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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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DuPage County adoption attorneysAdoption can be a rewarding way to grow your family. Unfortunately, there are many would-be parents who worry that they are not “good enough” to adopt. Perhaps they struggle to balance their work and home life, or maybe they do not have the best upbringing. Rest assured that these issues may be less relevant than you think when trying to adopt. Learn more about what adoption agencies are looking for in an adoptive parent, and discover how our seasoned family law attorneys can help you skillfully navigate the emotionally trying and legally complex process. 

Adoption Agencies Want Loving and Committed Parents

Raising a child is hard work that takes a lot of love and dedication. Adoption agencies understand this, which is why they are less focused on perfection and more concerned with finding loving and committed parents. If you are willing to go the distance for your child, be it financially or by simply ensuring that they have a happy, stable childhood, then adoption may very well be the right path for growing your family. 

Adoption Agencies Want Children to Live in a Safe Environment 

Safety is a critical element in a child’s home - for both obvious and not so obvious reasons. Little kids move quickly, and they are often unable to recognize just how dangerous a situation or object can be. That is why they need attentive, loving parents to watch over them. If you can offer this, then you may be exactly the kinds of parent that the agencies are hoping will apply.

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Wheaton parenting time lawyersThe process of divorce can be messy, especially when children are involved. Fueled by a desire to ease the transition for their children, many parents are turning to “birdnesting,” a process in which the children stay in the family home and the parents take turns living there. Some say this gives children a more stable environment while the parents trudge through the legal process of divorce, but does it really work? 

Data Regarding Birdnesting is Limited 

Child development experts, healthcare professionals, psychologists, and other child specialists have been compiling and examining data on the impact that divorce has on children for decades now. Because of that, we now know that divorce is not necessarily what hurts children as much as it is the nature of the proceedings. Yet, when it comes to birdnesting, data is still sorely lacking. Quite simply, this divorce strategy has not been around long enough to determine, for sure, that it is beneficial to children during the divorce process. 

Many Families Swear by the Birdnesting Method

Although the birdnesting process lacks any hard data, many families are singing its praises. They claim that their children seem to be more grounded, even if they themselves are struggling to cope with the process. Many of these families also continue on with their regular traditions, such as family dinner nights. These families claim that their children seem to feel more secure in the love that both parents have with them. Moreover, parents say that their birdnesting arrangement is a strong jumping point for the co-parenting relationship ahead. 

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Wheaton parenting time attorneysDivorce can bring out the worst in people - and that includes parents. Unfortunately, the stakes of divorce tend to be higher when there are children involved. They can suffer from maladjustment issues, a strained relationship with their parents, and even poor academic performance when the proceedings are not carefully managed.

Thankfully, there are tools and resources that parents can use to mitigate such issues during a divorce, even if the parents themselves cannot seem to get along. Learn more with help from the following sections. 

Start with a Solid Co-Parenting Plan 

The first step to protecting your child in a divorce is ensuring you have a solid co-parenting plan, moving forward. Determine how often your child will be with you, and how often they will be their other parent. Also, consider matters like who will drop your child off at school. Who will pick them up? Who can provide the best accommodations of your child over the weekend? Holidays, birthdays, and summers with your child should also be carefully considered. 

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Wheaton divorce attorneysMoney can be one of the most contentious aspects of an Illinois divorce case. Yet, when divorcing parties know how to effectively manage their own money during the process (instead of simply waiting on their settlement to get their financial life in order), the proceedings tend to be less stressful for everyone involved. Learn more about how you can start to improve your financial life, today, before you even begin your divorce, and discover how our seasoned attorneys can assist you with the process in the following sections. 

Create a Budget and Spending Plan

The first step to starting your new life is knowing what you own, what you make, and what you must spend. This information can all be obtained and understood with a budget and spending plan. These financial tools can also cue you into any potential problems that may be looming on the horizon. 

Know Where You Stand, Credit-Wise

Financial security requires you to look at more than just your income and expenditures; to create true hope for your future, it is important to also know where you stand with your credit. Not only is it the key to forging your new life, but it is also a tool that your ex can use to sabotage your future. Pull it before you file, monitor it during the process, and if you need help to get things back on track, contact a financial advisor for guidance and assistance. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersLife’s catastrophes do not care what your circumstances are; they just are. Such is the case with job loss and divorce. So what do you do when you or your spouse loses a job whilst knee-deep in divorce negotiations? The following information can help to provide some answers. 

