Child custody always has the potential to become an extremely complex issue. However, when parents are not married, it can become even more complicated. While married couples will make decisions about child custody as part of their divorce, unwed couples may need to take legal action to address issues related to their children. In some cases, paternity will need to be established before decisions can be made about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time.
Establishing Paternity in Illinois
In Illinois, married spouses are presumed to be the parents of any children born during the marriage, unless there is documentation that says otherwise. However, when the parents of a child are not married, the same assumption is not made. In the case of unwed parents, the paternity of the father must be established. There are three ways to do this:
- Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity: If both parents agree on the paternity of the child, they can both complete and sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.
- Administrative Paternity Order: If the parents cannot agree, the State of Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Child Support Services can issue an Administrative Paternity Order to establish paternity.
- Order of Paternity: The last method of establishing paternity is to appear in court and have a judge issue an order of paternity.
An Administrative Paternity Order and an Order of Paternity are typically only required if the father disputes that he is the biological father of the child. In these cases, DNA testing will usually be used to confirm that a presumed father is in fact the child’s biological father....
In many cases, people going through a divorce find themselves in a difficult situation simply because they did not fully prepare for their situation and take steps to protect themselves. If you know that divorce is in your future, there are a few steps you can take to help the process proceed more smoothly and ensure that you are able to achieve a fair settlement that will meet your ongoing needs.
Copy Important Documents
Before filing for divorce, you will want to make copies of all of the important documents pertaining to your finances. These may include tax returns, wills, mortgage documents, life insurance policies and statements for bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts or investments, as well as any other documentation related to your marital property. This will allow you to have a full understanding of the financial issues you will need to address during your divorce.
Understand Household Finances
You should keep track of your utility bills, mortgage or rent payments and other household expenses. You will also need to be sure you understand your spouse’s income as well as your own and any debts or financial obligations either of you may have. If either you or your spouse are self-employed or own a business, you should keep track of all of the income that comes in for a few months prior to the divorce. By understanding your ongoing income and expenses, you will be able to address these issues during divorce and ensure that you can meet your needs after your marriage has been dissolved....
Divorce can be very difficult for everyone who is affected by a couple’s breakup, including their children. One of the biggest concerns children of divorcing parents may have is how their living situation might change and when they will spend time with each parent following the divorce. In many cases, parents and children alike may expect that children will play a role in making decisions about their living arrangements. Although children’s opinions and desires may be a factor in some cases, this will not necessarily be true in every situation. When addressing child custody matters, a family law attorney can help ensure that children’s best interests are protected.
Parenting Time in Illinois
In divorce cases, the time children spend with each parent is commonly referred to as “physical custody” or “visitation.” However, in 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was modified, and those terms are no longer used. Today, the time children spend with each parent is referred to as “parenting time.” The law recognizes that it is in children’s best interests to have regular, ongoing time with each parent, and during divorce, parents will need to create a parenting plan that includes a schedule for when children will live with each parent. The parenting plan will also address how parents will divide the responsibility for making important decisions for their children, such as where they will go to school and what religion they will be raised in.
Do Children Have a Choice Where They Will Live?
One prevailing myth that people may have heard states that once a child turns 14, the court will consider him or her to be mature enough to make a decision about where he or she wants to live. However, this is not a provision that is included in Illinois law. When making decisions about parenting time, a judge will take many factors into consideration to determine what is in the best interests of the child. The child’s desires are one of these factors, and a judge may listen to what a child has to say and take any preferences he or she has into consideration. Rather than identifying an age at which a child’s preferences will be considered, the law states that a judge may consider the child’s wishes if he or she is mature enough to be able to express his or her “reasoned and independent” preferences....
When you are going through a divorce, you will want to work with an attorney who can help you secure a fair settlement and make the process as easy as possible. However, you do not need just any attorney; you need the lawyer who is right for your case. Although there are many good divorce lawyers in Illinois, you will want to find someone you are comfortable with who can address your unique concerns and help you complete the divorce process successfully. You will want to ask your divorce lawyer following questions:
Have You Handled Many Cases Like Mine?
