Archive for the ‘Child Custody’ Category

Family Law Updates 2016: Illinois’ “Modern Family” Bill

April 30th, 2015 at 6:36 pm

bill 57, modern family bill, Illinois Family LawyerCurrently, all issues related to marriage and divorce, including child custody, child support, and the division of a couple’s property are addressed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. This Act, though comprehensive, dates to the 1970s and many feel it is insufficient for the challenges and cultural trends that twenty-first century families face. To address these issues, lawmakers drafted Bill 57 to amend the state’s existing divorce laws. The bill passed in the Illinois House, but then died in Senate with no vote in 2014. In 2015, however, the proposed law was passed by both parts of government and was officially enacted on January 1, 2016.

The main goal of the bill was to avoid creating feelings of “winners” and “losers” in child custody agreements. Rather than establishing parental roles in terms of custody, the bill allows for the “allocation of parental responsibilities” in relationship to the child. Similar to the procedures currently in place for determining child custody, responsibility for decision-making and other parental obligations would be divided between the parents according to the best interest of the child

Changes in Senate Bill 57

The most significant change to Illinois’ current custody law in Bill 57 is the elimination of the delineation between joint vs. sole custody. Under this bill, each parent is assigned specific parenting tasks. This is intended to encourage both parents to remain involved in their children’s lives and limit litigation over minor disputes between parents

Critics have pointed out that the changes included in Bill 57 do not sufficiently address the realities that dual-income families face. Although in theory, parents affected by Bill 57 will share childcare duties, the Bill still allows one parent to be given the majority of parenting time while the other pays child support to him or her. This can not only create skewed parenting schedules for children, but fail to require parents to make equal financial contributions to their child’s well being.

Another important change included in Bill 57 is the removal of the requirement that divorcing couples prove grounds for their divorce. This portion is meant to acknowledge that in many cases, marriages fail simply because of differences in personality and goals. It also eliminates the right of an individual to sue his or her former spouse or the former spouse’s lover for committing adultery and destroying the marriage.

Divorce and Family Attorneys in the Chicago Area

If you are considering divorce, you should know how the laws regarding child custody and support affect your situation. Contact Anderson & Associates, P.C. at 312-345-9999 to discuss these changes with one of the experienced Illinois family law attorneys at our firm. We proudly serve Illinois families in our five office locations in Schaumburg, Northbrook, Orland Park, Wheaton, and downtown Chicago.

How Can DCFS Being Called Affect Your Child Custody Agreement?

April 16th, 2015 at 6:42 pm

protective services, DCFS, Chicago Family LawyerAlthough the possibility of initiating a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) complaint is often dismissed as an empty threat, it should be taken seriously. Every day in Illinois and the rest of the United States, children are subjected to dangerous neglect and abuse by their parents. Social service departments like DCFS exist to get children out of these kinds of situations and prevent them from being endangered in the future. Certain cases may require established custody orders to be altered.

When somebody calls DCFS with a concern about your child’s safety or welfare, the agency is required to investigate the claim. If a representative finds that abuse, neglect, or any other form of child endangerment has occurred in your household, your custody agreement may be changed. You could, depending on the severity of the mistreatment that occurred, lose custody of your child, have restrictions placed on your visitation, or lose all parenting rights completely. DCFS can not determine your custody agreement, but its input can play a role in the court’s decisions regarding your child’s custody.

If you find yourself in an open case with DCFS, contact an experienced family attorney to learn more about your rights as a parent and what you need to do to keep your custodial rights.

Child Protective Services in Illinois

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is the agency that handles all child welfare issues in Illinois. It is tasked with investigating allegations of child abuse or neglect, facilitating adoptions, reunifying children with their families, and licensing day care facilities. It also provides professional services for families throughout the state who are involved in a pending DCFS case.

If DCFS Gets Involved With Your Family

Although it may be difficult, it is important to keep in mind that DCFS is most interested in the well-being of your child. If and when a DCFS investigation becomes necessary, it is important to cooperate with reasonable requests from the representative who comes to your home. This will generally permit the agency to quickly reach a conclusion and make a finding in your case.

Cooperate with the court as well. If your custody or visitation order is modified and you would like to return to your prior arrangement, you will need to prove to the court that it is in your child’s best interest. In some situations, the court may order an in-home evaluation to ensure that you are providing a safe and health environment for your children. It is important to attend court and follow the orders entered by the judge.

Chicago Child Custody Attorneys

If your family is invovled in a DCFS case, contact a skilled Chicago family attorney at Anderson & Associates, P.C. to discuss the impact it can have on your child and your child custody case. You can reach us at 312-345-9999 and at one of our five convenient office locations in downtown Chicago, Schaumburg, Wheaton, Orland Park, or Northbrook. Our firm will work to advocate for you when working with the Department of Children and Family Services.

 

Understanding Illinois Visitation Rights

April 2nd, 2015 at 2:59 pm

visitation, visitation rights, Illinois Family Law Attorneys

Every custody arrangement is unique. In some cases, the court elects to award joint custody to both parents. This means that both parents are expected to cooperatively make decisions related to the child’s upbringing, including his or her education, religious training, and other considerations. The court may require parents with joint custody to draft a joint parenting agreement outlining each of their respective responsibilities and establishing an arrangement regarding the child’s time with each parent.

In other cases, the court recognizes that granting one parent sole custody is in the child’s best interest. The custodial parent is responsible for making the important decisions related to the child, and retains primary physical custody. Under Illinois law, the non-custodial parent is granted the reasonable right to visitation with the child.

