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Lombard family law attorneyAmerica is a nation built on second chances. Consider, for a moment, the number of high-profile incidents or embarrassments involving celebrities or public figures, and how many have gone on to even greater success and fame afterward. For many, love and marriage is not terribly different. Despite a failed first marriage, more couples than ever are willing to walk down the aisle again in the hopes of finding the permanent happiness that has, so far, eluded them. Remarriage, however, can be extremely challenging, as many couples beginning second or third marriages are bringing with them children from previous relationships. Finding the right balance between parent and friend is often difficult for new stepparents, but there are some things you should keep in mind to make the transition a little more comfortable for everyone involved.

Be Prepared

As you fell in love with your new spouse, you knew that he or she already had children. Thus, the process of becoming a healthy blended family probably began long before thoughts of marriage ever crossed your mind. During the dating process, it can be very easy to try to ignore your partner’s children and the potential impact on your relationship, but doing so is not very conducive to a future together. It is important, however, to start slow and not to impose yourself on an existing family dynamic in such a way that will be overly upsetting. Understand that you will probably feel like something of an outsider for a little while, because, in reality, that is just what you are. Over time, though, you will probably feel more included and more a part of the family than you ever thought possible.

Be Respectful

Whether you have children of your own or not, you need to keep in mind that every stepparent’s relationship with their stepchildren is different, and may even vary from child to child. For example, your spouse’s older child may have taken to you immediately, becoming affectionate and loving without much effort, while a younger child may be more stand-offish and need additional time to adjust. Neither reaction is necessarily right or wrong, but as long as it is honest, you should be understanding and respectful. If a child wants space, allow him or her to have it; if he or she wants love and support from you, offer it. A long-term future together can only be realistic if everyone remains open and truthful about their comfort and feelings.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_court-gavel-judge-jurisdiction.jpgThe application and enforcement of the law can be very complex in many situations. This can be especially true in cases related to allocated parental responsibilities—formerly child custody—and parenting time, or visitation. One of the fundamental principles of law is the concept of jurisdiction, which refers to the authority that a particular county, state, or federal court system maintains over the parties and the subject matter of the case in question. Only a court with appropriate jurisdiction can make decisions and enter orders in accordance with applicable statutes.

In some situations, jurisdiction may be fairly straightforward. For example, if you live in DuPage County, and were injured in an accident near your home caused by another resident of DuPage County, you probably realize that the DuPage County circuit court has jurisdiction over your case, and your claim should be made there. In other cases, however, jurisdiction may not seem quite so clear, at least to the average citizen. One such example can be found in the area of family law. If your parenting plan and parental responsibilities orders were entered in Illinois, and you decide to move out of state, which state has continuing jurisdiction over your family’s case?  Fortunately, there are laws in place to address this exact scenario.

Relocation and Substantial Change in Circumstances

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Lombard family law attorneyAs a divorced parent, you have probably had to work through a number of difficult discussions with your child. You may have been the one to break the news of your divorce to him or her and, in the time since, you may have answered dozens—if not hundreds—of questions about the future. Now, as you consider getting remarried, you will need to address difficult topics with your child once again.

Every Family Is Different

Your approach to talking with your child about remarriage will depend on a number of factors, including how long it has been since your divorce, the role of the other parent in the child’s life, and your child’s age and maturity. The relationship between your child and your new partner is also a major consideration. For example, if your child was very young at the time of your divorce and has come to see your new partner as a member of the family already, the conversation may much easier in many regards. By contrast, if you only recently got divorced and your child is extremely close with your ex-spouse, your child may not be prepared to accept a new stepparent so willingly just yet.

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Lombard fathers rights attorneysMany studies have shown that children do best with both parents in their life. Of course, this is not true for situations involving abuse or domestic violence, but generally, removing one parent from a child’s life is damaging to the well-being of that child. Fortunately, many parents who get divorced or who never marry are able to work out a shared parenting arrangement which includes both parents as full participants in their children’s’ lives. Unfortunately, a new study shows that Illinois fathers are at the bottom of the list when it comes to how much time they spend with their children.

