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DuPage County family law attorneysChild custody battles can get ugly, fast, and in some cases, there is a need to ensure that the child’s well-being is not at risk. In these situations, a Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed. What do you do if this happens during your Illinois custody case, and how should you respond? 

Avoid the Panic and Prepare for the Process 

When parents learn that a Guardian Ad Litem, they often go into panic mode. Unfortunately, this does nothing to benefit the case. In fact, if anything, such a reaction could jeopardize the proceedings and, ultimately, the outcome of your Illinois child custody case. As such, it is recommended that parents put their energy into preparation, rather than panic. 

If you have not done so already, ensure you have legal representation to help you through the process. Also, consider taking a parenting class to prove that you are not just a good parent, but a proactive one. Parents should also prepare for the interview and home study process, which are fairly standard in cases involving a Guardian Ad Litem. 

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Illinois parenting time attorneysChildren, although seen as resilient, can suffer greatly during a divorce. Thankfully, attentive and loving parents can ease the transition to improve their child’s outcome. Learn more about how to help your child cope during your impending Illinois divorce, and discover how a seasoned attorney can ease the process so that you have more time to focus on your child’s needs.

Place Your Child’s Interests at the Forefront 

Loving parents are generally pretty attentive to the needs and well-being of their children, but during a divorce, life can feel pretty out of sorts. Add in a dose of guilt, depression, or even just the stress that a divorce may cause, and it is easy to see why parents sometimes lose sight of what might be best for their kids. Parents may also become preoccupied with “winning” the divorce - and not necessarily because they want to get even with their spouse. Some simply struggle with the idea of splitting the time they have with their children. 

To avoid such issues in your divorce, start by first examining your situation, rather than your feelings. Consider what your child needs most. Is it stability? Perhaps they would adjust best if allowed to stay in their current neighborhood, rather than having to move and change schools. Now consider which parent may be able to best meet your child’s daily needs. Now consider how you ensure your child has their other needs met - specifically time and a connection with the parent that cannot meet their daily needs. Use all of this as a foundation for your parenting plan. 

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Wheaton family law attorneysStudies have long shown that divorce can impact the academic performance of children, but a new research project provides even more insight into the types of families that are more likely to see such issues after a divorce. Learn more in the following sections, and discover how our seasoned attorneys may be able to help improve the outcome for your children. 

Study Examines Academic Issues in Children After Parental Divorce

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, examined the families and socioeconomic demographics of 11,512 children and 4,931 children to determine their risk of divorce. Researchers then cross-referenced the data and compared it to the educational outcomes of the children who ultimately experienced a divorce, as well as those who did not. Children from families that had a low risk of divorce saw a greater risk of poor academic performance and an increased risk of not completing their education. 

Specifically, the children from families with a low divorce risk were 6 percent less likely to graduate from high school, and approximately 15 percent less likely to graduate from college. In contrast, children who came from families with a high risk of divorce suffered almost no academic deficit after the separation of their parents. 

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Illinois divorce attorneysClaiming dependents on your taxes is usually a pretty straightforward process, but if your family has recently been through a divorce, things can be a little more complex. Given the significant impact that dependents can have on one’s tax status, it probably comes as no surprise that the matter can cause a great deal of strife between recently divorced parents. 

Normally, a divorce decree dictates who claims the dependents on their taxes, but disagreements and discrepancies can and do sometimes occur. There are also situations in which one parent may attempt to deprive the other of their right to claim the dependents on their taxes. Learn what can happen in these scenarios, and discover how our seasoned DuPage County divorce lawyers can help to clear up confusing matters involving your divorce. 

What Happens When Two Parents Try to Claim a Dependent?

If a divorce decree dictates who is supposed to claim the children, and both parents attempt to claim them, the matter is usually resolved by supplying the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with proper documentation. However, if a decree does not exist, then the IRS has a series of tie-breaker rules that they use to determine who gets the credit. In order, these rules are:

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DuPage County divorce attorneysLoving parents will do almost anything to ensure their children feel happy and safe. Sadly, not even the best efforts can save some marriages - and when a child’s parents go through a divorce, they are bound to be impacted. Thankfully, there are many strategies that a parent can employ to minimize the negative effects of a divorce. Next to pursuing an amicable separation, validating the child’s feelings is one of the most effective and critical. 

