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Arlington Heights family law mediation attorneyIn Illinois, child custody is now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parental responsibilities include decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and other major issues. Parenting time, which used to be called “visitation,” is the time a parent spends with his or her child. Divorced, separated, and unmarried parents in Illinois describe how they intend to divide parenting time and parental responsibilities in their “parenting plan.” Family law mediation or child custody mediation is a means of reaching an agreement about the terms of the parenting plan with help from a mediator.

Mediation Can Help You Reach an Agreement About Your Parenting Plan

Many parents are surprised to learn just how detailed the Illinois parenting plan must be. Parents cannot simply decide that a child will spend time with one parent on the weekdays and the other parent on the weekends. Parents must also decide how parenting time will be handled on holidays, school vacations, and in other special circumstances. The parents will need to determine how they intend to handle any future proposed changes to the parenting plan, what happens if a parent moves, and several other issues.

Per Illinois law, there are more than a dozen provisions that must be included in a parenting plan, but some parents decide to add more. Understandably, many parents are overwhelmed by the number of decisions they need to make during the creation of their parenting plan. A mediator can help parents determine what issues they agree on and what issues still need to be resolved. The mediator can then guide parents through negotiations and discussions regarding the unresolved issues.

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Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney child support

For high school seniors, the beginning of spring means that graduation is just around the corner. Many high schoolers are already preparing for college next fall. If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you may have concerns about how you will finance your child’s college education. You may have questions such as, “Am I required to pay child support after my child turns 18?” or “Which parent pays for university costs?”

Paying for College as a Divorced or Unmarried Parent

If you are a divorced or unmarried parent in Illinois, it is important to know the law regarding college-related costs. Many parents assume that their child support obligation ends once their child turns 18 and graduates high school. This is generally the case. However, parents may be required to contribute to their child’s post-secondary education. Unlike typical child support, there is not a statutory formula for calculating the amount that a parent must contribute to post-secondary expenses. However, there is a cap on the amount that a parent may be required to contribute to college costs. Parents cannot be required to pay more than what it would cost for their child to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

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Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney divorce mediation

Ending a marriage is not as simple as signing on the dotted line and walking away. Most divorcing couples will need to resolve certain issues before they can finalize the divorce. The division of marital property and debt is often an especially complicated and tense aspect of a divorce. If you are a parent, you and your spouse will need to determine how to divide parenting responsibilities and parenting time. You and your spouse may also disagree about child support and/or spousal support. One way you may be able to reach an agreement about these issues is through family law mediation.

Mediation Is an Alternative to Divorce Litigation  

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement about the terms of your divorce, the court will be forced to determine the unresolved issues for you. This not only takes away your control over the outcome of your divorce but going through divorce litigation is often a very stressful process. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method that aims to resolve divorce issues outside of court. During mediation, the spouses work with a skilled mediator to discuss the unresolved issues, explore possible solutions, and find common ground.

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Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney surrogacy

Surrogacy can allow an individual or couple to fulfill their dreams of becoming a parent. However, surrogacy is also a complicated process – legally, emotionally, and financially. If you want to use a surrogate to have a child, it is essential that you learn about surrogacy laws in Illinois and work with an experienced family law attorney. Your lawyer can protect your rights and the rights of your unborn child, draft a comprehensive surrogacy contract, and ensure that your surrogacy plan meets the requirements set forth by Illinois law.

Understanding the Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act

The Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act (IGSA) establishes the requirements for a valid gestational surrogacy contract. If parents follow these requirements, the parents will be automatically named on the child’s birth certificate and will not need to take additional legal action to gain parental rights for their new baby. In a gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is not biologically related to the child. The egg and sperm are combined using in vitro fertilization and then the embryo is implanted in the surrogate’s uterus. The IGSA sets forth many requirements, including:

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Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney order of protection

Domestic violence affects the lives of millions of individuals in Illinois and across the country. If you, your child, or a disabled adult who you know have been abused or harassed, you may be interested in getting an order of protection. Called restraining orders in other states, an Illinois order of protection is a legal court order that prohibits someone from further harassment and abuse. It may require the abuser, called the respondent, from coming to your home, workplace, or school or contacting you. It may even require the respondent to move out of your shared home or surrender any firearms he or she owns.