Notify Your Attorney of the Situation

Notifying your attorney of the situation is your first (and perhaps most important) step in managing a job loss during divorce negotiations. If you are the one now unemployed, your attorney can help you devise a strategy for moving forward, which may be critical to your financial well-being if you were positioned to pay child support or alimony. If your spouse was the one let off from their job, attempt to understand the cause of the job loss to the best of your abilities and relay that information to your attorney. Depending on the situation, your total settlement may not change (i.e. your spouse voluntarily quit their job or was terminated for attendance issues, which they can control). It is important to note that their obligation to pay spousal support or child support may be temporarily placed on hold, but that does not necessarily mean it will disappear entirely. 

Create a Plan for Moving Forward

Regardless of whether it was you or your spouse who experienced the job loss, it is important that you devise a plan for moving forward. If you are the one currently unemployed, take an inventory of any savings you may have on hand to tide you over until new employment can be found. If your spouse is the one now unemployed, determine how you will forge forward if your settlement suffers. Some ideas might include:

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Illinois domestic violence lawyersDomestic violence impacts an estimated one in three women and one in four men experience intimate partner violence. Children are also impacted by domestic violence, regardless of whether they are abused themselves. Still, with one report of abuse being made every 10 seconds, their rate of abuse is just as concerning. 

A restraining order can provide all of these abuse victims with legal protections to keep them safe from their abuser. However, there are minimum requirements that must be met in order to obtain one.

The Legal Definition of Domestic Violence 

Not all hurtful actions are legally defined as domestic violence. Instead, the victim must have experienced:

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Illinois adoption attorneysAdopting a child is a monumental decision. It is also a complex legal process, regardless of whether you are going through an agency or the state. Even when adopting a child or adult within your own family, there are certain legal steps and procedures that one must follow. Gain a brief understanding of this process in the following sections, and discover how our seasoned Wheaton adoption attorneys can help you successfully navigate the complexities of your case. 

Determining Your Adoption Method

The first step to adoption is to determine what path you want (or need) to take, as some processes are specific to the type of adoption you are pursuing. For example, those seeking an international adoption will have to go through more legal steps (securing a passport, meeting with the embassy of the child’s birth country, etc.) than someone seeking a step-parent adoption. 

Some adopting families will immediately know the type of adoption they want (most common in intra-family adoptions). Others will have questions about the differences between the types of adoption, or they may have reservations about pursuing one path over another (foster care adoption versus private adoption). If you are uncertain, a seasoned attorney can answer your questions and help guide you to the path that most suits your family’s desires and expectations.  

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DuPage County divorce lawyersChild support and alimony are often awarded to one of the spouses in a divorce, but not in every case. How do you determine if you may be eligible for these types of post-divorce support, and what can you do to ensure you receive the most amount possible? The following explains. 

Alimony Considerations in an Illinois Divorce 

Before a judge will award you alimony, you must be determined eligible, which generally requires that you be “disadvantaged” in some way. Examples of situations that may deem you “disadvantaged” in a divorce include:

  • A physical, mental, or emotional condition that prevents you from working;
  • A lack of education, skills, or recent work experience you need to obtain gainful employment;
  • Serving as a caregiver during your marriage (either to your children or your spouse); or
  • Supporting your spouse while they further their career or education (especially if it impacted you financially). 

If you are deemed eligible, a formula will be applied to your situation to determine your alimony entitlement and time-frame. The longer you were married, and the greater your spouse’s income, the greater your entitlement is likely to be in an Illinois divorce. 

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Wheaton divorce attorneysDivorce has become so commonplace that there are now “trending” issues. One of the most recent examples is the destination divorce, in which couples travel to a remote location to celebrate the end of their marriage. Is this an option you should consider once your divorce is complete, or is the hype more appealing than the actuality of such a celebration? 

What is a Destination Divorce?

Unlike a destination wedding, the actual proceedings do not occur at your locale of choice. Most of this is due to the laws, which tend to require that you reside in the state and county where you file for divorce. Instead, a destination divorce is simply a celebration or relaxation retreat - a place you go to visit and celebrate your newfound freedom. 

Where Do People Go? 

While destination divorce locations are about as varied as the people involved in the proceedings, some places are more common than others. At the top of the list is Las Vegas, which has morphed from your typical bachelor and bachelorette party locale to a place where almost anyone can find fun. International locales are also highly popular, particularly for those that felt limited in their marriage. Relaxing retreat locations (i.e. Hawaii, the Bahamas, etc.) are also exceptionally commonly seen in the destination divorce trend. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersFamily structure has changed drastically over the last couple of decades, with many wives now serving as the sole or primary breadwinner. Unfortunately, studies have found that divorce is more likely to occur if the wife is the only one working, and now a new research project suggests that divorce risks are still greater when the husband works but earns less than the wife. So, what happens when a couple goes through a divorce and their familial structure is different from the typical but outdated societal norms? Learn more in the following sections. 

