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DuPage County Paternity Lawyer

Getting pregnant and having a child does not always go as planned. Families come in many different forms, especially those created outside of marriage. Being married and having children do not always go hand in hand, but it often makes paternity much easier to establish. Here we will discuss Illinois parentage laws and proving paternity.

Presumed Parentage

Like many other states, Illinois has a presumed parentage law. The term presumed parent means an individual who is recognized as the parent of a child until that status is rebutted or confirmed in a judicial or administrative proceeding. The presumed parentage law makes it much easier for married couples to legally name a child as their own. This law was recently updated to apply to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. 

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysOne of the most important purposes of estate planning is safeguarding the best interests of minor children. If you are a parent with a child under the age of 18, you should be aware of your options regarding guardianship. Although it can be incredibly difficult to think about, all parents should consider who they would want raising their child or children should something happen to them and/or the other parent. In the tragic case that parents pass away before their minor children, an estate plan will dictate who will have legal guardianship of them as well as address inheritance benefits. While it can be an emotional process, creating an estate plan gives parents peace of mind knowing their minor children will be cared for should the worst happen.

When Parents Pass Away Without an Estate Plan

When someone dies without a will, his or her property is divided according to Illinois law during probate court. Minor children can inherit property or wealth but are legally unable to receive the property or manage it before they are a legal adult. The inherited property is instead be managed by a legally-appointed guardian. If no estate planning documents addressing guardianship have been created, this guardian will be appointed by the court. Without an estate plan, it is possible that children’s inheritance and guardianship decisions will be in hands of strangers.

Options for Establishing Guardianship and Inheritance

There are many different ways to manage your children’s inheritance. One way is to establish a trust. A trust allows you to designate someone to handle wealth and assets which will eventually be given to your children. Trusts can be individually established for children, or a single family trust can be drafted. Through the trust, an individual or party is named as the successor trustee and will hold and manage property upon your death. Trusts allow you to decide how your property is invested, used, managed, and distributed to your children, not a court. Trust provisions that assign a reliable relative or friend to hold assets for your children can also be included in a last will and testament. You also have the option of appointing a guardian for your child through a Power of Attorney document.

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Lombard family law attorneyHistorically, adoptions for same-sex couples have included their share of difficulties. Many people still believe children need a mother and father figure in their lives rather than two “similar figures.” This type of thinking has slowly phased out over the past 20 years, especially with the legalization of gay marriage. 

Same-sex couple adoptions made progress in 2016, just months after that legalization became official. A lesbian mother finally won legal custody of her children in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The woman had cared for the children most of their lives and wanted legal documentation to recognize her as their mother. After deliberation, the Court overturned an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that said the court should not recognize the woman as the children’s mother. This court case opened doors for gay couples across the nation, allowing for non-nuclear families to exist.

Second Parent Adoption in Illinois

While adoption by homosexual couples can prove difficult, the process is far from impossible. Adoption agencies and couples looking for parents for their child will usually choose married couples over unmarried couples. This is common because marriages are considered permanent, whereas those who are not legally bound by marriage can end their relationship with far less difficulty. 

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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen you stop and think about it, you probably realize that it would be a good idea to have an estate plan—or at least a will—in place. We all understand, at least at a basic level, that it is better for us to decide what will happen to our assets after our death than to let the state decide for us. Put simply, we know that we cannot take our assets with us when we die, so there should be a plan for how they will be handled.

Despite knowing all of this, more than half of American adults still do not have created even a will, let alone other estate planning instruments. Experts have conducted surveys and studies to determine why this is the case, as people may put off estate planning for a wide variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the common ones:

Facing the Reality of Death

Advances in Western medicine and knowledge about nutrition and related concerns have pushed the average life expectancy upward in America over the last few decades. (In the interests of accuracy, it bears pointing out that the average life expectancy has dipped slightly in recent years, but we are still living longer than we did a century ago.) The obsession with longevity and quality of life makes many people hesitant to truly accept the reality that everyone will eventually die. The refusal to confront one’s own mortality can result in avoidance of any topics related to death, including estate planning.

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DuPage County stepparent adoption attorneyBecoming a step-parent can be an overwhelming life change, whether you have biological children of your own or not. Approximately 40 percent of American families are blended families, making stepparenting a common occurrence. It can be a challenge to balance the desire to befriend your spouse’s child and earn their affection with the need to parent them when the time comes. Many stepparents form strong bonds with their stepchildren, and they should be sure to understand their rights and legal obligations both during their marriage and if divorce ever enters the picture. 