No two divorce cases are alike. You may need to address a variety of complex issues, such as a high net worth, child custody disputes, or potential dissipation of assets by your spouse. You might expect your divorce to be contested, or you may plan to reach an amicable settlement with your spouse using methods such as mediation. You will want to be sure the attorney you ultimately hire should is experienced in handling the issues you will need to address.
How Will We Communicate During the Divorce?
Attorneys tend to have preferred methods of communication, and you will want to be sure you are comfortable discussing your case in this manner. Whether you prefer to communicate via email, phone, or text messages, you will want to establish a plan for how you will send information, ask questions, and receive updates....
For many parents going through divorce, the biggest fear they have is that they will not be able to spend as much time with their children. This fear is an understandable one. Although the divorce laws in Illinois state that a parent’s gender should not be considered when making decisions about child custody, many judges still have a bias, even if they do not realize it. In many cases, parents worry that they will be treated unfairly when courts allocate parenting time, and they may be unsure of how they can protect their parental rights and ensure that the decisions made during divorce will provide for their children’s best interests. However, Illinois lawmakers are currently considering legislation that could change how parenting time is addressed in divorce and family law cases.
Are There Minimum Parenting Time Standards in Illinois?
Studies have found that it is in a child’s best interests to spend at least 35 percent of his or her time with each parent. However, under Illinois law, there is no minimum requirement for the amount of parenting time that should be allocated to a parent. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) states that parents are presumed to be fit to care for their children unless there is evidence to the contrary. However, parents are only entitled to “reasonable” amounts of parenting time, and the IMDMA does not specify a minimum amount or percentage of parenting time that is considered reasonable. Because of this, Illinois has received a ranking of C- from the National Parents Organization in its Shared Parenting Report Card. Clearly, there is work to be done in the state regarding shared parenting, and some lawmakers are attempting to address this issue.
House Bill 0185
A bill has been introduced to the Illinois House of Representatives that would change the way judges decide on parenting time in the state. House Bill 0185 would require judges to begin a child custody case with the presumption that it would be in children’s best interests for parents to share equal amounts of parenting time, as long as each parent is fit and able to care for his or her child. If, after reviewing the facts of the case, a judge determines that one parent should have less parenting time than the other, he or she would be required to provide a written explanation for the deviation from this presumption. The goal is to reduce the amount of conflict in divorce and child custody cases and make them easier and fairer for everyone involved, while protecting children’s best interests at all times....
Under Illinois law, gender is not a factor that should be considered when deciding a divorce case; however, some may fear that the decisions made during divorce will favor their ex-spouse, and they will want to understand their rights and the best ways to achieve success during the divorce process. Below are some of the biggest myths that still surround men and divorce and the truth behind them:
When Men Do Not Pay Child Support, They Cannot See Their Child
Fathers may worry that if they fall behind on child support payments, the mother may be able to refuse to allow them to spend time with their child. Fortunately, this is not the case. There are serious consequences for not paying child support, including being held in contempt of court. However, the courts view child custody and child support as two separate issues, and a mother cannot punish a father for non-payment of child support by restricting parenting time. If a parent withholds visitation because their ex-spouse did not pay child support, she/he can face serious consequences themselves.
Mothers Are Always Awarded Primary Child Custody
This is perhaps the biggest myth surrounding men and divorce. Although it is true that at one time, the courts were more likely to award child custody to mothers, this is no longer the case. Today, decisions about child custody are based on what is in the child’s best interests. The gender of the two spouses has nothing to do with child custody hearings. Instead, courts will consider factors such as the health of the parents, the children’s wishes, and how parents acted in the past when providing care for their children....
Many states have adopted a no-fault system for divorce. This means that when one spouse wants to get divorced, he/she does not have to prove that the other spouse did anything wrong. One spouse simply states that there was a breakdown in the marital relationship and attempts to reconcile would not be in the best interests of the family.
Those in Illinois wanting to divorce may wonder whether the process of filing for divorce is this simple. Fortunately, Illinois law allows for no-fault divorces. If you are considering divorce, there are some issues you should consider before filing your divorce petition.