Division of Assets with Women as the Primary or Sole Breadwinner 

In many ways, the process of divorce does not change, simply because the wife is the sole or primary breadwinner. Debts and assets are calculated to determine the value of the marital estate, and the estate is then divided equitably between the divorcing parties. Yet, because of social issues - particularly those involving lower wages for women - the financial stability of a woman may be even more threatened than a man’s after the division of assets in a divorce. Additionally, you may be ordered to pay alimony to your spouse, which only increases your risk of financial issues after the divorce. For this reason, it is critical that wage-earning women have a seasoned divorce lawyer on their side, protecting their financial interests during the entire divorce process. 

Child-Related Matters with Women as the Primary or Sole Breadwinner

Matters pertaining to children, like parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilities are not determined by money. Yet, because work may limit the amount of time that you have to spend with your child, you may receive a lower allocation of your child’s time in a divorce decree. Combat such issues by first finding ways to free up your time. Can you cut back on working hours or rearrange them so that you are free to spend time with your child more often? Is there a way that you can telecommute, at least for some your working hours? Also, remember that you may be required to pay child support if there is a large enough disparity in income. 

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Wheaton divorce attorneysDivorce changes many aspects of your life - everything from where you call home to the amount of time you spend with your children. Then there are the emotional aspects to muddle through. So, all things considered, insurance coverage may seem like the least of your worries while going through a divorce. Yet, without it, you and your family could be at risk for significant financial loss. Learn what you need to know about insurance and divorce, and discover what our seasoned divorce lawyers can do to help you manage the many aspects of your case. 

Health Insurance Coverage and Divorce

Many Americans seek health coverage through their employer. If your spouse is the one employed and you are covered under their policy, the divorce will generally end their obligation (and maybe even their ability) to provide you with coverage. However, you may still be eligible for COBRA benefits, temporarily. You will probably have to pay out-of-pocket for this coverage, but the fee is likely to be less than paying for any health-related expenses. 

You can also purchase insurance on your own from a health insurance company or your state’s health insurance marketplace. Alternatively, you may be able to purchase health insurance through your own employer, or you may be eligible for either Medicare or Medicaid benefits, depending on your circumstances. 

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Illinois parentage lawyersAs a parent, you want the best for your child. To provide that, you need to ensure that their emotional and financial needs are met. In many cases, the establishment of paternity can help you in that quest - yet, this is not always the case. Learn more about the potential pros and cons of establishing paternity in Illinois, and discover how assistance from a seasoned family law attorney can help protect your child’s best interests, both now and long into the future. 

Understanding the Potential Benefits of Establishing Paternity

Regardless of whether you and your child’s father are currently involved in a relationship, your child deserves all that they have to offer. Sometimes, that involves you fostering a relationship between your child and their biological father. Other times, it means ensuring that your child’s financial needs are met - generally through financial support from the father. Unfortunately, many of the benefits that may be owed to you or your child (i.e. child support, military dependent benefits, health insurance, inheritances, and other similar benefits) can only be obtained if the biological father is legally named. For this to happen, you need to legally establish paternity, either through the hospital or through the courts. 

In the state of Illinois, there are three ways to do this: 

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Illinois divorce attorneysDivorce can be a tumultuous process, full of pain, grief, and anger. When paired with the sensitive topic matters often seen in a divorce (i.e. the division of assets and parenting plans), proceedings can become explosive. Yet, in many cases, communication with your spouse is necessary (particularly when there are children involved). The following tips, along with assistance from a seasoned divorce attorney, can help to improve the situation. 

Use Technology to Communicate with Your Spouse

Communication may be necessary during a divorce, but you do not have to speak with your spouse face-to-face. You can opt to use technology instead. Email, text, and even phone applications allow you to discuss pertinent matters, such as child pick-up and drop-off schedules with little to no contact. These measures can do more than just reduce stress; they can give you the chance to carefully examine your statements before sending them. Read over everything, or ask someone that you trust to examine your text or email to reduce the chance of a miscommunication, and always stick to the matter at hand. 

Practice Self-Care and Seek Professional Help When Necessary

Self-care may not seem like an aspect of communication, but when you are stressed or hurt, your emotions can bubble to the surface, even when you do not intend for them to do so. Self-care and skilled assistance from a therapist, support group, or psychologist can help you keep your feelings under wraps so that they do not further complicate your divorce. 

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Wheaton parenting time attorneysThanks to studies and real-life families, shared parenting plans are on the rise. In fact, several states have introduced bills that would make a 50-50 parenting time split the starting point in all divorces - but is this trend appropriate for every family? Consider the following pros and cons of a shared parenting plan, and learn how our seasoned divorce lawyers can help you in deciding whether one may be right for your family. 

What is a Shared Parenting Plan?

