Recent blog posts

Posted on in Divorce

Palatine family law attorney, pet visitation rightsMost divorces require a division of assets and perhaps a determination of parental responsibility, if the couple has any children. However, another increasingly contentious issue is how to decide who will retain ownership of any shared pets. A recently published opinion from an Illinois Appellate Court helps resolve the issue of what role Courts have in post-divorce pet visitation decision making.

The Trial

In August 2012, Kimberly Enders filed a petition to dissolve her marriage to Michael Baker, which was followed, a few months later, by Mr. Baker’s motion seeking visitation of the couple’s two dogs. Mr. Baker argued that when the couple separated they agreed that the two would share joint custody of the dogs, although Ms. Enders had refused to hold up her end of the agreement. The Trial Court granted Mr. Baker temporary visitation rights on alternate weekends. In July 2014, the Trial Court awarded sole “custody” of the dogs to Ms. Enders and denied Mr. Baker any right to visitation.

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Posted on in Adoption

Palatine family law attorney, gestational surrogacyTechnological advances over the last decade have made conceiving a biological child possible for many individuals, despite being unable to reproduce naturally. Couples can utilize the process of gestational surrogacy, in which a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a child created through in-vitro fertilization. After the birth of the child, the surrogate gives up all parental rights.

Gestational Surrogacy Act

In order to be a gestational surrogate in Illinois, a woman must:

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Palatine family law attorney, family services advisor council, child care facilities​After disturbing reports hit the media discussing the abuse and neglect of numerous children who had been taken out of their parents’ custody and placed in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the state legislature quickly devised a series of new laws meant to improve the monitoring of child care facilities across the state.

Senate Bill 13 revised the duties and membership requirements of the Family Service’s Advisory Council, a group previously put in place to oversee DCFS licensed child care facilities, in efforts to increase accountability and prevent incidences of abuse from going unreported.

Advisory Council Membership

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Posted on in Family Law

Palatine collaborative law attorney, child placementIllinois law provides guidelines that the Department of Children and Family Services must follow when placing children in either temporary or permanent homes. The most important qualification is that the placement be in the best interests of each child. However, a new law ensures that family members retain certain rights concerning foster care arrangements.

Current Law

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is given discretion in determining what type of environment is in each child’s best interest and making a placement based on that information; however, DCFS is still required to place a child, when appropriate, in the custody of certain individuals, including:

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Palatine family law attorney, foster children’s bill of rightsThis year, House Bill 3684, which creates a Foster Children’s Bill of Rights, went into effect in Illinois. The law’s aim is to ensure that all children and adults who are in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services, and are placed in foster homes, have access to the same rights as all other citizens.

Rights and Privileges

The basic rights afforded to foster children include the ability to:

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Palatine collaborative law attorney, birth grandparent rightsOn January 1, last year’s changes to the Illinois Adoption Act were implemented across the state. The changes include amendments concerning who is allowed to seek access to personal information about adults who were previously adopted or surrendered to the state. Sometimes, years after an adoption takes place, one or both parties involved are interested in making contact with the other. This can be a difficult and emotional process. Therefore, if you are considering making contact with an adopted biological relative, then contacting an experienced family law attorney who will handle the issue with skill and sensitivity is essential.

Amendments

The Illinois Adoption Act authorizes the Department of Public Health to establish a registry that allows mutually consenting members of birth and adoptive families to exchange identifying information. Previously, biological grandparents were not permitted to file applications requesting such an exchange. The recent amendments change that and allow birth grandparents to file requests if a birth parent has died. The birth grandparent may file a Registration Identification Form or an Information Exchange Authorization if he or she submits:

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Palatine family law attorney, temporary supportIn some marriages, one spouse is primarily dependent on the other for monetary support. This can lead to troubling consequences in the event that a couple decides to pursue a divorce. However, in such circumstances, dependent spouses can seek temporary support to ensure that they will be able to financially support themselves or their children during the period of time in which divorce proceedings are pending — a process that could take months or even years. Revisions to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), which went into effect January 1, changed some of the procedural requirements for obtaining such temporary support.