Throughout the Marriage

  • Discipline: Many stepparents leave discipline to their spouse, especially when they first join the family, but as time goes on, more and more responsibility can get placed in their hands. It is important to have a conversation with your spouse about parenting expectations. Though it may not feel like it, you must remember that discipline is intended to benefit the child, and as a parent, the child’s safety should be your first priority.
  • Education: Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), stepparents are allowed to receive and review their stepchildren’s school records. FERPA defines a parent as "an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or guardian,” thus giving stepparents educational rights in regards to their stepchild.
  • Traveling: There is no law stating that stepchildren and stepparents cannot travel alone together; however, it is important to have both biological parents’ permission, unless the stepparent has adopted the stepchild and become their legal parent. There are also consent forms that can be signed to ensure no legal action is taken against the stepparent.

After Divorce

  • Custody/Visitation: Stepparents and stepchildren often share relationships similar to biological parents and their children, especially when this relationship existed for most of the child’s life. If the biological parent decides that the stepparent cannot have visitation rights after divorce, there is often not much that a court can do, unless the stepparent has formally adopted the stepchild. Once the divorce is finalized, a stepparent will lack the biological and legal ties to the child that guarantee parental rights. A stepparent does typically have the right to request visitation, but the court may not grant visitation rights.
  • Solidifying Legal Rights: The only way to ensure legal rights of the child is through adoption. Many stepparents decide to adopt their stepchild, especially if the child’s other biological parent is no longer in the picture. It is easier to adopt the child before divorce, because the biological parents’ permission is required for an adoption.

Contact a Lombard Adoption and Divorce Attorney

Blending families and learning to be a good stepparent can be challenging tasks. Stepchildren often feel like one’s own children, and the possibility of losing the connection with them after divorce can be unthinkable. Our DuPage County family law attorneys can help you address your legal concerns regarding adoption, divorce, or other issues regarding your stepchildren. Contact us at 630-426-0196.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAccording to several recent surveys, about 55 percent of American adults do not have a will. Of those, approximately 60 percent say it is simply because they have not had the chance to create one, but human nature suggests that there may be another motive. Many people are simply unwilling to consider their own mortality and to face the reality of death. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious consequences, even for those who do not have particularly large estates. Unfortunately, dying without a will or other estate planning tools can lead to some unpleasant consequences.

Depreciation of Assets

There are a number of reasons that assets may depreciate after death. It could be due to the red tape and time it takes to go through the Illinois probate system. Alternatively, valuable funds may need to be spent on tracking down family members that you might not have even had planned to inherit (or may very well be deceased). Taxes, which often end up being higher in the absence of a will, can also affect the value of the estate. Regardless of the reason, the absence of a will makes depreciation almost unavoidable.

Family Disputes

Families do not often intend to fight over items of value. Sometimes, it is simply a manifestation of troubling economic times. In other situations, it is because one family member has an emotional attachment to an item that is separate from its appraised monetary value. In still others, there are issues of speculation and feelings of being betrayed that may play a role. By taking the time to create a will, you can help your family members avoid such issues after your death.

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Lombard Prenup Lawyer 

For many people, pets are a part of the family. You get them when they are young and you take care of them as they grow older, much like parents do with their children. Whether the pet is a dog, cat, bird, or reptile, many pet owners view their pets as children as well. 

Divorce means the division of assets between two spouses, but also a decision on who gets the pet after the divorce papers are signed. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are a way to make these decisions while a couple's relationship is in a good place, instead of during the often contentious divorce process if they reach that unfortunate conclusion. Much of the negative perception regarding these agreements has faded in the public consciousness because couples now see the value of expecting the best but planning for the worst.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersMost people know that estate planning chiefly deals with the distribution of assets and personal wealth after a person passes away. A last will and testament or trust can enable an individual to decide how his or her hard-earned assets are divided among heirs. While having a will is a critical part of making sure your final wishes are fulfilled and your family is provided for, wills do not address what will happen if you become incapacitated due to illness or injury. This “incapacity planning” is often disregarded as unnecessary or too emotionally burdensome to manage, but planning for potential incapacitation is critical to having a comprehensive estate plan.

Do Not Burden Your Family with Making Health Care Decisions on Your Behalf

Have you ever considered what would happen if you became unable to make decisions about medical care or financial affairs because of a serious illness? Often, when people fall ill and are near death, their family members have to make excruciating decisions about death-delaying procedures. Deciding when and if procedures like mechanical ventilation, surgery, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), dialysis, antibiotics, or transfusions should be used can be a tremendously burdensome task for family members. However, those who have incapacitation plans in place save their family members from being forced to make blind decisions about financial matters and medical procedures.