Emergency Orders of Protection May Be Granted Based on Your Testimony

In Illinois, there are three main types of protection orders: emergency orders of protection, interim orders of protection, and plenary orders of protection. Emergency orders of protection (EOP) are often issued on the same day that they are requested. In most legal actions, the respondent must be served with notice of the action. However, an EOP may be granted “per se,” which means that the respondent is not present or notified of the court order. The EOP may be granted on your testimony alone.

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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney child custody

If you are a parent who is considering divorce or you are unmarried and about to become a parent, you probably have questions about child custody. In Illinois, child custody has been replaced by the more modern terms “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” Parental responsibilities refer to a parent’s authority to make major decisions about the child’s life such as where the child will attend school. Parenting time, formerly “visitation,” is the actual time that a parent spends caring for his or her child. Parents are asked to outline the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time in their “parenting plan.” Parents who cannot agree on parenting plan issues have several options.

Working Out an Agreement with Help from a Family Law Attorney

Understandably, parents often have strong feelings about child custody issues. This can make it hard for parents to discuss child-related issues rationally or to even consider compromising. If you find yourself in this situation, a family law attorney who has experience with child custody disputes can be a valuable resource. Your attorney can help you negotiate the elements of the parenting plan and may also have ideas that you had not considered.

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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney child custody

Drug and alcohol addiction is a huge concern throughout the United States, including in Illinois. Substance abuse problems such as alcoholism and opiate addiction have destroyed thousands of families. Other addictions such as gambling or shopping addictions can also have a devastating effect on a marriage or family. If you are thinking about legally ending your marriage, and your spouse suffers from an addiction, you may be worried about how your spouse’s addiction may affect your Illinois divorce.

Put Your Health and Well-Being First

If you are like many people who are married to a drug addict, alcoholic, or another type of addict, you have probably spent a great deal of time trying to help your spouse. You may have talked to your spouse about getting rehabilitative treatment, attending support groups, or going to counseling for his or her addiction. You likely spent months or years trying to help your spouse beat the addiction. Once you decide to end the marriage, you may need to learn to put yourself first. Divorcing someone with an addiction will likely be an emotionally exhausting experience involving a fair number of legal complications. That is why it is very important to make your mental health and well-being a priority during this difficult time.

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Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney prenuptial agreement

If you are engaged to be married, you may be interested in learning about prenuptial agreements. Although they are often the subject of misconceptions and misunderstandings, prenuptial agreements are valuable legal tools that can serve a variety of purposes. A prenuptial agreement or “prenup” is a legal contract that describes spouses’ property rights and responsibilities. Signing a prenup means entering into a legally binding contract so it is important to educate yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of prenuptial agreements before agreeing to one.  

How Can a Prenuptial Agreement Benefit Me?

Prenuptial agreements are often associated with celebrity weddings or last-minute marriages. People may even assume that a prenuptial agreement is only necessary if a couple believes that the marriage will fail. However, more and more people are starting to realize that these myths are untrue and that prenuptial agreements can benefit them in many ways. Prenuptial agreements are becoming especially popular among the millennial generation.

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Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney DCFS investigation

Child abuse and neglect are serious problems in the United States. Sadly, it is estimated that almost 700,000 children are abused every year in the United States. However, an allegation of child abuse is not true simply because someone accuses a parent of abuse. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is the governmental agency tasked with investigating claims of child abuse in Illinois. If you are being investigated by the DCFS after being accused of mentally, physically, or sexually abusing your child, there are several things you should do.