Temporary Support

In order to receive an order of temporary support, a party must submit a petition and provide an affidavit containing the factual basis for the relief requested. The financial affidavit must be supported at the time of its submission by documentary evidence including:

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Palatine family law attorney, orders of protection, domestic violenceDomestic violence is a serious problem — a problem which can have a devastating effect on children and families. Victims of domestic violence may seek protective orders to help them avoid contact with their abusers. Additionally, domestic violence can have an effect on child custody proceedings and can mean the loss of parenting time, visitation, and even, in extreme circumstances, parental rights.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence, under Illinois law, is abuse against a family or household member. Abuse does not mean just physical abuse. Abuse also includes mental cruelty, harassment, intimidation, threats and controlling behaviors. A parent’s reasonable direction of a child, however, does not constitute domestic violence.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Palatine family law attorney, parenting plansIn any divorce with minor children, or in any case involving time-sharing with a minor, Illinois law requires that the parents implement a parenting plan. Parenting plans are documents outlining parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Moreover, parenting plans are designed to ensure that both parents have the opportunity to foster relationships with their children and share in childrearing.

What Do Parenting Plans Include?

Parenting plans deal with parenting time and decision-making. At a minimum, parenting plans in Illinois must include provisions addressing the following:

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marital-home-Illinois.jpgA home can be the most valuable asset a couple owns. Moreover, spouses may also have emotional ties to the marital home. In a divorce, determining who gets the couple’s home, or whether to sell it, is one of the most important considerations.

Equitable Distribution

In an Illinois divorce, a couple’s marital property is divided under the principles of equitable distribution. This means that the division will be fair, although not necessarily equal. Since only marital property is divided, a house is often subject to division, but not always.

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Posted on in Adoption

Palatine family law attorney, adoption and paternitySometimes, birth fathers are ignored when it comes to adoption proceedings. However, in Illinois, they have important rights with legal protections. Depending on the father’s legal status, a father may be required to give consent to an adoption for the adoption to proceed.

Legal Fathers

There are several ways to become a legal father in Illinois. If a child’s father was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or conception, then he will automatically become the child’s legal father. He may also establish paternity by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form, through a Department of Public Aid administrative order if the mother is receiving public assistance, or through filing a petition with the Court.

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collaborative divorce, Palatine Collaborative Law AttorneyDivorces are often contentious proceedings. Disputes regarding important issues such as property division, child custody and support payments can be exacerbated by the litigation process. Collaborative divorce, however, is an alternative to a traditional litigated divorce. In a collaborative divorce, the spouses do not go to Court to resolve issues. Instead, with the help of a lawyer trained in collaborative law, the spouses come to an agreement with each other about the terms of the divorce. Then they go to Court to finalize the dissolution.

Process

In Illinois, no statutes govern the collaborative divorce process. In a collaborative divorce, each spouse retains his or her own lawyer. The spouses agree to work together in good faith to resolve the issues associated with their divorce and to honestly disclose all pertinent information. They meet together, with their lawyers, to discuss the issues and reach an agreement.

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Posted on in Children of Divorce

parental alienation, Palatine Family Law Attorney

Thinking about a divorce or separation? If children are involved, one of the most important considerations is protecting the children from the stress and turmoil of the divorce and ensuring that their interests are represented. Generally, children benefit from both parents involvement in their lives and good relationships with both parents. However, sometimes in a custody dispute, one parent harms the children’s relationship with the other parent.

Alienation

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non-minor educational support, Palatine Family Law AttorneyIn Illinois, Courts have discretion to include, as part of a child support order, a requirement that parents contribute toward post-secondary education expenses of their non-minor children. Historically, the guidelines for determining whether such support could be required were vague and confusing. The passage of the Family Law Reform Bill addresses these concerns by creating a new protocol for determining when non-minor support is appropriate.