Living Wills and Power of Attorney

In Illinois, individuals can make their desires regarding your medical treatment known by executing an advance directive such as a living will. A living will differs from a regular will in that it only takes effect when a person is incapacitated by a terminal illness and cannot speak for himself or herself. Another option to plan for potential incapacitation is to use a healthcare power of attorney. Assigning a trusted loved one to be your healthcare power of attorney is another way to plan for potential incapacitation. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to choose a representative who can make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to do so.

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DuPage County Family Lawyer

The term “blended family” refers to families that come together with a  relationship that follows a previous marriage or marriages. This often means connecting children who are unrelated to form a new, larger family. Every situation is unique. Some spouses both have children from their previous relationship while others do not. Both families are accustomed to “how things used to be” and it can be a difficult transition for parents and children alike. 

There are many different strategies that can help families come together, even if it does not feel natural at first. Listed below are various ways to strengthen your family as it begins to form:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysSadly, as long as there are vulnerable people in the world, unscrupulous individuals will attempt to exploit that vulnerability. This is especially a concern for those with elderly or disabled relatives. When someone exerts “undue influence” on an elderly or otherwise incapacitated person, they try to convince that person to make a different decision than he or she planned to make. This often occurs with financial and inheritance concerns. If you believe that your relative was under undue influence when he or she created a will or other estate planning document, you may be able to bring these suspicions to probate court.

Elderly Individuals and Those with Dementia Can Be Taken Advantage Of

Probate is the verification process which every will goes through in order for inheritance directions to be carried out after an individual dies. If you have recently lost a loved one and you suspect that his or her will does not actually reflect his or her final wishes, you may petition the court to have the will invalidated. This is called contesting the will. In order to prove your relative was under undue influence, you will need to show that:

  • Directions for asset distribution in the will are much different from what people close to the deceased would expect. For example, if close family members were left out of the will with no explanation, this may be evidence of undue influence or coercion;
  • The deceased person was particularly reliant on or trusting of the individual who you believe exerted influence;
  • Illness or cognitive decline made the deceased person susceptible to undue influence;
  • The person who you believe influenced the testator took advantage of him or her and benefited from this deceptive intimidation; and
  • The suspected influencer substituted his own desires for that of the will-maker.

It is important to note that unsolicited opinions and casual suggestions are not the same thing as undue influence. If your relative was mentally and physically independent, you may have a difficult time proving that his final wishes were not his own.

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Lombard divorce lawyer irreconcilable differencesThroughout the history of marriage, adultery has been socially frowned upon as a betrayal of trust, and it often leads to divorce. Public opinion and religious beliefs are often believed to be the driving factor behind these negative views, but the laws regarding marriage also play a role. However, many people do not understand how these laws may affect them.

The Legality of Adultery

As is common with most laws, the way adultery is defined and handled varies from state to state. What many fail to realize about adultery is that in Illinois, it is considered against the law and can result in legal repercussions. Illinois is one of 18 states that have made adultery a crime. Illinois law defines the act of adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse, if:

  • The person is married and knows the other person involved in such intercourse is not his spouse; or 
  • The person is not married and knows that the other person involved in such intercourse is married.

Based on the law, if two parties engage in such action, and their actions are “open and notorious,” they are committing a misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to a year in prison. However, even though this law exists, it rarely results in criminal prosecution, so a person is unlikely to actually receive jail time for their extramarital activities. 

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt seems like just recently that we ventured into the year 2018, but soon this calendar year will come to a close. As you ready yourself for the new year, take some time to evaluate your estate plans. Although it may seem like a chore, scheduling regular estate plan “maintenance” is critical to ensuring that your estate plans reflect your actual wishes. Keeping estate plans up-to-date can take some time and energy, but the peace of mind you will feel knowing that your estate plans are current, accurate, and legally-binding is well worth the effort.

You Give Up Control Over Inheritance Decisions Without an Estate Plan

A comprehensive estate plan allows you to make decisions for your future which would otherwise be decided by others. Not only can estate planning tools like a will or trust help you decide how your property is divided after you pass, it also protects your financial interests and rights while you are living. When no valid estate plan exists and an individual dies, his or her wealth and property is distributed to heirs according to Illinois state law.