Why Validation Works

Everyone experiences feelings of anger, sadness, and grief; children are no exception. However, children do not always know how to verbalize their feelings. Because of this, their feelings may come out in the form of negative or undesirable behaviors. Examples can include meltdowns or temper tantrums, separation anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, poor academic performance, and extreme sensitivity. 

Validation may not remedy all of these issues, but it can certainly go a long way to helping a child heal during and after a divorce. It allows them to feel as though they have a voice, and that their feelings are important. That can be critical for a child who feels like every decision is out of their control. Even better is when a parent can help their child identify their feelings and learn how to put them into words. 

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Wheaton family law attorneysThe decision to get divorced is one you should take seriously. If children are involved, you should be especially diligent in making the right decision for the family unit. Divorce can hurt kids, even when the parents are agreeable, but the effect may far worse if the interactions between parents become toxic. 

In knowing this, most parents put forth the effort to thwart toxicity in their situation. However, that is not always the case. Learn how continued toxicity in your divorce can negatively impact your children, and discover what you can do when faced with a parent who is consistently making poor, selfish, or negative decisions regarding your children and/or matters involving them in your Illinois divorce. 

Examining the Potential Effects of a Toxic Divorce 

While each case may vary based on a range of factors (i.e. the temperament of the child, level of toxicity, the form of toxicity, or whether additional forms of abuse are present in the marriage or family environment, etc.), children who witness a toxic divorce situation often share similar traits and issues. Some of these include problems with:

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Wheaton DCFS child abuse investigation lawyerAlthough spousal abuse and child abuse are unfortunately all too common, there are some situations in which false allegations are made. If you have found yourself facing a legal custody battle based on made-up accusations, you will definitely want to seek the advice of a knowledgeable family law attorney. 

Steps to Take

A disgruntled spouse or ex-spouse may think that accusing the other party of abuse will help win a custody case, even if nothing of the sort ever actually happened. They may involve DCFS, or they may go straight to the court. In these cases, it is of utmost importance that you remain calm and cooperate with any investigations that may take place. A judge will most likely try to err on the side of caution where a child is involved, but at the same time, courts are not willing to take away parenting time without clear, just cause. The worst thing you could do during this time is lose your cool. That is why it will help to have legal counsel for advice and to give you confidence in your case.

It will also be valuable to you if you can gather evidence and witnesses to vouch for your reputation. Friends, neighbors, family members, or others who have spent time with you and your children may be willing to testify, whether it be to DCFS, a Guardian ad Litem, or in court, that they have seen you treat your children well and have not seen any signs of abuse. These witnesses can be great resources in your case.

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Wheaton family law attorneysThe divorce process can have a negative impact on all involved parties, but child experts say that it is children who are at the greatest risk for long-term, negative effects. Part of this can be attributed to their lack of control in the situation, but there are other aspects of a divorce that can increase a child’s risk of developing mental, emotional, or behavioral issues during the process. For example, studies suggest children are more likely to suffer from maladjustment if interactions between their parents are contentious or tumultuous during the proceedings. 

What is Childhood Maladjustment? 

Childhood development is a complex process. Its course is determined by both nature and nurture - or what some would call a child’s environment and genetic makeup. Major events that change the dynamics of a family, whether positive or negative, can also have an impact on a child’s development. The birth of a sibling is usually seen as a positive influence, as they must learn to share their time, toys, and attention, which can ultimately make them more compassionate and empathetic people. 

Divorce tends to be seen as a negative influencer. It can leave children feeling at fault for the dissolution of their parent’s marriage. Fighting and tumultuous proceedings can also cause the child to feel as though they have to choose a side in the divorce, which can significantly impact their relationship with both parties - not just the parent that they attempt to snub. Some struggle to adjust when one parent leaves the home. Others may feel as though their entire world has been turned upside down, which may cause them to develop symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

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Wheaton divorce attorneysDivorce can be a painful and difficult process for all involved parties, but children are said to be at an exceptionally high risk of experiencing long-term consequences. Child experts believe their heightened risk of complications could be attributed to the sense of powerlessness that children often feel during the divorce process. 

Children typically have no say over whether their parents’ marriage continues. In fact, most are unaware that a divorce is even happening until the proceedings are well underway. They are also rarely given a say over the decisions that are made during the divorce process, yet many of them affect the child’s day-to-day life. Examples include where the child will live and go to school and the amount of time that they get to spend with each parent once the divorce has been finalized.