Keep Calm and Comply with the Investigation

If you have been accused of hurting your own child, you may be offended and dismayed. You may be furious with the accuser or shocked that he or she would make such an allegation. However, it is important to keep your emotions under control. Lashing out at the person who accused you or at the DCFS staff will only make your situation worse. Comply with the DCFS’s investigation. An investigator may visit your home, interview you, and speak with your child’s doctor, teacher, relatives, or other adults in the child’s life. The DCFS’s job is to investigate the allegations and determine if there is evidence that suggests that the allegations are true.

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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney co-parenting

If you are a parent who is recently separated or is planning to divorce, you probably have concerns about the upcoming holiday season. You may be especially concerned about how your children will deal with the holidays. Between COVID-19 concerns, remote learning at school, and your divorce, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to make the best of the situation. Fortunately, there is a good deal of research about how to alleviate the stress caused by divorce and the holidays.

Make Detailed Holiday Co-Parenting Plans

Divorcing parents in Illinois must submit a “parenting plan” that describes how parental responsibilities and parenting time will be allocated to each parent. If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court may determine a suitable plan for them. If you have not yet filed for divorce, you may not have any formal parenting plans in place. In order to reduce the chances of conflict and confusion during the holidays, make a plan with your spouse ahead of time about how you will share custody. Include the days and times that the children will stay with each parent, how the children will be transported between homes, and other relevant information.

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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney parenting time

If you are a parent who is facing a breakup or divorce, you may struggle with the idea of splitting custody with your child’s other parent. When you are used to seeing your child on a daily basis, the thought of seeing him or her a limited number of days can be heartbreaking. In Illinois, divorcing parents are required to create a “parenting plan” that outlines arrangements for parental responsibilities and parenting time. One of the provisions in this plan is the “right of first refusal.” This provision may enable you to enjoy additional time with your child during the other parent’s absence.

Requiring Your Child’s Other Parent to Contact You Before Contacting a Babysitter

Parenting time, previously called visitation, refers to the time a parent spends directly caring for his or her child. If a parent cannot fulfill his or her parenting time responsibility because of a vacation, work obligation, or another reason, that parent may choose to hire a babysitter or ask a relative to watch his or her child. This can leave the child’s other parent frustrated and upset. The right of first refusal refers to a parent’s right to be informed about parental absences and given the opportunity to “refuse” additional parenting time. For example, consider a situation in which a mother has the children Monday through Friday and the father has the children on the weekends. The mother will be out of town on a work trip Monday and Tuesday. Because the parents’ right of first refusal provision dictates it, the mother is required to inform the father that she is going out of town and ask him if he wants to keep the children on Monday and Tuesday. If the father cannot watch the children those days, the mother is free to hire a nanny or find different childcare arrangements with other family members.

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Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney prenuptial agreement

If you and your soon-to-be-spouse are thinking about creating a prenuptial agreement or “prenup,” there are several things you should keep in mind. Prenuptial agreements, when formed correctly, are legally binding contracts. These documents can address issues such as spousal maintenance or alimony, property rights, division of property and debt, and several other issues that will arise if the marriage ends in divorce. Prenuptial agreements are especially beneficial in situations involving individuals on their second marriages, blended families, or spouses with a large discrepancy in wealth. However, if a prenuptial agreement does not meet certain criteria or contains mistakes, it may not be legally enforceable.

Problems That Can Invalidate a Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement that is executed correctly is a contract that spouses are bound to by law. However, some mistakes can render a prenup virtually useless. Some of the issues that lead to a prenuptial agreement being invalid include:

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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney child support

A divorce may require that child support payments continue for years after a married couple separates, and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) has the power to modify child support orders so that they reflect any changes in Illinois law and personal circumstances. Although divorce settlements may require a spouse to pay both spousal support and child support, any modification passed by the DCSS does not apply to spousal support orders. 

Spousal support may also be eligible for modification, but you would have to bring that up with a different department. Navigating the complexities of the Illinois family court system can be challenging, so do not hesitate to reach out to a family law attorney with plenty of experience helping clients modify child support orders.

