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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 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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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 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 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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adoption, guardianship, Lombard family law attorneyWhile most people are familiar with the concept of adoption, many may realize that there are alternatives to adoption that can grant an individual certain authority over a child’s life. In Illinois, as well as other jurisdictions, it is possible to seek legal guardianship of a minor child. Guardianship, in many ways, is quite similar to adoption but is quite different in others. If you are looking to provide a loving home to a child in need, understanding the differences between the two can help you make the best choice for your specific situation.

Many Similarities

Guardianship of child grants you the legal authority to act as the child’s parent in virtually all areas of the child’s life. You become responsible for tending to the child’s day-to-day needs, as well as making medical, educational, and other decisions regarding the child. An adoption would provide you with all of the same authority and responsibilities regarding the child.  Both adoptions and guardianships in Illinois will only be granted if the child’s birth parents consent to the arrangement, have been found to be unsuited for providing such care for the child themselves, have passed away, or cannot be located.

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paternity, Lombard family law attorneysWhen you are not married to the mother of your child, it may be very difficult for you to exercise your rights as a father. In fact, if you have not established legal paternity, you may not even have any such rights under the law. Your relationship with your child is extremely important, but may be non-existent unless you take action, which begins with establishing paternity.

How Paternity May Be Established

Thanks to the newly enacted Illinois Parentage Act of 2015, you are presumed to be the father of a child if you are or were married to the child’s mother when the child was born or got married after the birth and you are listed as the father on the birth certificate. If the child was born within 300 days of your divorce, you would also be the presumed father. Assuming the presumption of your parentage is not rebutted, you would be considered your child’s legal father, with all of the accompanying rights and responsibilities.

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Posted on in Adoption

stepparent adoption, Illinois law, Arlington Heights Family LawyerIn today’s world, blended families are becoming increasingly common. For some, it may be the result of a remarriage, while others are waiting longer to get married for the first time. Whatever the case, a marriage involving children from previous relationships can be both extremely challenging and very rewarding. What happens, however, when your new spouse expresses interest in pursuing the adoption of your child?

Why Adoption?

When you chose to marry your new spouse, you probably gave a great deal of thought to his suitability as a stepparent. Like most parents, you probably consider your child’s happiness and best interests in virtually every decision you make. Hopefully, the transition to a new parental situation has been a positive one for your child and his or her relationship with your spouse is becoming stronger every day. A stepparent bond does not require adoption to be effective; it is based on human interaction, trust, and mutual love.

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divorced illinois fathersThe bond between a mother and her child is undeniable. According to a recent article by Parenting magazine contributing editor and co-author of Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth Deepak Chopra, M.D., a close personal attachment with your child may prevent diseases, boost immunity and enhance the IQ quotient of your child’s developing mind. Dr. Chopra further believes that maternal bonding has evolved into such a complex physiological phenomenon that touches our hearts, brains, hormones, nervous systems or about every component of our physical being. The study included in Chopra’s book, made possible by a grant from Mead Johnson Nutrition, suggests that a strong maternal bond may prove even more powerful than DNA.

But where does all this research leave Illinois fathers trying to establish a paternal bond with their children post-divorce? Recently, the Illinois Fathers Network, founded in 2008 and recently established as a non-profit organization, is trying to answer this question for Illinois fathers and other non-custodial family members by proposing three revisions to current Illinois statutes.

HB5425 Synopsis

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shared custody, joint custody, sole custody, child custody, Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois family lawAccording to a new study, there is a growing trend of shared child custody, with fewer courts awarding sole custody of children to the mother.

The study was done by researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The team examined the data from Wisconsin family courts from 1988 until 2008. They looked at more than 10,000 divorce cases.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, very few custody arrangements involved shared custody. Instead, the mother was typically awarded sole physical custody with the father awarded visitation, or parenting time.

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