Study Analyzes Shared Parenting Schedules Across the Country

The study, which was piloted by a software company that makes apps for divorced and separated parents, involved a compilation of data regarding the most common parenting time arrangements in each of the fifty states. Through a survey of legal professionals and judicial standards across the country, the researchers were able to calculate the average amount of time parents spend with their children. The study only included cases in which both parents wanted custody of their children, and there were no extenuating circumstances, such as long-distance separation or criminal convictions.

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Lombard family law attorneyToday, families in the United States come in all varieties. More single parents and unmarried parents are raising children than in the past. Same-sex couples are also raising more children than they did twenty years ago. Families are often blended, with children from several relationships living together under one roof. Grandparents are also increasingly taking the place of biological parents in children’s lives. 

Voluntary Relinquishment

There are several ways that grandparents can get custody of their grandchildren. The first way is through petitioning the court for custody of the grandchildren. Both parents of the child must voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to the child unless there is another issue like abuse. Parents may give up the rights to their children for many deeply personal reasons. Sometimes addiction issues or mental health concerns make a parent unable to raise their child. Other times, very young parents relinquish their parental rights so that a grandparent or grandparents can adopt the child.

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Lombard family law attorneysThe Chicago Tribune recently published a story about child abuse that is so extreme, it is stomach-turning. A couple in southern California was found to have been keeping their thirteen children secluded in their home under horrific conditions. The siblings were found by police to be extremely malnourished and thin. Their skin was pale and looked as though the children had spent little time outside.

A “Private School”

The diminutive stature of the children led investigators to believe they were all under age 18 at first. Investigators were shocked to find that the children ranged in ages from 2 to 29. The religious parents of the 13 victims were holding the children prison in their own home. They called their home a private school and their children its pupils. The father was the principal of the school. Because no state agency regulates private schools in California, the state did not realize the atrocities that were happening inside the home.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneysSubstance abuse and addiction problems have touched most people’s lives one way or another. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.5 million teens and adults fought a substance use disorder in the United States in 2014. If you have ever been close to someone struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you know that the addiction can become all-consuming. Addicts can end up losing their jobs, resort to criminal activity, and be estranged from those who love them. Others with addiction issues seek professional help and are able to overcome the dependence. If you are married to someone with substance abuse issues, you know the toll those issues can take on the family.

Sometimes, a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol becomes a danger to themselves or those in his or her household. How much should a spouse tolerate before they end the marriage? Every relationship is different and only the people in it know what is right for them. However, if you are married to an addict, there are a few things worth keeping in mind.

Is Your Partner Willing to Get Help?

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Lombard family law attorneysMany have said that being a parent is the hardest job in the world. It is nearly impossible to know how to respond to every challenge parenthood throws at you—especially when you are co-parenting your children with an ex-spouse. You may be unsure of how to work with your former partner in creating the best life possible for your children.

Problems at school present a variety of issues for many parents. Some children go through phases where they are getting in trouble or letting their grades drop, How should divorced parents deal with school issues such as these? There is unfortunately no owner’s manual for children and no one-size-fits-all way to raise them. However, following a few simple pieces of advice can help you and your ex-spouse come together to do what is best for your children.

Be Honest and Transparent With the Other Parent

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Lombard family lawyersIt is almost too easy to send a text message on your cell phone. It takes only a few moments to type out a quick hello or make plans with friends and family. More than six billion messages are exchanged every day in the United States—that is over 2.2 trillion each year! Unfortunately, the ease of sending a text message can sometimes get people into trouble, as they may send a message without thinking or in the heat of a moment. This can cause problems for those involved in legal proceedings such as a divorce or child custody battle.

Text Messages Last Forever

An individual who is going through a divorce or other matter of family law may experience a wide range of emotions. He or she may feel betrayed, spiteful, confused, and upset. Often, there is animosity and tension between spouses who have decided to end their marriage. Divorce is an especially emotional process, and there may be many things left unsaid between two former romantic partners who have called it quits. There may also be things that are said but that should have been left unsaid. This is when the ease of pulling a cell phone from a pocket and quickly sending a nasty text message can cause problems.