Grounds for Divorce in Illinois
In the past, Illinois law allowed a person to state that his/her spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. The law recognized a number of grounds for divorce, including:...
As of January 1, 2020, marijuana is legal in Illinois for both medical and recreational use. However, even though the possession and use of this drug is no longer a criminal offense, people who have gotten a divorce and have at least partial custody of their children should think carefully before using marijuana. Irresponsible use of drugs or alcohol could negatively affect the amount of time you are able to spend with your child.
How Marijuana Use May Affect Parenting Time and Parental Responsibility
In Illinois, child custody is referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities, and visitation is referred to as parenting time. When determining how much time each parent will spend with their child, the court will consider what is in the child’s best interests. If one parent is concerned that the other parent is using marijuana when the child is in his or her care, this issue can be brought to the attention of the courts, and the parent may ask for a modification of the parenting plan. For example, a parent may ask that the other parent’s parenting time be reduced or that the parent be prohibited from using marijuana during his or her parenting time.
Understanding this issue is important for anyone who currently has parenting time with a child. Sometimes, a bitter ex will tell the court that a parent is using marijuana excessively around the child as a means of obtaining a greater allocation of parenting time. A parent may claim that the other parent’s use of marijuana is endangering the child, and the other parent may be required to prove that he or she has not acted in a way that has harmed the child....
There are many assets the courts will divide between a couple during divorce proceedings. Some of the most common include the marital home, a business acquired during the marriage, bank accounts, and vehicles. Retirement accounts are one type of asset that many people do not consider when entering into property division negotiations. However, accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and pensions are subject to division between spouses, just like other marital assets. How they are divided and when the funds are distributed will depend on several different factors.
Retirement Accounts as Marital Property
In Illinois, as in all other states, property is considered to be either marital property or separate property. Separate property is any property either spouse owned prior to the wedding that was brought into the marriage. Marital property, on the other hand, is any property that was acquired during the marriage by one or both spouses.
These same rules apply to retirement accounts. If one spouse had acquired funds in a retirement account prior to the marriage, those funds are considered separate property. However, any funds that went into the account after the marriage are considered marital property, even if only one spouse contributed to the account....
All parents in Illinois are responsible for providing financial support for their children. This is a fairly straightforward matter during a marriage, but after divorce, it can become more complicated. In many cases, the non-custodial parent is responsible for paying child support to the custodial parent, and these payments are meant to help with daily expenses and costs associated with raising the child. Sometimes, a non-custodial parent may find him or herself in financial trouble, or he or she may want to punish the other parent by refusing to pay support. However, a non-custodial parent can face severe consequences for not paying court-ordered child support. Custodial parents should be sure to understand their options for enforcing payment of child support that is owed.
In some cases, a parent may work with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) to enforce payment of child support. A parent may also work with a family law attorney to take legal action through the court. The consequences a non-paying parent may face include:
If a parent does not pay child support, his or her wages may be garnished to ensure that payments are made on time and in full. An Income Withholding for Support request will be sent to the parent’s employer. This notice will include instructions regarding the amount the employer should withhold from the parent’s paychecks and where to send that money. A wage garnishment order can ensure that ongoing child support obligations are met, or it may remain in effect until the entire balance of past-due child support is paid, along with interest....
After getting a divorce as a parent, you and your ex-spouse will typically have to work together to co-parent your children. This can be difficult, particularly if the divorce was bitter or messy, and there are still feelings of resentment. However, it is best if you are able to work together with your ex-spouse as peacefully and respectfully as possible. Not only will everyone benefit from this cooperation, but it can help you demonstrate that you are willing to put your children’s interests first, which may work in your favor if you need to modify the terms of your parenting plan in the future. Here are some ways you can encourage ongoing cooperation between co-parents after getting divorced:
Solve Problems Together
Although you and your ex-spouse have agreed to work together as co-parents, this does not mean that any hurt or anger that built up during the divorce will just go away. However, you will still need to be able to cooperate to meet your children’s needs and address any problems that may arise. When working to resolve these issues, you should try to put your feelings about your former spouse to the side and focus on how the two of you can reach a solution that will provide for your children’s best interests.
