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Wheaton family law attorneysWhile many parents are able to complete their divorce with little to no fanfare, there are situations in which the best interest of the child comes into question. In these difficult and often heartbreaking cases, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) may be assigned. Learn more about what an assignment of this court liaison may mean for your Illinois child custody case, and discover what our seasoned Wheaton divorce attorneys can do to help with the situation. 

Understanding the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem

Either parent can request that a Guardian Ad Litem be assigned to their case. Alternatively, a judge may assign one, if they feel that the aid of one is warranted. Considered a liaison for the court, they serve as an advocate for the child. They may visit them at school, or at home. They may also meet privately with each of the parents, the school, and persons of interest to the child or family (i.e. stepparents, grandparents, etc.). Requests for a list of witnesses may also be made. 

The goal here is to understand the child’s current situation, and then reach a decision regarding what may be best for their future. Considerations can include where the child will live, and the amount of time they might spend with each parent. It is important to note that the Guardian Ad Litem is not the child’s attorney, so while they may allow the child to voice their preferences and desires, they are not obligated to follow the child’s wishes when making their determination.

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DuPage County family law lawyer, disabled adult guardianWhen an adult suffers from a condition that renders him or her unable to handle personal and financial matters, an Illinois court may appoint a guardian to handle these tasks. If you are the individual appointed to care for the needs of a developmentally disabled person, there are certain obligations and responsibilities you undertake as a guardian. In sum, you have two duties: You manage the ward’s personal care, and are also accountable for his or her financial affairs. Your role is an important one under the Illinois statute, so it is important to work with an experienced guardianship attorney to ensure compliance with the law.

Guardian of the Ward’s Estate

The term “estate” refers to the real and personal property that belongs to the ward. As estate guardian, you manage all aspect of the person’s assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, interests in a business, automobiles, household items, and personal belongings. You are required to care for, manage, and invest estate property frugally and in such a way as to provide for the comfort and suitable support of the ward. Any expenses outside this legal mandate can have serious consequences. For certain expenditures, you will need a court order approving the transaction.

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DuPage County family law lawyer, shared parentingA major change in Illinois child custody law went into effect in 2016—a move that represents a shift to what some would call a more modern approach to addressing the needs of minor children in a divorce. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the law now requires divorcing spouses to work on a plan for allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time.

Experts across the country have stated the numerous benefits to the concept of shared parenting, which is replacing the traditional joint and sole custody laws in other states. Since Illinois has followed suit, it is important for divorcing parents to understand how shared parenting will impact their lives.

Illinois Law on Shared Parenting

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DuPage County family lawyers, enforce parenting timeA court will make a determination of parenting time regarding minor children as part of a divorce, and both parents are expected to meet their obligations under the order. The occasional deviation from the schedule is understandable as life gets hectic for one parent or the other. However, continued incidents that deviate from the parenting time order can become a problem.

Abuse of allocated parenting time is inconvenient and discourteous, and it is also against the law. Still, it is possible to pursue enforcement under Illinois law. You may be able to proceed in a civil court to enforce parenting time, but—to give more “teeth” to the court’s order—you can also seek criminal penalties against the non-conforming parent. Talk to an Illinois parenting time lawyer about the two different options.

Enforcement in Civil Court

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DuPage County family law lawyer, Illinois law on visitationIllinois lawmakers recognize that grandparents and non-parent relations can play a big role in a child’s life, so the General Assembly enacted a law that allows individuals to seek visitation under certain circumstances. In general, a person must file a petition in court; however, it is not necessary for there to be a pending case for divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities in order to initiate proceedings. A family law attorney can assist you with the process if the situation warrants visitation by non-parents, but some general information can help you understand your options.

Illinois Statute on Visitation by Non-Parents

The law regarding the visitation petition limits eligibility to grandparents, great-grandparents, step-parents, and half- or step-siblings. Once the individual passes the relationship test, there are additional requirements:

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DuPage County family law lawyer, order of removalMoving to a new city or state for a new job, or just to be closer to family is a decision many people make without a second thought. However, if you have a custody order, then you may not be able to simply pick up and move. You may first have to get the permission of the court.

Order of Removal

Under the law, prior to January 1, 2016, a parent with primary custody of a child could not move out of state without first getting an order of removal from the court authorizing the move. A parent could, however, move anywhere in Illinois without court approval.

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DuPage County family law lawyer, parental alienation allegationsParental alienation occurs when one parent uses his or her influence to manipulate a child’s opinion of his or her other parent. Typically one parent convinces the child that he or she is the good parent and that the other parent is bad, or even evil. Sadly, these types of cases are common. When judges suspect parental alienation, it can drastically alter the way the court decides parenting time and custody.

Signs of Parental Alienation

There is a wide range of behaviors that may point to one parent trying to alienate his or her child from the other parent. Classic signs include the following:

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DuPage County family law lawyer, calculating spousal maintenanceWhen spouses separate, it is possible that one spouse will need financial support. Illinois law provides courts with specific guidelines for determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance.