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Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney DCFS investigation

In March 2020, the State of Illinois banned all visitation between parents and children in the DCFS system with the intent of keeping kids and parents healthy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitation guidelines have changed over time, and if you are a parent who plans on visiting your child anytime soon, it is important to stay up to date with the evolving DCFS coronavirus guidelines. For any remaining questions regarding family law and the DCFS, consult a knowledgeable family law attorney in your area.

DCFS COVID-19 Guidelines 

Initially, all in-person visits between parents and children through the DCFS were banned. Remote visits were still allowed. For a couple of months, many parents were separated even from newborn children. This policy was heavily criticized, and as COVID-19 guidelines have evolved in the last few months, the ban has been lifted as well. However, there are some new rules to follow if you are planning for an upcoming visit. 

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Posted on in Divorce

Arlington Heights divorce attorney QDRO

Retirement savings are some of the most valuable assets people can have, and dividing them during a separation or divorce can be complicated. Even with a precise division of assets defined in your divorce agreement, tax implications prevent that money from being dealt with properly. To get around this hurdle and ensure that a retirement account holder or provider can issue payments without the payee being penalized, you will need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO.

When Is a QDRO Necessary? 

A QDRO can apply to child support, alimony, or property rights, but divorcing couples use them frequently to instruct a retirement plan provider on how to adhere to the division of assets outlined in your divorce agreement. For this reason, many retirement plan providers have their own QDRO forms that you can submit. Most people will use these standard forms, but if the division of the account is complicated, you may want to draft your own QDRO. Regardless of whether you take advantage of existing forms or draft your own QDRO, you should enlist the help of an experienced divorce attorney to fully protect your interests.

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Arlington Heights, IL domestic violence defense attorney

Domestic violence is a serious offense, and Illinois law treats it accordingly. One of the worst elements of the COVID-19 pandemic is how stay-at-home restrictions have led to a rise in domestic violence cases. Many people who relied on the flow of everyday life before COVID-19 to help avoid abusers now find themselves in dangerous situations. However, not all domestic abuse claims are true, and you should be prepared to develop a strong defense if you are accused of domestic violence. Whether an accuser does not fully understand the scope of domestic violence law in Illinois or he or she is making false accusations, the outcomes can still be serious. A domestic violence attorney who is well-versed in all aspects of family law will increase your chances of winning your case, so begin working with one as soon as you can. 

Worldwide Domestic Violence Rates 

Domestic violence rates have risen not just in the United States, but across the globe. For example, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, domestic violence hotlines in Spain experienced an 18 percent increase in calls. French police reported a 30 percent increase in domestic violence rates in April. The term “Intimate Terrorism” was coined to reflect experts’ observations that during prolonged confinement, abusers are using nearly the same tactics people would use when holding others hostage. Even the divorce proceedings that many victims were relying on to get them out of these dangerous environments were delayed because of the pandemic. 

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\Arlington Heights divorce lawyerMany divorce settlements include terms for spousal support, where one former spouse provides financial support to the other until they can fully support themselves. Spousal support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, can be made in regular payments or a lump sum. The terms, either agreed to in mediation or ordered by a judge, are legally binding. There are a few ways that a court will enforce a failure to adhere to your alimony payment schedule. If your ex falls behind on spousal maintenance payments, contact a divorce attorney before acting.

Enforcing Court-Ordered Spousal Support

Before bringing your case to court, you should try to communicate with your ex-spouse to find out if there are any circumstances preventing him or her from making payments. Common reasons include the recent loss of a job, illness, and injury. If your former spouse is willing to cooperate, you can form an agreement until he or she is capable of catching up with the payments. For instance, you both could suspend alimony payments until the paying-spouse returns to work. You should have an attorney draft this agreement. Informal contracts can lead to misunderstandings and difficulties in court if you need to opt for that route.