Thankfully, it is possible for loving parents to mitigate many of the issues that children may experience during and after the divorce process. The first (and perhaps most important step) is to ensure that you put your child at the center of every decision you make - especially if it will directly affect them in the months and years to come.

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Wheaton divorce lawyersDivorce can dredge up a lot of anger and resentment toward your spouse - especially if you are not the one who filed. Yet, as a parent, it is critical that you remember your child is the innocent party, and they need love and support from both their parents to help them cope. Increase your chances of meeting their needs by avoiding the saying the following things to your child during and after the divorce process, and discover how a seasoned divorce lawyer can further decrease the chances that your child will suffer from maladjustment issues down the road. 

Your Mother/Father is a “Deadbeat” (and Other Negative Names)

Children are half of each parent, so when one parent attacks the other, the child may start to think that there is something wrong with them as well. So, regardless of what your ex is doing (or has done in the past) do your best to try and keep your opinions about them to yourself. If you need to talk about your spouse’s behavior or the details of the divorce, turn to family or friends who are on your side or make an appointment with a therapist or with a support group. Just make sure that your child is not within earshot when discussing such issues. 

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interstate child custody issues, DuPage County family law attorneysWhen parents and their children have lived in different states throughout the duration of the marriage, extremely complicated issues arise regarding child custody in a divorce case. In Illinois, the key for handling disputes is jurisdiction—a court’s authority differs when handling divorce matters versus child custody battles. Jurisdiction may be proper over one aspect of the case, but not appropriate for the other. Because of the highly complex nature of the legal issues involved, it is wise to retain an Illinois divorce attorney with experience in interstate child custody issues.

Divorce Jurisdiction

Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a court has jurisdiction to enter an order of dissolution of marriage so long as one of the spouses was a resident of the state when filing for divorce. In addition, jurisdiction is proper if one of the spouses was stationed in Illinois as a member of the armed services. The spouse must be a resident or have military presence in the state for at least 90 days prior to initiating divorce proceedings. Once the filing spouse meets the 90 day requirement and submits the petition for divorce, the case will proceed in Illinois regardless of where the other spouse lives.

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DuPage County family law lawyers, parenting planWhen you file for divorce in Illinois and there are minor children involved, parents have 120 days to file a Parenting Plan with the court. If you and your spouse agree on decision-making for the child, living arrangements, and other critical factors, you can file jointly; where there are areas of disagreement, you will have to file separately. Moreover, there are certain requirements you will need to include in the Parenting Plan. Therefore, it is important to discuss these and other essentials required by law with an Illinois parental responsibilities attorney.

Allocation Regarding Decision-Making

You and the child’s other parent must determine how you will handle the important choices involved with raising him or her. In the Parenting Plan, you must allocate decisions involving education, medical care, and other activities that are critical to your child’s development. You should make sure to cover travel, entertainment, extracurricular activities, sports, and aspects of life that impact your child’s regular routine.

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DuPage County parenting responsibilities attorneys, parental responsibilityAt the beginning of the year, Illinois family law made several changes to the way it divides up parenting time, formerly known as visitation, and parenting responsibilities, formerly known as custody. While parenting time is somewhat straightforward—it has to do with when each parent has time with the children—parental responsibility can be a little more tricky.

If you are in the process of a divorce or are trying to figure out a new parenting plan, you should contact knowledgeable child custody attorneys to help you understand all the options you have for sharing or dividing up these responsibilities.

Parenting Responsibilities

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Illinois Custody Relinquishment Prevention Act,  DuPage County DCFS defense attorneysThe Illinois Custody Relinquishment Prevention Act went into effect in 2015 to help curb a problem that many families were facing. The issue was called “custody for care”—families who needed intensive mental health support for their children would feel forced into giving up custody to the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS).

The Problem the Act Addresses 

Children with severe mental health issues often need intensive and expensive psychiatric treatment. Yet even with health insurance, many plans do not cover this kind of treatment. Therefore, parents were not able to access this treatment on their own.

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Illinois Court Grants Rights to “Psychological Parent”At the beginning of 2016, Illinois family law went through some major changes. These new laws included provisions regarding who the child lives with, now called parenting time, and laws dealing with who has the responsibility for making important decisions about the child’s life, termed “parental responsibility.” Now, as a consequence of the changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, an Illinois court has recognized a “psychological” parent and given her significant parenting time and parenting responsibilities.

What is a “Psychological Parent”?