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Lombard family law attorneyIn Illinois, parenting time is established by your divorce decree or a stand-alone custody order and is not to be interfered with out of any misplaced belief that you are entitled to do so. What people do not understand, however, is that in many situations, attempting to interfere or interfering with your former spouse’s designated parenting time may actually render you liable for civil damages, and it may adversely affect your existing parenting situation. You must understand what constitutes interference and what does not.

Civil vs. Criminal Action

While interference with visitation is not uncommon, it rarely becomes a persistent problem because there are multiple remedies of both civil and criminal varieties that can be employed against the offending spouse. The Illinois Criminal Code classifies interference with parenting time as a petty offense, but if it occurs more than twice in the same circumstances, it is a class A misdemeanor. This may not sound like much of a punishment, but even a misdemeanor incurs fines, court appearances, other inconveniences that may cause a person to think twice about acting in such a fashion again. It may be difficult to convince prosecutors to file charges for such an offense, but the option exists in the law.

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard family law attorneysWith the recent change in administration, many LGBTQ parents and family members have expressed concern over the possibility of modifications to current statutes and legal precedents that may affect them and their families adversely. Though many believe such fears unfounded, it is never a bad idea to double-check that all relevant legal documents, including adoption or birth certificates, marriage licenses, and travel documents are in order.

Marriages and Estate Planning

Perhaps the primary concern of many LGBTQ families is the issue of marriage equality. While a Supreme Court decision usually settles a matter, at least for some time, the new administration has given indications that it would like to see 2015’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges overturned. While a president cannot unilaterally overturn a Supreme Court decision, he may, in theory, appoint justices who can, and this causes real concern for many. President Trump’s appointment of Justice of Neil Gorsuch seemed to validate this concern among pundits and skeptics.

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Posted on in Domestic Violence

Lombard family law attorneysIf you have spent any time on the social media platform Twitter recently, you may be familiar with the hashtag “Maybe He Doesn’t Hit You.” The provocative message seeks to raise awareness about domestic violence—specifically psychological abuse.

Hidden Dangers

Psychological or emotional abuse often does not garner as much attention as physical abuse does. Physical abuse is often easier to spot because the victim may have visible bruises and scars or may need medical attention. Unfortunately, emotional abuse can go unnoticed by others until it becomes extreme. Even worse, many victims might not even realize that they are in an abusive relationship. People who have been victimized in the past or grew up with abusive or neglectful parents may consider certain abusive behavior to be normal. Victims of abuse may believe they deserve this damaging treatment because they are unworthy of more compassionate behavior. By sharing their stories of triumph over psychological abuse, men and women are taking the stigma out of discussing this form of domestic violence. The hashtag—a character used to track trending topics on social media—has been used in posts to share some gut-wrenching examples of psychological abuse, including:

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Lombard family law attorneyToday, many households are dual-income households in which both spouses work. For the well-being of the couple’s children, however, it can sometimes be beneficial for one spouse to embrace the role of a stay-at-home parent. In these cases, having a postnuptial agreement can help clarify each spouse’s responsibilities in case of a future divorce. Before one spouse agrees to take taking extend time away from his or her career, all the potential repercussions should be discussed.

Children Can Change a Couple’s Career Dynamics

Introducing children into a marriage means change, and some families decide that it would be better for one parent to be at home with the children. Despite advances in equality and changing social views on gender roles, it is still usually the wife who elects to put her career on hold and become the stay-at-home parent. In some families, it is more economically advantageous for the male partner to stay home, and this certainly does play out in many households. Either way, couples with children should consider making arrangements for their children and their finances in the event of a divorce.

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Lombard family law attorneysA divorce, as most people realize, can be extremely stressful for everyone involved. Children commonly have the most difficulty adjusting to all of the changes. Unfortunately, the effects of a divorce may be felt by your child for many years after the process has been completed. There are several ways—including some things you can do right now—to help your child cope with the end of your marriage.

Listen to Their Problems and Worries

Children, just like adults, feel loved and cared for when they know you are listening to them. This is more than just hearing what they have to say. Listening requires you to both be active in showing you understand what they are worried about while withholding any judgments or solutions until after the child is done sharing. Even then, it important to allow your children the freedom to experience their feelings. Attempting to control your child’s emotions or shaming him or her for feeling a certain way is not healthy and can lead to larger problems down the road.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneysEnding a marriage through a divorce can leave a gaping hole in your life. You may feel lonely, depressed, unwanted, and bored. The way you used to spend your time and energy has changed, and now you want something new. Some divorcees want to avoid relationships for a time after splitting from their spouse while others are eager to start dating again. Is there a right time to start dating after getting a divorce?