If your ex-spouse refuses to make support payments or fails to adhere to any new agreement you made due to his or her income reduction, you can take the issue to court. Failure to follow a court order means the court will hold the offender in “contempt.” In this case, you would file a motion for enforcement or contempt of court. To ensure that you eventually receive your support payments, a judge may garnish your former spouse’s wages, bank accounts, or tax returns. You may also explore alternatives like increasing the duration of support or adding interest to future payments. Continuous non-compliance could result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Courts issue significant fines and jail time for these offenses.

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Arlington Heights prenuptial agreement lawyerAlthough it is not pleasant to think about right before your wedding, a good number of marriages will end in divorce. Because of this reality, planning for that possibility could save you a lot of trouble in the future. Of course, if you and your soon-to-be spouse never end up separating, your prenuptial agreement (prenup) will not weigh you down in any way. However, if you do file for divorce and do not have a prenup, settling the terms of your separation will be a lot more difficult than it needed to be. 

What Can a Prenuptial Agreement Do for My Marriage?

The basic idea of a prenuptial agreement is to decide, in advance, how a couple will divide property and assets upon their divorce. Although you create a prenup before marriage, it does not take effect until the date that you get married. If you end up in court for divorce litigation without a prenup, a judge can decide how to divide your assets between you and your spouse.

There are plenty of reasons to get a prenuptial agreement. Maybe you own a business that you built well before your marriage: a prenup will help ensure that it remains yours in the event of a divorce. Perhaps you own property or you have funds set aside for children from a previous marriage: a prenup can help you keep those in your possession. Although it sounds unappealing to have these discussions with your spouse right before your wedding, the legal agreement can ease a lot of stress and any underlying concerns about what you will do if your marriage does come to an end.

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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney child support

When divorcing or unmarried individuals have children together, one parent is typically ordered to pay child support to the other. This helps fairly divide the costs of raising the child and ensures that the child receives the same level of financial support that he or she would have received if the parents were married. The parent with the majority of parenting time, often called the custodial parent, is the recipient of child support while the parent with less parenting time is the payor of child support. However, things can become more complicated if the payor parent has more than one child support obligation.

Income Shares Method for Calculating Child Support

Illinois currently uses the Income Shares method to determine child support. This calculation method differs significantly from the way Illinois previously calculated child support. Instead of child support payment amounts being based solely on the supporting parent’s income, the Income Shares model takes both parents’ incomes into account. First, each parent’s net income is determined. Next, the parents’ combined net income and the number of children needing support are used to determine the “basic support obligation.” This is the total amount of support the children should receive from both parents. This total is then divided between the parents based on each parent’s percentage of the combined net income. In situations involving shared parenting, meaning each parent has the child for 146 or more nights a year, each parent’s parenting time is also factored into child support calculations.

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Arlington Heights family law attorneysThe Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is the agency responsible for investigating allegations of child neglect and abuse. If someone accuses you of harming a child, the DCFS may conduct an investigation to determine the validity of the accusations. The investigation is used to find evidence of child abuse or neglect, determine whether or not the child is at risk of further harm, and find ways to help the family via services in their community. If you have been accused of child abuse or neglect, you could be facing both criminal charges and significant child custody-related consequences. It is possible that your child may even be removed from your home. For help managing DCFS investigations and child custody concerns, contact an experienced family law attorney.

Responding to Accusations of Child Neglect or Child Abuse

Tragically, millions of children are abused and neglected every year in the United States and across the globe. In many cases, intervention by governmental organizations like the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services may save a child’s life. However, not every accusation of child abuse or neglect is credible or well-meaning. In fact, some parents who are involved in custody disputes may make false claims of abuse or neglect in an attempt to sway their child custody case. If you have been falsely accused of harming your child, you may understandably feel shocked and outraged. However, it is important to remain calm and comply completely with any DCFS investigations that may be initiated.

What Happens During a Child Abuse Investigation?

When a report is made to the DCFS about a child who is potentially in harm’s way, the agency will dispatch a child protection investigator to evaluate the veracity of the concerns. A DCFS investigation is not the same thing as a criminal investigation, but DCFS agents often work very closely with the police.

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