A “psychological parent” is a term used in legal proceedings to indicate someone who has taken on the role of the parent but otherwise has no biological or legal connection to the child. For example, if someone has lived with, fed, taken a child to school, and performed other parenting type tasks consistently over a period of time (and was not paid by the biological parent to perform these tasks, such as a nanny), he or she may argue that they are a psychological parent to the child and therefore deserves some rights.

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Posted on in Divorce

Same-Sex Divorce in IllinoisIt has been a little over two years since same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois. Bill Flick, a Pantagraph columnist, recently wrote about how now we are starting to see more same-sex divorce. He quotes an unnamed divorce lawyer who said ‘Even unhappy couples make it a year or two.’ Now that same-sex divorces have started to happen more frequently, it is important to understand them and how they may be the same and different from opposite-sex divorces.

The Divorce Process

The divorce process is the same for same-sex and opposite-sex couples and both need to meet the jurisdictional requirements in order to get a divorce in Illinois. Otherwise, the process is generally the same, and most of the considerations are the same, with a few exceptions including the ones explained below.

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Illinois Eliminates Child Custody and VisitationIn the beginning of the year, Illinois got rid of the family law terms “custody” and “visitation.” Now the law that governs who children will live with after a divorce and who has the power to make decisions for the children, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, uses the terms “parenting time” and “allocation of parental responsibilities” instead. Though these terms have been in use since the beginning of the year, many people still may be confused about what the change means and the reasons for the change. This article discusses what the changes mean for couples struggling with child custody and visitation issues.

Definitions of the New Terms

While the terms “parenting time” and “allocation of parental responsibilities” are similar to “visitation” and “custody,” they actually divide up parenting concepts in different ways. Custody generally referred to who the children lived with and also who had the power to make decisions on behalf of the children. Visitation meant the legally protected right of the parent who the kids do not live with to spend time with the children. Now, instead of having one parent who the kids live with and who makes decisions, parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities divides the rights in a different way.

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fathers rightsThe day before Father’s Day is often referred to as “Fatherless Day” and commemorates fathers who are not able to see their children due to death or separation. It is understandable why several groups of single fathers chose that day to rally at the state capitol in Springfield and at a Lake County courthouse. The two rallies were organized by different groups, but the groups have the same goals: increasing fathers’ access to their children.

The rally in Lake County was organized by a group called Illinois for Parental Equality, which works to reform family court to give fathers more time with their children. A similar group called Illinois Fathers organized the Springfield rally. "It can be very hard to spend time away from your child. It's heart-wrenching,” said Illinois Fathers supporter Nick Hickman at the rally.

Are Courts Biased Against Fathers?

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Post-Judgment Custody ModificationsAfter your divorce agreement is finalized you may decide that you want to modify some of the terms, including the terms related to parenting responsibility and time. In order to modify the parenting parts of your agreement, you must meet certain conditions. It is important to understand when you can modify parenting time and responsibility in a divorce agreement in Illinois and what you need to prove for a judge to be willing to consider your proposed modifications.

When Can You Modify an Agreement?

In Illinois, modification of divorce agreements is governed under 750 ILCS 5/610.5. Generally, parents can modify the terms of parenting agreements if they both consent to the modifications. Outside of both parties consenting, there are other ways to modify the parenting provisions of a divorce agreement. In terms of language, at the beginning of the year Illinois family law moved away from the terms “custody” and “visitation,” and now looks at custody in terms of parenting time and parenting rights. It is important to understand these changes because any modifications moving forward will need to use these terms and concepts.

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DuPage County child custody attorneysThe news came out of Chicago recently that the court has denied Amanda and Leo Ware custody of their three children. Amanda, known at the time as Amanda Hamm, had spent five years in prison for child endangerment after she watched the father of her three children drown the six-year-old, three-year-old, and 23-month-old. News reports say that he allegedly wanted to kill the children because they interfered with the couple’s lifestyle of drugs and sex.

After serving her sentence, Amanda Ware married Leo Ware and had three children together. They had custody of the children until state authorities became aware that Amanda was the person involved in the previous drowning case. The couple was brought to the attention of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services when a doctor recognized Amanda while she was delivering her most recent child. DCFS then took the three children into state custody.

Earlier this month Cook County Circuit Judge Demetrios Kottaras ruled against the Wares in their application for custody. The judge found that the couple was still unable to care for their children, but could continue supervised visitation with a permanency planning hearing scheduled every six months. In the meantime, the children will remain in foster care.

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