October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) works to raise awareness about domestic violence and educate people about its effects and ways to recognize it. Domestic violence destroys victims physically, psychologically, and emotionally. At its core, domestic violence is about control. Abusers harm their victims and tear them down in an effort to maintain control over the partner. Domestic violence can occur in any type of relationship, regardless of the couple's age, education or socioeconomic level, race, or sexual orientation. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can consider filing an Order of Protection against your former partner to ensure that you remain safe in the days, weeks, and even years following your separation.
Domestic violence comes in many forms. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or financial. It is also fairly common for more than one type of abuse to be present in a relationship.
You know what a lawyer does for a client: he or she defends the client's rights and interests in court against an antagonistic opponent. Without a lawyer, the client can be taken advantage of and leave the courtroom in financial ruin. So in an amicable divorce, where both parties agree to the terms of their divorce and there is no conflict, there is no need for either party to retain a lawyer, right? Wrong. Lawyers are not legal body guards. They are advisers and advocates who guide their clients through legal processes. Break yourself from the mindset that a lawyer is only necessary if you are facing a conflict. A lawyer is necessary if you are undergoing any legal process, such as a divorce, designating a party to have power of attorney for you in the event you are incapacitated, or adopting a child.
Although you certainly can work through your divorce on your own, doing so can leave you vulnerable to many pitfalls and end up costing you more money in the long run than you would have spent by hiring a competent lawyer. Today, there are thousands of websites that provide walkthroughs for anything an individual might face, from drafting a prenuptial agreement to rewiring a home. Do not allow yourself to gain a false sense of confidence by reading a few pages about divorce on the internet. These pages should be used as guidelines and springboards for conversations with lawyers, not comprehensive guides to the divorce process.
In many divorces, one parent is ordered to pay child support to the other. This is to help the parent who has the majority of the child's parenting time to cover the expenses associated with raising a child, such as the need for a larger home, the need for a larger vehicle, increased food and utility expenses, and the child's personal needs like clothing and school supplies. Like spousal support, child support is meant to prevent a child from facing financial struggles after his or her parent's divorce.
Often, child support is paid to the receiving spouse in monthly installments. When a parent misses his or her payments, the child can suffer. If you are a parent with a child support plan in place and your former spouse has developed a habit of missing his or her payments, speak with an experienced family lawyer. You and your child do not deserve to miss out on this money and by failing to make his or her payments, your former spouse is in contempt of court. Work with an experienced Illinois family lawyer to get your child the money he or she needs.
\The role of a guardian ad litem is to represent the best interests of a child whose parents are going through a divorce. In a divorce, each partner retains his or her own lawyer to represent his or her interests. The couple's child has interests of his or her own, which include a safe, nurturing environment, academic support and opportunities to thrive, personal needs such as medical care and social engagement, and a parenting time schedule that allows him or her to build and maintain a high quality relationship with each parent. In some cases, the court deems it necessary for an individual to be assigned to a divorce case to determine exactly what type of parenting arrangement would be in the child's best interest and communicate this to the court to aid in its ruling. In Illinois, the court may require that one or both of the divorcing partners pay the guardian ad litem's fee.
A guardian ad litem is not a child's attorney. Although individuals who take on this role often are attorneys, a guardian ad litem is not brought in to negotiate with the court on the child's behalf. Nor is he or she brought in to make explicit orders regarding a child's parenting time arrangement. In this role, a guardian ad litem is simply an evaluator who makes recommendations to the court about what he or she thinks would create the most nurturing, healthy environment for the child after the couple's divorce.
When a single parent marries, his or her new spouse will have a relationship with his or her child. But not all relationships between married adults and their spouses' children are the same. In some households, this relationship remains distant and in others, the child and the new spouse form a substantial parent/child bond. In many cases where a parent remarries, his or her spouse becomes known as the child's stepparent. But officially, a new spouse is not a legal stepparent until he or she has adopted the child. The process for adopting a spouse's child is known as stepparent adoption and in many ways, it is different from the process of adopting a child from another couple or the foster care system. Because many couples divorce and remarry while their children are still minors, stepparent adoption is considered one of the most common type of adoption in the United States.
For a stepparent to be able to adopt a child, the child's other parent must terminate his or her parental rights. This can be done voluntarily or through a court order. If a child's parent does not consent to the adoption, the court must determine that he or she is unfit to parent to terminate his or her rights. If the child is 14 years old or older, he or she must also consent to the adoption in the presence of a judge. Adolescents have the right to veto an adoption.