Dating Before Your Divorce is Finalized

“Life happens” as the saying goes and sometimes you meet Mr. Right or Ms. Right before you are technically divorced. Many experts agree that dating during a divorce is not the wisest choice. You may choose to pursue a new relationship at this stage anyway, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

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Posted on in Child Support

Lombard family law attorneysIf your income has declined in recent months due to a change in employment or other factors, you may be struggling to make your court-ordered child support or spousal maintenance payments. You may also be wondering if there is anything you can do about it. Can you go to the judge and have your child support and maintenance payments modified accordingly?

Changing these, and other, financial provisions in a divorce is possible under Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). Any party to the case can ask the court to modify the existing order if there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.” The statute lists a number of specific factors, as well as the general inclusion of “any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable,” for the court to take into account.

Change in Income

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DuPage County family law attorneysWe have all seen the tropes in movies and on television of regular clients at a beauty salon or barbershop. They come in for their cut, color, or style, and carry on a very familiar conversation with their stylist or barber. Unlike other media depictions, this type of scenario is extremely common in the real world. Many people—and especially women—come to view their regular hairdresser as a trusted friend and confidant. Thanks to a new law in Illinois, that trust will soon take a drastic step forward as licensed beauty workers have been tapped to join the battle against domestic violence.

Measure Amends Current Licensing Laws

Last summer, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill that requires licensed beauty workers—including hairdressers, braiders, barbers, cosmetologists, nail technicians, and others—to participate in domestic violence awareness training as a part of their licensing requirements. Initial training will be required for workers looking to obtain a license for the first time. For those who are currently licensed beauticians, an additional hour of ongoing domestic violence education will be added to the requirements for renewal every two years.

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Lombard family law attorneysWhen you share parenting responsibilities for your child with your former partner, things are not always going to be easy. You will almost certainly experience disagreements with the other parent over a variety of concerns including the child’s activities, your relationship with the child, and your ability to properly exercise your parenting time. Regardless of the difficulties, however, it is very important for you to continue following any orders entered by the court so that you do not put your parental rights in jeopardy.

Components of a Parenting Plan

Following a divorce or breakup of unmarried parents, arrangements must be made for the couple’s child or children. To facilitate the process, the law requires the parents to submit a proposed plan regarding each parent’s responsibilities for the child. Each parent may submit a separate proposal or they may develop one together. A parenting plan must contain a number of other elements, but the most important considerations include the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities and a parenting time schedule. Once a parenting plan has been approved by the court and entered as an order, both parents must abide by its terms.

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Lombard adoption lawyersThe Chicago Tribune reports that there are currently more than 17,000 children in Illinois who are in foster care, with over 6,000 of them being cared for by non-relatives. In addition, there are approximately 1,000 children available for permanent adoption in the state on any given day. With so many children in need of loving homes, state officials are always looking for more couples and families who are willing to provide stability and care.

“We just don’t have enough people who have stepped forward,” said Susan McConnell, founder of a regional nonprofit group that advocates for adoption and foster care. Her group, Let It Be Us, has joined with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to promote participation in the state’s adoption and foster care programs among gay and lesbian parents. “We think that in the (LBGT) community,” McConnell continued, “there are people who would be good parents.

Increased Rates of Participation

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DuPage County family law attorneyDuring a proceeding for child custody—now known in Illinois as the allocation of parental responsibilities—your child may have strong opinions as to where they would like to live or how much time they want to spend with each parent. The amount that a child’s opinion affects custody decisions can vary from case to case and often depends on the judge’s discretion. There are several factors that a judge will take into consideration with regard to determining parenting arrangements, and the child’s wishes are often among of these factors.

The Child’s Reasoning and Decision-Making Abilities

Judges generally have some basic criteria they look for when deciding how much weight to give a child’s wishes during a custody proceeding.  These criteria can include but are not limited to:

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