unique in that a parent can adopt a child without the child’s other parent losing their parental rights.

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Lombard divorce attorneyMost of us know at least one married couple who are living separately. In some situations, spouses may experiment with a “trial separation” while in others, they are living on their own as they prepare for a divorce. Living separately is a common precursor to divorce, but there are some things you should know about separating before you or your spouse moves out.

What the Law Says

Prior to 2016, the law in Illinois required a couple to live separate and apart for a minimum of six months before they could pursue a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. The standard requirement, in fact, was two years, but if the spouses agreed, the separation period could be reduced to six months. Today, a couple can only seek a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences in Illinois, but the separation requirement has been eliminated altogether. The law was changed in 2016 to allow couples to pursue a happier post-divorce future without having to simply watch the calendar for months. If the spouses do not agree on the divorce, however, a six-month separation period is considered by the court to be irrebuttable proof that the marriage has broken down beyond repair.

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Lombard family law attorneyIf you are a parent who is getting divorced or planning to, you are probably concerned about how you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will raise your children. If you plan on raising the kids together through a shared parenting scenario, you should know that there are some unique methods of co-parenting which have helped many families. These growing trends offer an alternative to traditional post-divorce living situations.

Nesting Arrangements

The majority of couples who get divorced end up living separately from each other. The most common living arrangement for parents who get divorced is for children to visit each parent at their home. Some experts find this arrangement to be especially burdensome on the children who are splitting their time between two homes. As an alternative, some parents are choosing to use what some call “the bird’s nest” strategy: The children live in one home and the parents take turns living there. For example, a parent may stay with the children one week in the “nest” home and then the other parent comes to stay with the children the following week. When the parents are not at the nest home, they are living in their own individual home. While many find this co-parenting strategy to be effective, it can also be quite expensive since it usually requires the couple to finance a third home for the children.

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Lombard family law attorneyThe term “parental alienation” refers to the process through which a person psychologically manipulates a child into having ill feelings toward their parent. This most often occurs when parents divorce or separate. Parental alienation is a form of psychological abuse and it can be devastating to both the child and his or her parents. There is even evidence to suggest that a child who has been manipulated in this way will have a higher chance of mental and physical illness. Parental alienation is inexcusable.

Why and How Does Parental Alienation Occur?

Parental alienation most often happens to children whose parents are separating or divorcing. Of course, it can also be an issue for children of parents who were never married to one another. When the parents are in conflict, they can start to bring their child or children into the conflict. A parent who is jealous or angry toward the other parent begins to encourage their child to take “their side.”

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DuPage County family law attorneysUnfaithfulness in a marriage is unfortunately common. In fact, surveys show that one or both spouses admit to cheating in one-third of marriages. Men admit to cheating at an average of 22 percent, while approximately 14 percent of women admit to cheating. As any couple who has dealt with infidelity knows, cheating can take a serious toll on a relationship or marriage. There is no surefire way to predict if a partner will cheat on their significant other, but new research has shed light on the reasons that some people cheat.

Researchers from Texas Tech University and the University of Nevada Reno studied the childhoods of adults that ended up cheating on their significant other. They defined cheating as “concealment of behaviors and the resulting emotional fallout” it causes. The researchers discovered that individuals who had parents who were unfaithful to each other were more likely to cheat on their partner as adults. According to the researchers, social learning theory accounts for this trend. Basically, children whose parents cheated on each other are more likely to cheat as adults. The research team found that people whose parents were unfaithful were more likely to accept the favorability of infidelity. This made them more likely to be unfaithful themselves in future relationships.

How Parents Talk to Kids About Cheating Matters

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Posted on in Domestic Violence

Lombard family law attorneyThe recent allegations of sexual harassment or rape against many influential individuals have put the issues of harassment and abuse in the spotlight more than ever before. Important people such as President Donald Trump, Senator Al Franken, actors Kevin Spacey and Sylvester Stallone, and film producer Harvey Weinstein have been accused of forcing unwanted sexual contact onto victims. These allegations sparked a fury of media attention and have encouraged more victims of sexual assault to report the crime against them. Time Magazine even dedicated their “Person of the Year” title to “the silence breakers”: those women and men who came out with their own stories of violence, intimidation or harassment. Much of the attention regarding assault and violence has centered around inappropriate sexual encounters between acquaintances or coworkers. Sadly, many men and women who are victims of abuse or assault are suffering at the hands of their own spouse or romantic partner. This type of abuse is called domestic violence, and it is just as serious as any other type of abuse.

Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence or relationship abuse, is defined as a pattern of behaviors used by one person to maintain power and control over their romantic partner. Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence. Such abuse does not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Often, women are assumed to be the only victims of domestic violence, but this is not true. Men can also be victims of abuse at the hands of their spouse and other family members. Perpetrators of domestic violence might:

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Lombard family law attorneysPeople do not stay in one place as often as they once did. With the global economy entirely interconnected and the job market in a seemingly constant state of flux, family moves are more common. However, so are divorces. In Illinois, the laws regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities—formerly called child custody—provide requirements that must be met before children can be moved a significant distance from their current home.

A Child’s “Home State”

For the purposes of parenting plans, a child must have a “home state.” This is the state in which a court would have jurisdiction to decide cases involving the child. Illinois is a child’s home state when (1) that child has lived in Illinois for six months (or since birth, if the child is not six months old yet), and (2) the child has no other home state, and/or the child (or their parent) has significant connections to the state. If a parent intends to move to another state and take their child with them, the child’s home state will change.

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Posted on in Child Support

Lombard family law attorneysUntil just a few months ago, Illinois courts calculated child support as a percentage of the income of the parent with fewer parental responsibilities—referred to in the past as the non-custodial parent. Since July 1, 2017, however, a new law has brought child support guidelines in Illinois up to date with modern trends and started improving the lives of all parties involved.

The Old Child Support Law

The previous law in Illinois has long been criticized for being inequitable, with not enough potential exemptions taken into account, and an alleged unfair burden on the non-custodial parent. Under the old guidelines, there were two primary factors in determining the amount of support to be paid: the income of the non-custodial parent and the number of children to be supported.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysIn the past, divorce proceedings were often heavily biased against wives, for a multitude of societal and anthropological reasons. Society has changed over time, as one might expect, but there are still very different issues that women face after a divorce than those affecting men. Women—especially older women—are often put in positions they are unfamiliar with and may require help in handling.

Financial Issues

One of the major issues that many women face, especially older women, is that financial concerns are often foreign territory. Especially in marriages among older people, finances are traditionally the responsibility of men, so women after divorce may find themselves at a disadvantage in handling their money. An experienced divorce attorney may be able to advise on how to keep your assets safe. For example, a living trust may be an effective way to keep your assets in a form that cannot be accessed by creditors.

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DuPage County family law attorneysIndividuals and couples who are interested in adopting children obviously are advised to take the time to familiarize themselves with the Illinois Adoption Act (IAA) However, there are other areas of law in which the IAA can provide valuable input. One of the most common is when a parent or couple’s parental rights are at issue, especially when deciding whether or not a parent or parents should keep their parental rights. The IAA can provide guidance on such issues.

The Concept of Unfitness

Normally, Illinois courts prefer that if one or both of a child’s birth parents is to lose their parental rights, there should be another person able to step into the parental role. The state works very diligently to ensure that children have two parents as often as possible. The one rare occasion in which this does not always happen is when a parent is declared unfit under the Adoption Act. In these unusual instances, it is deemed more important to remove a child from a potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes, however, even if a parent is found unfit, their parental rights will not be terminated unless someone else is willing to adopt the child.

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Lombard family law attorneyIn the overwhelming majority of cases, when your or your spouse’s parental rights are terminated, there is no getting them back. Normally, if parental rights are involuntarily taken away, it means that evidence of abuse or neglect has been discovered, after which it is considered too dangerous to allow the child to remain in your home. However, if there are other reasons for termination, such as a parent’s abrupt deportation, it may be possible to have the determination reversed, dependent on several different factors.

Illinois Law

Illinois is one of only a handful of states to even countenance the possibility of reinstatement of parental rights after their termination. The law holds that if filed by the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) or by the minor child themselves, parental rights may be reinstated if certain conditions are met, namely that the motion is supported by “clear and convincing evidence.” This is not subjective; it is a specific burden of proof that a court will insist upon before granting the motion.

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Lombard family law attorneyDomestic violence is one of the most common family issues in the United States today, unfortunately, and it has an especially pernicious effect on children. If a parent who has committed domestic violence is permitted to continue seeing his or her children, studies have shown that that child has a greater propensity to perpetuate violence in the future. The state of Illinois considers it a high priority to ensure that children are not exposed to such behavior, and as such, if your spouse has charges or convictions, you may be able to mount a serious challenge to their parental fitness.

Domestic Violence Defined

Illinois’ Domestic Violence Act (DVA) of 1986 defines domestic violence as abuse, both physical and otherwise, as well as “interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation.” It also makes a point of identifying a victim as any family or household member, rather than just a spouse. Thus, the law encompasses spouses, but also family members related by blood, people who are (or were) dating or living together, and co-parents of a child who are unmarried. So, for example, if the mother or father of your child abuses you, the DVA still applies in your case, whether you are married or not.