If you and your spouse are divorcing and you are interested in learning more about spousal maintenance, do not hesitate to contact an attorney with skill and experience in the field of family law.

Types of Spousal Support

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Imputed Income for Child Support

Even though parents can and do choose to end their relationship with each other, the parental bond with their children endures. Both parents are legally obligated to support their children, even if they do not choose to maintain a relationship with them. Because of this continuing obligation, child support issues are often the most intensely contested areas during a divorce or custody proceeding.

Some parents attempt to hide income, or reduce their income by taking a lower-paying job, just to reduce the amount of child support that they are required to pay. Doing so, however, can lead to trouble with the law.

Illinois law has provided a mechanism for judges, who suspect that parents are trying to avoid their duty to pay child support, to bring parents into line. This mechanism, known as imputing income, involves assigning a higher salary to a parent than they actually earn.

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Long Distance Visitation: Making it Work

For divorced parents who live far apart, or even in different states, the challenge of finding a visitation schedule that works for both parents, is acceptable to a judge, and serves the child’s best interests can be a daunting task. The complications of divorce and custody determinations are made even more complex when one parent moves for work or other reasons.

In Illinois, a parent with custody must seek and obtain the approval of a family law judge before moving out of state with his or her child. Often, the proposed visitation plan is the sticking point in an otherwise workable removal plan. If the parents will live so far apart that a long drive, bus ride, or even flight separates their two homes, the plan for the child’s transportation must be carefully thought out and easy to put into practice. For example, parents wishing to live in Chicago and New York, respectively, would have an easier time convincing a judge that travel for the child is reasonable, because of the easy access to major airports. Parents wishing to send a child for visitation from Springfield, Illinois, to Amarillo, Texas, for example, would have a much tougher time because of the relative complexity and length of travel between the two less-connected cities. If airfare, train tickets, bus, or driving costs are prohibitive, or the distance is just too far to be crossed in a reasonable time frame, this could also derail a removal plan.

If you are considering petitioning a court for the right to move with your child to another state, or if your child’s other parent is attempting to do so, it is important to consider the obstacles that an unaccompanied child would have to face in traveling for a visit. This will factor prominently in a judge’s decision, especially because preserving the ability of both parents to have a meaningful relationship with their child is of the utmost importance.

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Rights and Responsibilities of Birth Parents

The adoption of a child can be exciting and stressful at the same time. To reduce the strain on both birth parents and adoptive parents, it helps for all parties to know their rights.

As a birth parent in Illinois, you have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times, and make decisions without being coerced or pressured. You can choose to work with social service agencies while you are deciding whether to place your child for adoption. You are allowed to work with an adoption agency or attorney of your choice, and you can change to a different agency or attorney at any time, as long as you inform all involved parties promptly.

No one working at these agencies, or working with you on your adoption, can share your identifying information without your permission. In rare cases, your information could be shared for a very good reason, if required by Illinois law or directed by a court order. Non-identifying social, medical, and mental health information about you and your family will be shared in an adoption that is facilitated by an agency, and can be shared in private adoptions. You are free to include your family and friends in any meetings you have with the agency or attorney.

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NOTE: As of July 2017, the law governing child support in Illinois has changed. Please see our Child Support page for more information.

Illinois Statutory Guidelines set a minimum percentage of a parent’s net income that must go towards child support, but judges are free to exceed this minimum. Net income is the amount of earnings that remain after basic deductions have been factored in, including federal and state income tax; Social Security or mandatory retirement contributions; health insurance premiums and necessary medical expenses; union dues; preexisting child support or alimony obligations; repayment of debts necessary for producing of income; and expenses that benefit the child and the other parent. The minimum percentage of the remaining net income that must be paid to support children ranges from 20 percent for one child, to 50 percent for six or more children.

Payment for Additional Expenses

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Posted on in Divorce

grounds for divorce, DuPage County family law attorneyIf you are seeking a divorce, there are two major routes under Illinois’ marriage dissolution law. When seeking a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage from a local judge, you must show that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences, or that you are seeking to dissolve your marriage on the basis of one of the grounds for divorce.

If you are seeking a no-fault divorce, due to irreconcilable differences, you must complete a two-year waiting period before the marriage can be dissolved. During this time, you and your spouse must live apart, and you must prove to the judge at the end of the two years that your differences have caused the irreversible breakdown of your marriage, that any efforts to reconcile have not been successful, and that any future efforts to reconcile would not be practicable or in the family’s best interests. In some cases, the two-year waiting period can be shortened to six months, if both spouses agree and sign a waiver form. In ever rarer cases, the separation requirement can be disposed of altogether. To know whether your circumstances might allow you to bypass the waiting period, you should consult with a local attorney who has experience with divorce cases.

Grounds for Divorce

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