Maintain Open Communication
Communication about what is going on in children’s lives is one of the most important factors in successful co-parenting. By keeping your children the focal point of every conversation, the two of you can ensure that you understand their needs and are prepared to address any ongoing concerns. This will also allow you both to remain informed about what is going on in your children’s lives, including any medical or educational matters that you and your ex-spouse both need to be aware of....
If you are getting a divorce in Illinois, you may be expecting to receive an equal 50 percent of the property you and your spouse own. However, Illinois is an “equitable distribution” state when it comes to the division of marital property. This means that property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Although many divorce cases are finalized with a 50/50 split, this is not always the end result. Judges may consider a variety of factors when determining how to fairly divide assets, including:
The Financial Position and Earning Power of Each Spouse
If one spouse is going to be in a bad financial position after the divorce, and the other spouse is very well off, a judge will take this into consideration. This is particularly true if the spouse that does not have a lot of finances stayed home to look after the household and take care of the children.
When one spouse did stay home, a judge will also consider their ability to find a well-paying job once the marriage ends. If a parent had stayed home for a very long time caring for children, they may find it difficult to get back into the workforce. Therefore, they may be awarded more in property or assets....
In an ideal world, everyone going through a divorce would be honest and upfront about their finances. Unfortunately, some spouses understand that marital property is going to be divided, and because of this, a person may try to hide certain assets from the other spouse during divorce. This is financial fraud, and it can result in an extremely unfair settlement for the spouse that is not hiding assets. The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself from these types of actions by your spouse.
Understand the Potential Types of Fraud
There are many different ways a spouse can try to hide assets during a divorce. A person may temporarily give friends and relatives property, cash, or securities in order to avoid dividing these assets. In other cases, a spouse may try to hide or misreport income in order to reduce his or her spousal maintenance or child support obligations.
Failure to fully disclose one’s income may also be considered tax fraud. This type of fraud may occur not only during a divorce, but after it is finalized as well. If this is done on a joint tax return that you and your spouse have signed, it can result in serious financial repercussions for you. Even if you had nothing to do with the fraud, you may still be held accountable, and you may face the same sanctions and penalties as if you had committed the fraud yourself....
When a court orders a parent to pay child support, this is many times done as part of a divorce case. The parent required to pay support typically must begin paying it from the date the order is issued. However, there may be cases in which a custodial parent would ask for child support to be paid for a time period before the order was issued. Usually, these cases involve unmarried parents, although sometimes, a spouse that was at one time married to the other parent may ask for retroactive child support as well.
Retroactive Child Support for Married Parents
Married parents cannot ask for retroactive child support dating as far back as the child’s birth. The law assumes that during the marriage, both parents were contributing to the support of the child, and as such, child support is not owed for that time. However, there are instances in which a spouse may still ask for retroactive child support as part of a divorce. This may address the period of time before the child support order is issued. In this case, the parent receiving the support for the child can ask for retroactive child support from the date a petition for child support was filed with the court.
For example, a father may be served divorce papers on February 1. On May 1, the mother may file a petition for child support. After being awarded child support on July 1, she may ask for retroactive support. This would provide support for the two months between the motion and the hearing. A judge has discretion at this point as to whether to award retroactive support or not....
During a divorce that involves children, one parent (typically the non-custodial parent) will usually be ordered to pay child support to the other parent. However, the one constant in life is change. When life changes affect a parent’s employment and the income he or she earns, modifications to child support orders may be necessary. This can ensure that a parent will not be required to make payments that he or she cannot afford, and it can make sure that both parents are continuing to meet their children’s financial needs.
Since Illinois law takes both parents’ incomes into account when determining child support, if either parent receives a promotion or an increase in pay, the amount of the parents’ child support obligations may need to be recalculated. If you need help modifying your child support order, you should work with an experienced family law attorney....