“Gray divorce,” or divorce between couples over the age of 50, is becoming an emerging trend in recent years. According to a study by Bowling State Green University, the divorce rate for those over fifty has doubled between 1990 and 2010. Deciding to divorce later in life presents some unique challenges for older couples, and it is important to understand the effects the decision may have on your finances, health, and happiness. If you and your partner are considering divorcing after many years together, contact an experienced divorce attorney to learn how to protect your assets, and to amicably resolve your differences to ensure the best possible outcome depending on your unique circumstances.
When a couple divorces, each party is entitled to a division of the marital property. When younger couples get divorced, they are less likely to have the accumulation of investments and accounts that older couples probably have. Older couples have likely been pooling their finances for years, presumably leaving them with handsome accounts, investments, and retirement funds. Upon divorce, all of this must be equitably divided between the parties. “Equitable” does not mean 50-50 in the eyes of the law, however, and the marital property will be allocated in accordance with a host of factors.
Let’s face it: divorce is hard on families. Whether you have children from a prior marriage or marital children, divorce is difficult for children of all ages to comprehend. The way you choose to approach helping your children understand the reasons for your separation will be impacted by their age and maturity, but typically need not be dependent on the circumstances. Regardless of the reasons for your divorce, there are several strategies you can use in order to lessen the inevitable impact your divorce will have on your child. Seeking the advice of experienced Illinois divorce attorneys can help you anticipate potential issues that may arise and help you identify them as part of your divorce settlement.
Children are often more intuitive than we may think, and are generally aware when things are awry. They pick up on language, the conversations you have with your friends and family about the divorce, and the way you talk about your ex or soon-to-be-ex spouse in front of them. Many divorcing couples will enter a shared parenting agreement (joint custody) so the child will be able to spend time with both parents. For this reason, no matter what ill feelings you may have toward your spouse, it is important to remember that they are still the parent of your child.
Divorce is a serious decision a couple makes when the marriage is characterized by irreconcilable differences. The decision as to what happens to the children after the divorce, that is, who they will live with, where they will spend their holidays, and which parent will make important decisions for the child, will be determined by the desires of the parents, best interests of the child, and the court. Sometimes, after a divorce decree is finalized and a parenting arrangement is determined, changes to the divorce judgment may be necessary or desired. For example, what if you and your ex-spouse share parental responsibilities—formerly called a joint custody arrangement—but you have been offered a job in another state? Despite the finality of divorce settlement arrangements, changes may be warranted in certain circumstances. Finding the right Illinois child custody attorney to advocate for a post-judgment modification is the best way to ensure your rights are protected and you have the best chance at ensuring the best path for your children’s future.
The only proper (and legal) way to remove a child from Illinois when you have an existing arrangement for parental responsibilities is to go through the court system. Failure to follow these procedures may lead to kidnapping charges, or worse, loss of your rights regarding your children.
Tax season has come and gone yet again. For those of us that have relatively straightforward taxes that do not change significantly from year to year (or for those of us that utilize accountants), this may not usually be a big deal. However, even if you are using the services of an accountant to advise you, significant changes in your income, assets, or marital status may drastically affect your taxes, deductions, and losses, and require the assistance of a knowledgeable Naperville divorce attorney.
The first question most couples going through divorce proceedings want to address is whether they should file as a married couple. As is the answer to most legal questions: it depends. Your marital status for tax purposes is determined by your marital status on the last day of the tax year. So, for example, your 2015 tax marital status depends on whether you were married or divorced as of December 31, 2015. Even if you are divorced or going through a divorce now, you were still legally married for tax purposes on the last day of December 2015.
Illinois is one of very few states that deals with the issue of college tuition for non-minor children after divorce. Illinois courts can require, by court order, one or both parents to contribute to financing their non-minor child’s undergraduate education. It is not a requirement that parents must pay in or contribute to these expenses for their non-minor children’s future, but it is a tool that is often incorporated in many court orders in Illinois.
Under Illinois law, 750 ILCS 5/513 (Educational Expenses for a Non-Minor Child), there are certain regulations for what is minimally acceptable in providing funding for non-minor children. Some of the nuances of the law include:
This extends not just for college/vocational/professional training, but also if a child is still attending high school at age 19.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is undergoing significant changes beginning in 2016 that eliminate fault-based grounds for divorce, allow for expedited contested divorces, and aim to revamp custody arrangements. These modifications aim to improve the efficiency and timeliness of divorce filings for both contested and uncontested divorces.
