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Palatine family law attorney, child legal advocates, children and divorce, child custody, divorce proceedingsDivorce, child custody and child support are all emotional and difficult legal issues that separated families face. Parents typically intend to shield their children from the stress and negative emotions of these proceedings; however, sometimes, they leach out anyway. Further, even in the best of situations, the best interests of the child can become lost in the midst of legal battles.

To ensure the child’s needs are properly addressed and considered, a Judge has discretion to appoint a child advocate to help him or her better understand the child’s situation and the type of arrangement that would best promote the child’s healthy development. Attorneys are used for such an appointment and would serve in one of three differing capacities intended to provide a voice to the child’s past and current situations.

Consider the following three roles an attorney may play as a child advocate in family law cases, and examples of circumstances that may prompt a Judge to make this type of appointment.

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establishing paternity, parental rights, Palatine family law attorney, young parents, parentagePaternity is a process unmarried men must go through to gain legal recognition as a child’s parent in order to receive and assume all of the associated rights and obligations. Parenthood can be a daunting responsibility, and sometimes young men and women facing an unexpected pregnancy lack motivation or support for undertaking this central role.

Young men, in particular, may have a hard time adjusting to the news of an unexpected pregnancy, since they can more easily remove themselves from the situation. However, many young parents do want the chance to actively and responsibly raise their children. Young, single parents are at a particular disadvantage. However, a program offered by a Chicago-based organization, One United Hope, gives young parents parenting education and continuing support through in-home visits until a child is three years of age.

Young, unmarried fathers may not realize they do not automatically receive parental rights, despite the financial and physical efforts they provide to care for the child. Establishing paternity gives important rights to the father and provides critical financial benefits to the child meant to create a level of financial security until age 18.

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Posted on in Child Support

spousal support modification, spousal support, Palatine family law attorney, Illinois divorce, divorce processFinances during and after divorce are a concern for many when adjusting to single life on one income. While this change is challenging for those with established careers and secure employment, those who worked only part-time or stayed at home to raise children face a daunting task that is likely to extend into the foreseeable future.

To make this transition easier and to ward off the possibility of falling into destitution following divorce, a spouse has the right to request spousal support or maintenance from the other party. Some couples settle this issue in advance by executing a prenuptial agreement. However, the majority of couples do not address this issue until the marriage is coming to an end, especially if the parties married young or before a spouse achieved financial success in his or her career.

The founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America was recently ordered by an Illinois Court to pay his ex-wife $28,000 per month in spousal support, substantially down from the $400,000 she requested. For the party ordered to pay support, this obligation can feel like a never-ending burden that permanently keeps him or her tied to an ex-spouse. However, in some cases, spousal support orders can be modified, or even terminated, if the circumstances are right.

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Palatine family law attorney, end a marriage, divorce, annulment, seek an annulmentHearing that a family member, friend or acquaintance is ending his or her marriage automatically provokes the thought of divorce. Divorce is a legal process by which a Court says a couple is no longer married in the eyes of the state, and no longer has rights to the legal benefits granted to those in a valid marriage, such as the right to inherit a spouse’s property or have an ownership claim to the marital estate.

Divorce is the most popular method of ending a marriage, especially now that Illinois is a no-fault state. However, another possibility exists for ending a union — annulment.

Annulment is a concept many people take to be antiquated and associated with religion. However, while there is a separate religious procedure to annul a marriage, a Court also has the ability sever a marriage in a similar manner.

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parenting time, Palatine family law attorney, parenting plan, deny parenting time, child custodyEstablishing and maintaining a meaningful connection with one's child is one of the primary goals of all parents. While this effort often becomes more complicated as a child grows up, parents that are separated or divorced have an even bigger hurdle to overcome.

Nurturing a relationship with one's child when custody is shared is challenging for both parents, but the parent allocated the lesser amount of parenting time must work even harder to overcome the lack of time together. Parents generally have a right to exercise a reasonable amount of parenting time with their child, and are presumed fit to exercise parental responsibilities unless evidence is submitted to show the contrary. However, in practical terms, one parent — often the mother — is granted a greater share of the parenting time and care taking duties. The other parent, on the contrary, is typically left with weekends — not always consecutive — and one night per week to foster the parent-child connection.

Reflecting the tendency for fathers to receive less parenting time, a non-profit hosted a free event for fathers in Chicagoland affected by divorce or other family disruptions to learn how to be the most effective parent possible under such circumstances. Regardless of which parent has a greater role in a child's day-to-day life, the parent with more parenting time has the power to block the other parent from seeing the child, in violation of the parenting plan.