When facing a divorce, most generally want to get the process over with as soon as possible. Unfortunately, ending a marriage takes time. Some of the time waiting for your divorce to be finalized may be out of your control. However, there are some steps you can take to expedite the process. Below are some of the main factors that influence how long a divorce will take in Illinois:
The Residency Requirement and Waiting Period
To get divorced in Illinois, at least one spouse must live in the state for at least 90 days. If you and your spouse agree that irreconcilable differences have led to the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage, you can complete your divorce with no waiting period. If either spouse does not agree to the divorce, irreconcilable differences will be presumed if the two of you live “separate and apart” for at least six months prior to the date of the divorce judgment....
Following a divorce, ex-spouses should be able to maintain the lifestyle they enjoyed during their marriage. When one spouse earns a large income, he or she may be required to pay spousal maintenance to his or her former partner. However, a maintenance award is not guaranteed, and this issue often results in contentious battles in divorces that involve a high net worth, particularly when one spouse has a high net worth and the other, on paper at least, does not.
If you have stayed home to care for children, or if you have been trying to get an education while your spouse has earned the majority of the family’s income, you may be able to receive maintenance (formerly known as alimony) following your divorce. In order to ensure that you receive the spousal support you deserve, you will need to keep the following tips in mind:...
When getting a divorce, most couples want to get the process over with as quickly and amicably as possible. This is why divorce mediation has become such a popular option today. During mediation, the two spouses sit down with a mediator and work together to come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce. The mediator does not represent either party or make any decisions; instead, he or she is simply a facilitator that encourages the couple to cooperate to resolve issues in a respectful and honest manner.
There are many advantages to mediation. A couple can complete the process much more quickly than a litigated divorce that means significant savings as well; however, there are also some potential drawbacks to mediation. Before deciding to enter into the mediation process, you should be aware of these limitations.
The Difficulty of Finding Assets
During a litigated divorce, your attorney has a number of means to determine the full extent and value of your marital assets. During the discovery phase, depositions, subpoenas or other methods may be used to obtain information from your spouse, and questions asked under oath must be answered honestly. This can ensure that all marital property will be discovered, and this process will reduce the possibility that your spouse will attempt to hide any assets from you. During mediation, these resources are not at your disposal. If your spouse is hiding any assets, you will be unlikely to uncover this information during mediation....
Sadly, substance abuse is prevalent in the United States and is the cause of many divorces. When one spouse abuses drugs or alcohol, this can make life very difficult for the other spouse. A family may struggle financially because one spouse has used marital funds to buy drugs or alcohol, and the abusive behavior of an addict may cause other family members to fear for their safety. These are just two of the issues that may present themselves in a marriage involving an addicted spouse.
Before filing for divorce, many people only focus on how different their lives will be once the divorce is finalized. However, it is just as important to realize how substance abuse can affect the divorce process.
A judge will certainly consider substance abuse problems when determining how to allocate parental responsibility (formerly known as child custody in Illinois). A judge’s main consideration is always what is in the best interests of the child. If a parent has a substance abuse problem, the judge may feel that he or she is not able to properly care for a child. In fact, when the abuse is significant, it could endanger the child....
When relationship issues occur between celebrities or high-profile couples, many people may wonder how the issues these people experience, such as divorce, would play out in their own lives. This was illustrated recently when Brody Jenner and his girlfriend, Kaitlynn Carter, broke up one year after their unofficial wedding ceremony in Indonesia. Many people thought the two were legally married, and the unofficial status of their marriage was not revealed until they split.
The fact that Jenner and Carter lived together for at least a year would make their union common law in several states. However, since Illinois does not recognize common law marriage, couples who live together in the state may not be recognized as a married couple. Prior to 1905, couples in Illinois could decide to get married without any formal documentation. Today, those in Illinois wishing to marry must meet two requirements: solemnization and registration.
Under Illinois law, marriages are valid if they involved solemnization, in which a ceremony or exchange of vows took place. A solemnization is valid even if the person performing it was not legally qualified to do so. That is, the person marrying the two people does not have to be ordained in any way, and as long as a reasonable person believed the solemnization was legal, it is considered valid in Illinois....