One of the biggest changes to the law is that drunkenness, mental cruelty, abandonment and other prior grounds for divorce are eliminated. The Act (750 ILCS 5/) previously listed 10 fault-based grounds (including irreconcilable differences) as legitimate grounds for divorce. As of January 1, 2016, the only grounds for divorce are that “irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.” A judge must find that a couple meets this criteria in order to grant a divorce. A couple living apart for more than six months creates an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement that irreconcilable differences has been met. This standard may be met by showing that the couple has lived separately for at least six months or that something else in the marriage constitutes irreconcilable differences.
Determining the biological parent of a child is resolved in most circumstances by the birth certificate, but some people may place names on the birth certificate without really knowing, or without considering the legal significance of this action. Despite what many people believe, paternity is not necessarily defined as a biological concept accomplished by DNA testing, but rather, is a legal concept as defined by Illinois law. When the time comes to establish parenting rights during a divorce or custody proceedings, it may be necessary to make a thorough investigation into the parentage of the child or children. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand the importance of determining the actual parentage of your child.
Parentage questions usually arise when a mother indicates that an individual is the father and the alleged father denies it, or an alleged father asserts interest in a child that the mother claims is not his. There are varying circumstances where these issues arise. Consider the following:
The mother does not contest who the father is.
If you are considering or going through a divorce, you are likely trying to keep things as civil as possible. Many couples are able to come to reasonable compromises on their own without significant court intervention. Others require the court to intervene to help make decisions on the parties’ behalf. Court procedures can be time-consuming, intimidating, and very public, leading many people to avoid court, if possible. Divorce mediation is an alternative for divorcing couples. Mediation requires the participation of a neutral third-party mediator and the parties, represented by experienced family law attorneys.
In Illinois, divorces are filed through the courts regardless of whether they are contested or uncontested. The amount of times and for what reasons you and your spouse may need to appear in court depends on the unique circumstances of your case. Once a petition for divorce is filed, the court will determine what needs to be done in order for the divorce to be finalized. This may include determining child custody, spousal maintenance awards, debt payments, personal and real property allocation, and other personal matters. The parties and their attorneys will generally try to come to a consensus about these issues. If unable to do so, additional court intervention will be needed. Additionally, if there are children involved, a court may feel the need to appoint a guardian ad litem, a neutral third party that determines the interests, needs, and best course of action for the children. Once the court is satisfied that a reasonable compromise has been made, the divorce will be finalized.
by Mark D. Mosk, Ph.D.
Working in the arena of child custody can be highly rewarding, and sometimes equally arduous and extremely challenging as well. The history of collaboration between legal and mental health professionals in Family Court is a rich and well-established one. With a unique set of knowledge, skills and expertise, mental health professionals have been invited into the courtroom to provide hopefully useful and meaningful information about medical-legal matters, and to assist the court in its judicial decision-making process, including in Family Court where psychologists and psychiatrists may opine on what ultimately is in the best psychological interests of the child.
As mental health specialists operating in the role of a forensic scientists, we are expected and I would offer, indeed are obligated to conduct a scientifically-based investigation of the presenting facts, using rigorous and empirically sound methods and data analysis procedures, to provide a clear and cogent understanding of the critical medical-legal issues, and in doing so, to educate the court about the presenting topics. For the forensic psychologist and psychiatrist, this evaluative approach regularly is applied in numerous specialty areas, from child custody and disability, to workers' compensation and criminal matters. Regrettably, many of my fellow mental health colleagues would agree that these high professional standards are not consistently met in child custody evaluations.
As our society continues toward mobility and connectivity, the changing concept of visitation moves with it. Job relocations and remarriages, as well as tough economic times, have increased the possibility of a parent seeking Court permission to remove a child or children from the State of Illinois. How do we, as lawyers, address the issues of parenting over distances? Virtual visitation is one such possibility. Virtual visitation involves the use of telephones, voice-chats, online web and video conferencing, emails, and other technological advances to keep parents and children in contact with one another.
Four states currently have statutory provisions for virtual/electronic visitation and parenting time: TEXAS, UTAH, FLORIDA, and WISCONSIN.
Possible legislation remains pending in: CALIFORNIA, ILLINOIS, MICHIGAN, OHIO, SOUTH CAROLINA, NEW JERSEY (and other states).
ILLINOIS: Illinois House Bill 3486 (95th General Assembly). Would amend Sections 607 & 609 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. This bill remains in the Rules Committee and has so remained since March of 2007.