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Lombard family law attorneysPrenuptial agreements, or prenups, are becoming more common, as they acquire a solid reputation for safeguarding one’s interests and assets. However, they are not cure-alls for marriages. There are some things that simply cannot be addressed in a prenup. It can help avoid disagreements if your prenuptial agreement is crystal clear on what it disposes of and if you do not try to do too much with it.

DO: Distinguish Between Marital and Non-Marital Property

This is arguably the primary purpose of a prenuptial agreement. Illinois law lists it as the second right that couples have in the creation of such a document, and indeed, that is what most are used to accomplish. Dividing one’s property in a prenuptial agreement can save significant time and trouble in divorce court, which can provide a significant boost to post-marital relations.

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Lombard family law attorneySpousal support—also known as alimony or maintenance—is found to be appropriate in many divorce cases, and is usually paid to the spouse with lower income. The situation may change, however, when the paying spouse reaches retirement age. It can prevent confusion and lost time if you and your former spouse do your research before retirement becomes an issue.

A “Substantial Change in Circumstances?”

Depending on your situation, the paying party may seek to have their support responsibility reduced or even terminated upon retirement. However, it is not as easy as simply petitioning the court and expecting your request to be approved. As with other requests of this nature, you must be able to present evidence showing that your current support responsibility is unreasonable or excessive in light of the reality of your retirement and the resulting financial effects.

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Lombard family lawyerGenerally, Illinois courts do not have any interest in taking children away from their natural parents without immediate and pressing reasons to do so. However, when a parent’s fitness is called into question, obviously, due diligence must be performed lest children remain in harmful and dangerous situations. If you have been accused of being an unfit parent, it is important for you to understand what that means so you may best defend against it.

Statutory Criteria

Every state has its own definition of “unfit.” In Illinois, the guidelines can be found in the Illinois Adoption Act which sets out the criteria a judge may use to declare that a parent falls into that status. An unfit parent is defined in Illinois as someone who can objectively be found to not have the child or children’s best interests at heart. This can be shown by a lengthy list of considerations contained in the statute. Some of the more common concerns include abandonment, neglect, demonstrable cruelty toward the child, a lack of interest or responsibility, substance abuse, or addiction.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Lombard family law attorneyIn most divorce proceedings, parents are encouraged to develop a workable parenting plan that outlines each party’s rights and responsibilities regarding their children. A parenting plan specifies how significant decisions regarding the child’s life will be made as well as a parenting time schedule. Your parenting time—sometimes referred to as physical custody of a child—is more than a right or a privilege; it is a responsibility. If you fail to safeguard your child or you leave them alone for too long during your scheduled parenting time, you will be deemed to have abandoned them, and you could lose your parental rights as a result.

Physical Abandonment

Child abandonment is defined in Illinois as any time that someone having physical custody or control of a child under age 13 “knowingly leaves that child” without supervision, or in the supervision of someone “irresponsible” (or underaged) for 24 hours or more. It implies a negligent or reckless disregard for that child’s safety, and it is a criminal offense in Illinois, carrying a sentence that can vary between probation and three years in prison, plus a $25,000 fine. If the abandonment leads to the child being injured or otherwise harmed, the parent may lose parental rights.

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Lombard family law attorneyMost people are uncomfortable with confrontation to certain extent. While there are exceptions, you may have heard the phrase “going along to get along” used to describe the actions of a person looking to avoid a fight by placating someone else. This is a common trait among people with a so-called “easy going” personality. Going along to get along is a reasonable approach for most situations in life—deciding where to have dinner, for example, is not worth fighting about. When it comes to divorce, however, being afraid of making waves could leave you at a serious disadvantage, possibly for the rest of your life.  

Divorce Is Not Easy But It Is Worth the Effort

Nobody will try to tell you that a divorce is a simple undertaking. Just making a list of the issues that must be addressed can be overwhelming, not to mention actually addressing them. Despite the complications that may arise, the reality of a divorce is rather straightforward: if you do not advocate for yourself, nobody else will do it for you. If you think you are entitled to spousal support from your spouse, ask for it. If you want primary parental responsibilities regarding your children, develop your ideal parenting plan and present it to the court.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneyAnybody who says that his or her divorce was easy either is misremembering the situation or is not telling the whole truth. Virtually every divorce will have its share of challenges as the process represents not on the end of a relationship between two people but also the dissolution of the marital contract. Along the way, most people who go through a divorce experience a number of challenges and difficulties often accompanied by a great deal of stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to limit the negative feelings and to focus on a happier, healthier future.

Commit to Cooperate

As you and your spouse approach your impending divorce, you have two basic options. You could choose to dig in and fight over every element—including the division of property, parenting plans, and alimony—or you could try to work things out amicably. It is important to realize, however, that negotiated, amicable divorce does not just happen. Instead, it requires a commitment from both spouses and concerted effort throughout the process.

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