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child custody, Palatine family law attorney, reproductive rights, frozen embryos, Illinois divorce casesDisputes over child custody are not uncommon in divorce cases, as each parent vies for retaining the maximum amount of control and physical custody. These conflicts involve fully formed and sentient human beings. But what about the legal status of frozen embryos?

Medical technology is making it easier for couples to become parents or expand their families along an extended and predetermined timeline. As part of this process, some couples are electing to create and freeze embryos in order to shorten the gestation process for use at a later time, or to address fertility issues that require in vitro fertilization.

This decision is prudent and forward-looking for couples in solid relationships, but a complex issue arises if a couple later decides to divorce and some or all of the frozen embryos remain viable for potential use. This issue is particularly thorny because lawmakers rarely keep up with scientific advancements, leaving gaps in the law Courts must struggle to answer.

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child custody exchanges,  Palatine family law attorney, custody exchange, parenting plan, parental responsibilitiesSharing custody of a child routinely presents many parents with the potential for conflict. Whether related to decisions on education or childcare, or the amount of time a child spends with each parent, points of disagreement are likely to arise.

In addition to the philosophical and custodial aspects of sharing parental responsibilities, the very act of exchanging custody of a child between parents can create a number of logistical and psychological challenges. This practical consequence of divorce is one that is easy to overlook when the parties are deciding how to allocate parental responsibilities. Moreover, these exchanges can have profound implications on the ability of parents to cooperate with one another.

Consequently, deciding where and when a custody exchange will take place is an important issue that should be directly addressed, especially if there is concern that outside factors, such as anxiety over seeing a new romantic interest or fear of an altercation, may provoke tension and thus make civil exchanges difficult, if not impossible. Certainly, the amount of interaction, which is often tied to the age of the child and the frequency of exchanges, is a big driver of the potential for conflict. Further, the context of child custody exchanges is likely to change as the child gets older, and is in less need of supervision and direction.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Palatine family law attorney, custody in IllinoisNo issue is more important to a parent than the role he or she plays in a child's life. The importance of this active participation in a child's life particularly comes into play during divorce. The process of separating and dividing a household and family brings unavoidable change to a parent's relationship with his or her child. In an ideal situation, parents work out a shared custody arrangement so the child does not lose too much interaction with either parent. Still, parents do not always agree on what is best for the child.

If a Court has to intervene and decide child custody, Illinois has a specific set of provisions that govern how Judges should make these determinations. Currently, Judges have discretion to order the custody arrangement they decide is in the best interests of the child. However, several groups supporting the rights of fathers in Illinois are pushing for legislation that would create a presumption in favor of joint custody, requiring a parent who opposes an agreement to argue why joint custody is not appropriate.

Judges and family advocacy groups disagree such a change is prudent since a 50/50 split is not workable in some families. Given that child custody is such an integral issue for any parent contemplating divorce, an overview of how Courts assess this issue is necessary.

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Palatine family law attorney, parenting plansWhen couples divorce, crafting a parenting plan to regulate child custody is one of the more challenging aspects of the process. The age of the child and the employment of each parent are major factors affecting the type of arrangement that best suits the circumstances of the family. The best interests of the child is the primary motivating factor in these decisions, but discerning what a child needs to ensure the best possible opportunity to develop is likely to change over time. What is best for a child at the age of six is likely to differ substantially from what a child might need at the age of 15.

Further, the circumstances of the parents may change as jobs come and go and other life adjustments are made over time. As a result, allocating parenting time and responsibilities may need to be shifted to address the changing needs of the child and the ability of each parent to adequately fulfill these responsibilities. While each parent is obligated to follow the terms of a parenting plan, Illinois law does allow parents to request modification under certain circumstances.

When a Request May Be Filed

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Palatine family law attorney, domestic violenceLeaving a marriage with domestic violence requires planning and support to ensure the victim and his or her children are safe. Usually, a victimized spouse must leave in secret and must also leave most possessions behind, so the abusive spouse does not discover the plan in advance. The law recognizes that domestic violence is an all-too-common issue in marriages, and therefore seeks to make keeping an abuser away easier for victims and their families.

In 2014, Illinois law enforcement received more than 65,000 calls related to domestic violence. Hence, knowing how to get retain legal protection against an abusive spouse, as well as how the Court views this issue in divorce/child custody cases, is crucial.

Orders of Protection

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Palatine family law attorney, prenuptial agreementIn the days leading up to engagement and marriage, thinking about the negative possibility of divorce is not a topic most couples want to contemplate. Visions of growing old and all the things they hope to accomplish together usually overtake any concerns about the relationship not lasting.