Shared parenting plans typically involve a near-equal split of the child’s time. Some families switch off weekly, with one parent having the child for a week and then the other. In other shared parenting plans, the child may switch homes throughout the week, perhaps with one parent taking the beginning of the week (i.e. Sunday through Wednesday) and the other taking the remaining days. The latter plan will typically involve a switch-off, where the child may spend four days with one parent one week, and then three with that same parent on the following week.

The Potential Pros of a Shared Parenting Plan 

At their core, shared parenting plans are designed to ensure the child has ample time with each parent. Studies have shown that this can be highly beneficial for the child’s overall growth and development - and not just during the divorce, but in the years to follow. Families with shared parenting plans also tend to have better communication, overall, because the plan itself requires a great deal of cooperation. Of course, not all parents can communicate in such a way after their divorce, and that can lead to complications down the road. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersBills and other financial obligations do not end just because you are filing for a divorce. In fact, money management is usually more difficult while trying to navigate the divorce process because there are more bills and less money to go around.

Thankfully, there are measures that one can take to improve their financial situation, even while pursuing a divorce. Learn more in the following sections, and discover how our seasoned divorce lawyers can assist. 

Track Your Finances and Develop a New Budget

The first step to improving your financial situation is to understand your finances. Start by tracking how and where you spend your money, then determine if any of your expenses can be eliminated or temporarily suspended. Doing this can give you more in the way of liquid assets. It also allows you to develop a new budget so that you can start saving for your new future. 

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DuPage County domestic violence lawyersDomestic violence, which impacts approximately one in three women (and one in four men) is a near silent epidemic. Terrified to leave or speak out, victims often live behind the facade of a happy home, despite being in constant danger. Sadly, the longer they stay in the relationship, the more they risk serious injury or death at the hands of their abuser. Thankfully, there are legal steps that victims can use to protect themselves when they find the strength and courage to leave.

How a Restraining Order Can Protect You and Your Child

Restraining orders are designed to provide legal protections to victims of domestic violence. More specifically, they:

  • Prohibit your abuser from intimidating, harassing, stalking, exploiting, or negatively impacting your personal liberty;
  • Mandate that your abuser stay away from you and anyone else listed on the order of protection;
  • Prohibit your abuser from removing your child from the state, or hiding them away from you within the state;
  • Order your abuser to stay away from your school, place of employment, and other specific places you may frequently visit;
  • Prohibit your abuser from destroying or getting rid of your belongings;
  • Prohibit your abuser from possessing a firearm;
  • Require that your abuser reimburse you for shelter and counseling services (when applicable);
  • Exclude your abuser from the home in which you are living (even when owned or leased by the abuser);
  • Mandate that your abuser return all personal belongings to you;
  • Prohibit your abuser from causing any harm to your child (mentally, physically, or sexually); and
  • Prohibit your abuser from removing a shared child from your physical care. 

Emergency Orders of Protection

While most victims need long-term protection from their abuser, such orders take time to put into place. Emergency orders help to fill the gap by providing immediate protection to the victim. Based solely on the testimony of the victim, these orders can be obtained at any time - even on holidays or at night, when the courts are closed. However, they only offer you protection for 14 to 21 days. Therefore, it is critical that victims begin the process for obtaining a long-term order of protection (known as plenary orders of protection) while the emergency order is still in place. 

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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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Wheaton divorce lawyersIn the past, pets were treated as property in a divorce. Of course, a pet cannot be divided, so instead, the courts examined financial factors to determine who received the family’s furry friend at the end of the proceedings. Thankfully, the laws have now changed, ensuring that the owners’ emotional attachment and time invested are considered when determining who should get the family pet in a divorce. 

That has not been the only change to the law regarding pets. Families can also set up a “custody plan,” so long as both owners are fully and completely invested in the animal’s happiness, care, and well-being. Learn more about how “pet custody” works in today’s Illinois divorce in the following sections, and discover what our seasoned divorce lawyers can do to help protect the interests of you and your pet in contentious or potentially dangerous situations. 

How Illinois Determines “Pet Custody” in Divorce

While pets and children are very different, Illinois family law courts now recognize that animals do have feelings and needs - and that their well-being is worth protecting. So, when determining who takes the family pet in divorce, various factors are considered, including:

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Wheaton family law lawyersFamily law is a broad area of the law with many subsections. However, some issues are more common and complex than others. Learn more about the most common and currently emerging family law courts, and discover how our seasoned Wheaton attorneys can help you manage them and mitigate against any complications that you may be facing in your Illinois family law case. 

Divorce and Legal Separation 

Statistics indicate that the divorce rate has been dropping over the last several years, but it continues to be one of the more common family law matters, both in Illinois and nationwide. Legal separations, though less common than divorce and perhaps even some other family law issues, are also frequently seen issues in family courts.

Child-Related Matters

Child matters are also extremely common in family courts. They include:

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