Existing Law

The current version of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows a Court to order educational support for a child, including college or professional training expenses, as part of a custody agreement. Previously, Courts were only instructed to consider the following when making their determination:

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Posted on in Family Law

Illinois Safe Haven Law, Palatine Family Law AttorneyA newborn baby girl was recently found on the steps of the Nazareth Family Center in Chicago. A cleaning person allegedly found the child wrapped in a blanket around 3 a.m. How long the child was on the steps is not clear. She was treated at St. Mary’s and was then taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital. The child is reported to be in good condition. The Department of Child and Family Services is now the child’s guardian and, along with the police, is investigating the situation.

Abandonment

New parents who are unable to provide adequate care for their newborn children may abandon their infants in unsafe circumstances where they may be vulnerable to the weather or other dangerous conditions. Under Illinois law, parents who abandon their children face civil liability and criminal prosecution. To provide a safe alternative for parents who cannot care for their babies, Illinois has a Safe Haven law.

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Posted on in Family Law

modifying alimony, divorce, Palatine Family Law AttorneyAfter a divorce, alimony is important to the economic well-being of many spouses. However, sometimes, a spouse's circumstances change and an alimony award is no longer appropriate. Fortunately, Illinois law provides that an alimony award may be modified or terminated in certain cases.

Modification

To modify an alimony award in Illinois, a spouse must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances that warrants modification. In determining whether a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, the Court must review the factors initially considered in making the award, along with additional factors, including:

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Hague Convention’s Mandatory Return Rule, Palatine Family Law AttorneyThe Hague Convention is an international law which regulates child custody. One key requirement of the Convention is that a child who is taken across international borders by one parent must be returned. In a recent decision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of an Illinois District Court that stated that evidence of sexual abuse falls within the “grave risk” exception to the Hague Convention’s requirement.

Ortiz v. Martinez

In 2011, a mother of two children, Zulima Martinez, refused to return with her children to the family’s home in Mexico City after a family vacation in Illinois. Julio Ortiz, the father of the children who had returned ahead of the family, alleged to the Court that Ms. Martinez’s action constituted an infringement of the Hague Convention, which makes it illegal for parents to abscond with their children across international borders.

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Posted on in Family Law

guardianship laws, Palatine Family Law AttorneyIn Illinois, the Probate Act regulates the guardianship of minors and disabled adults. The statute creates three types of guardianship under the Act: guardian of the estate, guardian of the person and guardian of both the estate and the person. The type of guardianship sought will largely dictate what is required in the process of petitioning for guardianship.

Establishing Guardianship of a Minor

The amendments to the Probate Act create a rebuttable presumption in favor of short-term guardians who are initially appointed by a minor’s parent or guardian. The petitioner seeking guardianship then has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that remaining with the appointed short-term guardian is not in the child’s best interest. While this presumption cannot be rebutted, the appointment of a short-term guardian does not represent the Court’s consent for a Court appointment of a guardian.

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equitable adoption, Palatine Family Law AttorneyThe Illinois Supreme Court's recent decision in In re Parentage of Scarlett Z.-D addressed the sensitive issue of a non-parent’s rights during a custody proceeding. The plaintiff in the case presented a unique argument, claiming that the doctrine of equitable adoption, which had previously only been applied to probate proceedings, also governed custody cases. Ultimately, the Court disagreed, holding that the doctrine could not be extended to custody disputes.

Facts

In 2003, a Slovakian national and American immigrant, Maria, returned home on a trip to visit her extended family. During the visit, Maria and her fiancé Jim decided to adopt a young orphaned girl, Scarlett, whom they had encountered on the trip, despite the fact that under Slovakian law, Jim was not permitted to legally adopt the child.

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Posted on in Child Custody

joint and sole custody, Palatine Family Law AttorneyIn any divorce involving minor children, one important issue that must be resolved regards each parent’s legal ability to make life decisions concerning his or her child. Under current Illinois law, this is referred to as joint or sole custody.

Joint and Sole Custody

Currently, Illinois Courts can issue joint or sole custody to a child's parents. Joint custody requires cooperation and communication between the parents. Additionally, a child's parents must work together to make major life decisions regarding their child’s health, safety and well-being.

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