While expecting a marriage to last a lifetime is the reasonable way to approach a new relationship, no one knows the future. Hammering out how to handle property division and payment of support in the event of divorce through the use of a prenuptial agreement may not be romantic or optimistic, but sometimes pragmatism is more important in the long-term. These conversations are especially important if a couple is older and/or is bringing a lot of assets and other financial resources into the marriage.

Figuring out these issues before divorce is on the table will make the process of dissolving the marriage easier by reducing the likelihood of disputes and the time needed to negotiate a settlement. The terms of these agreements must be memorialized in writing and executed prior to marriage. Further, Illinois regulates the formation and types of provisions these agreements can legally contain.

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Palatine family law attorney,  divorce, moving out-of-stateThe mobility of Americans is one the hallmarks and benefits of living in this country. Moving to a new place for a job, better schools or a different lifestyle are common reasons people give for uprooting their family to a new home and community. Moving with children always brings additional considerations because leaving friends and transitioning to a new school is difficult for many children.

If a parent decides to move following a divorce, this decision is even more complicated. Because of the importance of this relationship, divorced parents who share custody of a child are not free to independently decide to move away with a child. Consultation with the other parent, and at times a family Court judge are necessary to stay within the bounds of the law and the parenting plan. Taking a child to another jurisdiction without permission can lead to serious consequences, including criminal charges for kidnapping or visitation interference.

A mother from Russia faced this situation when she was arrested at O'Hare airport earlier last year for removing her child to Russia without authorization from her ex-husband or a Court. She was placed under house arrest, but recently obtained approval from an Illinois Court to leave the U.S. with her daughter.

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Palatine family law attorney, child support ordersBeing a single parent is one of the hardest roles someone can fill. No one is there to take over and give the parent a break, and inevitably more of the financial burden falls on this parent. However, all parents have an ongoing obligation to financially support their child until he or she becomes a legal adult, and divorce or legal separation does not relieve this duty.

Child support is even more important today with the ever-rising costs associated with raising a child that is partially connected to new expectations of participation in extracurricular activities and use of technology. Thus, any parent who provides the bulk of childcare needs to be able to rely on regular child support payments to ensure enough money is available to provide for the child's needs.

Child support provisions are included in all divorce decrees between parties who share minor children and can also be obtained through a paternity action if the child's parents are unmarried. Understanding how the Court determines how much the child support payment should be, and how to enforce the obligation if a parent fails to pay, is essential information for any parent receiving this money.

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Posted on in Paternity

Palatine family law attorney, establish paternityThe birth of a child brings joy and excitement to parents, family and friends. This event also marks the beginning of the time a parent has to shape the child into the type of person he or she will develop into as an adult. People commonly assume that all parents have the full bevy of legal rights typically held upon birth. This is correct for mothers and married couples. However, unwed fathers have no right to custody or visitation with a child until paternity is legally established.

Paternity is the legal recognition that a man is the father of a child. The establishment of paternity is necessary for unwed fathers who wish to assume the all the rights and obligations parents have over a child. Illinois offers several options to confirm paternity; however, not every legal procedure has the same effect. Therefore, understanding the consequences of each alternative is important when determining which to choose.

DNA testing is the gold standard for proving the paternity of a child, and is used today to unravel mysteries around unknown parentage. People are now even submitting DNA samples to online ancestry websites to find lost relatives and identify absent parents. Just a few years ago, this type of search would have been impossible, but advances in technology continually make connecting with others easier. Unmarried men wishing to remain an active presence in their children's lives need to understand the legal requirements to gain their parental rights.

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Palatine family law attorney, rights of grandparentsChildren of divorced parents must deal with losing the stability of a two-parent home, potentially moving away from friends and family, and adjusting to living in multiple households. Losing friends and family is often the most difficult part of the divorce process. One family member that would be particularly hard to lose is a grandparent.

Grandparents commonly play a large role in a child's life, and have a large impact on a child's development. In fact, some grandparents find themselves raising their grandchildren. More commonly, though, is the grandparent trying to stay in the good graces of both parents in hopes of avoiding a reduction or termination of contact with his/her grandchild.

Parents may choose to cut ties with an ex-spouse's family, particularly if there are issues of domestic abuse or protracted, high-conflict custody disputes. However, the end result is the grandparent and child losing this relationship. Legally, parents are given broad latitude in deciding who is permitted to see their children, and this authority extends to grandparents. Thus, if a parent decides to block communication between a grandparent and grandchild, there is typically little the grandparent can do. However, many states, Illinois included, are starting to recognize the value a grandparent brings to a child by passing laws that grant grandparents some visitation rights following a divorce.