Evaluate Your Current Estate Plan

When reviewing your estate plan, consider the following questions:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have recently decided that it is time to create an estate plan, congratulations! You are one vital step closer to preserving the financial future of your family. However, it is important to understand that, when it comes to estate plans, one size does not always fit all. In fact, using so-called “boilerplate” forms or documents could lead to devastating oversights, as there are many different situations that could require special consideration.

Special Needs Children and Adult Dependents

Children who have special needs are often entitled to government benefits to help ensure that their medical and daily care needs are met. In many cases, these benefits continue well into adulthood. Unfortunately, when parents, siblings, or other family members leave behind an improperly planned inheritance, the benefits available to a special needs individual could be placed at risk. Then, rather than enhancing their lives, the inheritance ends up being spent on their daily needs.

Parents and loved ones can avoid this risk by taking the time to speak with an attorney about the child’s specific needs. In many cases, a special needs trust could be appropriate to protect the heir’s best interests.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersOne of the most important decisions in the estate planning process is who will be named as executor of the estate. The executor is the person who is responsible for overseeing and protecting the assets of the deceased person. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the wishes of the decedent are carried out, as well as maintaining any property of the estate until disbursement, settling the debts of the estate, and paying any taxes owed. It is critical for the person who is appointed executor to understand how to manage the estate. If they mismanage estate assets that add up to a loss to the beneficiaries of the estate, they can be held liable for those losses.

Short-Term Responsibilities

Unless arrangements have been made before the person’s death, it is typically the executor’s responsibility to handle the financial arrangements for the deceased’s funeral and burial expenses. The funeral parlor also provides copies of the death certificate to the executor. It is important to obtain several copies of the death certificate since a copy will be necessary in order to access financial accounts and canceling government benefit checks (i.e. Social Security). A copy is also required to be filed with the final federal tax return of the estate.

Probate and Beyond

It is also the executor’s responsibility to file the deceased person’s will for probate. There can be no division of the estate until a probate judge gives their approval. Exceptions to this rule is if all the assets had been transferred to a living trust before the person died. Those assets can be disbursed to the designated beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process.

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Posted on in Adoption

DuPage County stepchild adoption lawyerChoosing to adopt a child is a life-changing decision for both the child and parent. In terms of adoption, many imagine a couple adding an infant to their family dynamic; however, this is only one form of adoption. Other types of adoption include stepparent, family related, domestic partnership, and uncontested adoptions. Stepparent adoptions are fairly common, and these particular adoptions have their own unique legal process. 

The Stepparent Adoption Process

The details of the adoption process are dependent upon each individual situation. Though it is a detail-oriented process that can take time, it often appears more difficult than it actually is. In a stepparent adoption, the following requirements must be met:

  1. Illinois Residency: For those seeking to adopt within the state of Illinois, residency is a requirement. The stepparent must be an Illinois state resident for at least six months before filing for the adoption.
  2. Absent Parent’s Consent: It is a legal requirement to have the consent of the absent parent; however, this can often be a difficult task. For those who cannot get in contact with the absent parent, exceptions can be made. A stepparent can adopt a child without the absent parent’s consent if the child has not had any substantial contact with the parent in over a year’s time.
  3. Child’s Consent: Illinois also requires the consent of the child if he or she is 14 years or older. This consent is made through the signing of a legal document.

As is the case with all legal processes, there are exceptions. Many children whose stepparents are attempting to adopt either do not know the whereabouts of their absent parent or do not know the identity of this parent. In cases such as these, prospective parents may ask the court to waive the requirement for the absentee parent’s permission. 

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DuPage County DCFS attorneyChild abuse and neglect is a sensitive topic that can often be misunderstood. These situations go much deeper than just physical abuse or harm done by neglectful parents. There are a variety of caretakers that can be involved in child neglect or abuse cases, including a parent or romantic partner, an immediate relative, someone living at home, a caretaker, educators, coaches, or anyone else who is responsible for the child’s welfare. According to the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS), over 70 percent of child abuse goes unreported, and on average, abused or neglected children voice their situation to seven adults before an official report is made.

What Is Considered Neglect or Abuse?

Child neglect and abuse are two different forms of mistreatment. Child neglect is the failure of a parent to meet minimal parenting standards. This includes providing proper supervision, medical care, food, clothing, shelter, and other basic needs. Child abuse occurs when a child is mistreated directly, and it can be broken down into three different categories: physical, sexual, or mental (emotional or psychological) abuse. Often, children who live in abusive households experience multiple forms of abuse. 