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parenting plan, Palatine family law attorneyRecent revisions to Illinois law require that parents submit a parenting plan to the Court whenever there is a dispute about the allocation of parental responsibilities, or what was previously known as custody and visitation. Parents can also agree to modify their parenting plan and simply submit the plan to the Court for approval. Whatever the case may be, your parenting plan must address certain concerns that involve your children. Essentially, your plan must contain not only the elements required by Illinois law, but also any provisions that may be unique to your family or important to you.

Parenting Plan Basics

A parenting plan is a written document that sets forth each parent’s legal rights and obligations with respect to the children. The plan addresses the same types of issues that a custody agreement or parenting agreement previously addressed. Rather than referring to custody and visitation, however, Illinois law now only refers to the allocation of parental responsibilities, or how parents will effectively parent their child together. Basic elements of a parenting plan include the following:

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Palatine family law attorney, International Child Support ConventionPresident Obama recently signed the instrument of ratification for the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. The purpose of this Convention is to establish uniform, simplified, cost-free rules and procedures for processing child support cases on an international level. Ratification of this Convention is groundbreaking; prior to the Convention, there were no standardized and efficient procedures for international child support cases, and each country had different costly and time-consuming procedures to follow. This Convention represents the first global child support treaty ratified by the United States. Now, American children who have a parent living in a foreign country who is party to the Convention will have additional recourse to collect the financial support that they need in a much more timely manner.

Application of the Convention

There are an estimated 15 million child support cases in the United States, with about 150,000 international child support cases. The newly ratified Convention addresses financial obligations that arise from a relationship between parent and his or her child who is under 21 years of age. In addition to child support, the Convention also contains enforcement procedures for spousal support.

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Posted on in Child Custody

child relocation in illinois, palatine child custody lawyerIn the past, a parent typically could relocate with his or her child anywhere within the state of Illinois. If the parent wanted to move outside of Illinois, he or she would have to obtain permission from the Court in order to do so. Changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) that took effect on January 1, 2016, however, dramatically changed the rules for a parent who wants to relocate with his or her child where the parents are divorced or otherwise separated and draws a sharp distinction between the requirements for a parent moving with a child and relocating with a child.

Moving With Your Child

If the parent with which a child spends most of his or her time wants to move, he or she is generally able to do so without the permission of the Court. Under Illinois law, “moving” refers to a parent living in a new home that is no more than 25 miles away from the original home that is located in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake or Will Counties. Moving also includes moving to a new home that is no more than 50 miles away from the parent's original home if it is located in a county other than those previously mentioned. Despite this ability to move without Court involvement, however, a parent still should provide the child's other parent with his or her new address and telephone number.

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Posted on in Child Custody

right of first refusal, Palatine parenting time lawyerIn Illinois, before agreeing to a custody arrangement, divorcing couples are required to consider including a right of first refusal provision in their parenting plans. This means that before a parenting plan can be approved, parents must consider including a guarantee that anytime the custodial parent needs someone to care for the children, he or she must ask the other parent first before engaging the services of a babysitter or other family member.

Current Law

According to Illinois law, if a Family Court awards parenting time to both parents, it must consider whether one or both parties should be awarded the right of first refusal, which would give the non-custodial parent the first opportunity to care for the child if the custodial parent intends to leave for a significant period of time.

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wrongful death, Palatine IL child support lawyersCalculating child support is one of the most important aspects of a custody case, as the result has the significant likelihood of affecting a child’s life for years to come. Often, a change in one of the parents’ financial circumstances, such as a new employment opportunity, requires courts to reevaluate that person’s monetary contribution. In a recently issued opinion, an Illinois Court of Appeals clarified what constitutes a material change in circumstances such that child support must be modified.

In re Marriage of Fortner

In 2002, Rob Fortner and Shelley S. Scanlan were married and subsequently had a child. In 2003, the couple separated, and an Illinois court ordered that Mr. Fortner pay $313.11 a month in child support. In 2014, Mr. Fortner successfully brought a wrongful death claim against the hospital that treated his father during a fatal heart attack. After deductions for attorney’s fees and other costs of litigation, Mr. Fortner received $169,725.48. Ms. Scanlan then filed a motion to modify child support based on Mr. Fortner’s changed circumstances, although Mr. Fortner argued that the settlement did not constitute increased income for purposes of child support allocation.

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