An Obligation to Report

Reporting child abuse is a stressful societal obligation that is required of anyone who suspects that it is occurring. Many feel as if a child’s home life is none of their business; however, it is important to the child’s life and safety to have an advocate. Those who suspect that a child may be enduring neglect or abuse should contact DCFS immediately. 

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is unbelievable that the winter holiday season is already upon us. By this time next week, you will probably be on your way to—or at least preparing for—Thanksgiving celebrations with your family members and loved ones. Just a few short weeks after that, families will be getting together for Christmas. If your family is spread out around the country, the holiday season might be the only time your whole family gets together throughout the entire year. With that in mind, it may be the only opportunity you have to discuss important topics like estate planning.

Being Prepared

There is no question about it: it can be tough to discuss your estate plans. Voluntarily confronting the idea of death can certainly be uncomfortable, but the conversation is important. Discussing your estate plan does not necessarily need to take hours, nor does it need to ruin the fun of the holidays. You have the power to control the conversation and to keep things positive by preparing in advance.

For example, you may wish to:

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Lombard, IL adult guardianship attorneyWhen one thinks of being a guardian, the image of a parent taking care of a child often comes to mind. However, guardianships are not reserved solely for parents and their children. According to Illinois law, a guardian is a person, institution, or agency appointed by the Probate Court to manage the affairs of another, called the ward. 

Because a person is considered an adult at the age of 18, they typically no longer have a legal guardian after their 18th birthday. However, like most laws, there are exceptions. There are four reasons why an adult would be assigned a legal guardian, all of which surround the adult’s health. The four qualifications for the need of a guardian are mental deterioration, physical incapacity, mental illness, and/or a developmental disability. Depending on the circumstances, there are several different types of guardianships allowed in Illinois.

Types of Guardianships

For guardianships that are not between an adult and a child, the details of the arrangement can vary with each situation, and they will be determined by the court based on the ward’s health. Types of guardianships include:

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Lombard estate planning attorneyA trust is a fiduciary relationship in which an individual or entity called a trustee controls certain assets for the creator of the trust, called a grantor. An incentive trust arrangement is different from other trusts in that the trustee must follow specific rules set by the grantor regarding when the trust’s beneficiaries can receive funds from the trust. This legally-binding arrangement functions as a conditional inheritance, allowing grantors to encourage their intended beneficiaries to meet certain goals before being awarded their inheritance.

How Can an Incentive Trust Benefit My Family and Me?

Many individuals struggle to manage their finances responsibly. This is often especially true of individuals who acquire a large sum of money quickly, which can become a concerning dilemma for those who wish to leave money and other assets to heirs. For example, a grandparent may wish to leave money to his grandchildren but worry that they will squander their education in favor of frivolous spending. An incentive trust would allow this grandparent to ensure that his grandchildren only receive their inheritance, for example, after completing a higher education program.

On the other hand, an incentive trust could also be constructed to discourage certain activities or behavior. For example, an individual could design an incentive trust that requires beneficiaries to pass a drug test in order to collect their inheritance. An incentive trust like this will cease disbursements to a beneficiary if he or she tests positive for illegal drug use. There is almost no limit to the requirements or incentives that can be included in an incentive trust, as long as the stipulations are not illegal.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce lawyersEven for those who have never experienced such a situation, it is almost impossible to imagine a deeper pain or sense of betrayal than that which comes from being cheated on by a spouse. While each couple may have their own definition of what constitutes cheating, an unfaithful spouse’s behavior can have a devastating impact on the marital relationship. In many situations, cheating is a symptom of much larger problems but is often the one that prompts the “cheated-on” spouse to finally take action to either fix the relationship or to end it permanently. If your spouse has been cheating and you are ready to file for divorce, there are some important things to keep in mind about your spouse’s behavior and how it might or might not impact the divorce process.

Marital Infidelity Is Not Grounds for Divorce

In 2016, Illinois lawmakers eliminated all of the fault-based grounds for divorce in the state. Since that time, a divorce can only be granted in Illinois on the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences. Cheating can certainly create irreconcilable differences but will not be recognized as the official reason for your divorce.

Spousal Support and Property Concerns

It may be reasonable to believe that when you have been cheated on by your spouse, you should be entitled to a larger portion of the marital estate or perhaps additional court-ordered maintenance to compensate for his or her actions. Illinois law, however, expressly prohibits a court from considering “marital misconduct”—including infidelity—when deciding on property division and spousal support matters. It is the responsibility of the court to address each spouse’s needs and to provide for the equitable distribution of marital property, not to place a value on an unfaithful spouse’s behavior.

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