In some cases, a relative other than a child’s parent may receive visitation rights. This can include the child’s grandparent or sibling if the court determines that such a visitation agreement is in the child’s best interest. Otherwise, this right is generally reserved for the child’s parents. Another relative will be granted visitation rights with a child only if the parents are unreasonable in denying visitation and specific familial circumstances exists, such as where one of the child’s parents is deceased or missing for at least three months.

Restrictions on Visitation Rights

If necessary, the court may impose restrictions on a parent’s visitation rights with his or her child in order to ensure the child’s safety. These restrictions may include:

  • Prohibiting the parent from using drugs or alcohol while in the child’s presence;
  • Requiring that the visits occur in the custodial parent’s home;
  • Prohibiting the visits from occurring in the non-custodial parent’s home;
  • Prohibiting overnight visits; and
  • Requiring that the visits be supervised by a third party.

These restrictions are put in place to protect the child. If a parent violates these restrictions, the court may modify or suspend his or her visitation rights entirely. Examples of reasons why a parent’s visitation rights may be suspended include:

  • If the parent has a history of harming the child. This can be physical harm, emotional harm, neglect, or psychological harm;
  • If the parent is found guilty of a crime against a child; and
  • If the parent is currently suffering from any type of substance addiction.

Chicago Family Attorneys

Call 312-345-9999 to speak with one of the experienced family attorneys at Anderson & Associates, P.C. about your child custody case. We are here to serve you in one of our five convenient office locations in the Chicago area: Wheaton, Northbrook, Orland Park, downtown Chicago, and Schaumburg. Child custody cases can be sensitive and create friction within families. Contact our firm for expert legal advice and representation on this and other difficult family law matters. We will give your case the dedication and attention to detail it deserves.

 

Child Removal: Moving Out of Illinois with a Child Custody Agreement

March 25th, 2015 at 3:02 pm

child custody, moving out of state, Illinois Family Law AttorneyIf you are thinking of moving out of state due to an improvement in employment, marriage, or to be near family, and have a custody agreement with the other parent of your child, you will need to get permission before moving. If you and the other parent do not agree to you moving out of state, you will need to file a petition with the court to remove the child out of Illinois before you are actually able to move. This is not intended to limit your ability to improve your living, but rather to ensure the best interest of the child is being kept the highest priority.

Petitioning to Move

 The court will consider many different factors during the process to determine whether the move is in the child’s best interest. These factors may include, but are not limited to:

  • The specific improvement in living arrangements offered by the change;
  • Reasons why the petitioning parent wants to move;
  • Current visitation and custody agreements;
  • The effect the move will have on the child; and
  • How the relationship with the other parent will be affected.

Similar to filing a petition to modify your custody agreement, as the petitioner, you will bear the burden of proof to show that the move is beneficial and in the best interest of the child. If you are the one requesting the move, you should be prepared to state the reason for the move, why the child should stay with you, and how your child will maintain a relationship with the non-custodial parent.

Ignoring the requirement to file a petition can have dire consequences. If the non-custodial parent contests the move, they may file to have the child returned to Illinois. This does not mean you are necessarily required to move back, just your child. Such a situation can be very costly, in addition to the expenses already incurred in making the move. Even if the move truly is in the best interest of the child, failure to have the move legally approved could have a negative impact on your case.

Successful Petition to Move

A successful petition to move out of Illinois with your child will involve demonstrating that the move is not due to malice or retaliation against the non-custodial parent, but rather that it will improve your child’s quality of life and health. You must also prove that you will cooperate to ensure your child maintains a relationship with the other parent.

If you have custody of your child and intend to move outside of Illinois, you need to speak with an experienced attorney who has handled removal court cases. Contact a qualified Chicago child removal attorney to discuss the best course of action. Anderson & Associates, P.C. assists clients throughout the region from any of our five offices, conveniently located in Chicago, Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, and Orland Park.

Petitioning for Changes to Your Child Custody Order

March 20th, 2015 at 2:30 pm

custody modification, child custody, Chicago Child Custody AttorneyLiving and employment situations change after your divorce. A better paying job, a bigger apartment or house, or general improvements to your life overall may provide opportunities that did not exist previously. It may also be possible that you have been inspired to be a more active participant in the lives of your children. For many such cases, a petition to modify your custody agreement may be the first step in securing the new family dynamic you seek.

Modification of a Custody Agreement

Whether the other parent has sole custody of your child or a joint custody order is currently in place, you are permitted to file for a modification of your custody agreement. As the petitioner, however, it is your responsibility to prove that there have been sufficient situational changes that requires the order to be modified in the best interest of your child. Under Illinois law, a motion to modify custody will not be heard by the court unless two years have passed since the entry of the existing custody order or the child’s physical, emotional, moral, or mental well-being is seriously endangered under the current arrangement..

To modify your custody agreement, you will need to present to the court all pertinent evidence demonstrating that your situation has improved and/or the other parent’s situation has deteriorated. You must also be able to prove that any requested change to your child’s living arrangements will better address the child’s needs and best interest. Such evidence may include financial or legal documents, statements from teachers or counselors, and photographs. All evidence provided must be new or have been unknown during initial or previous custody proceedings to be considered in the modification hearing.

In cases of serious endangerment to the child, the court is permitted to act in advance of the normal two-year requirement. Serious endangerment may include variety of issues, especially if your child begins to show serious signs of physical or emotional distress. Severe negative changes in school performance, evidence or justifiable suspicion of abuse in the home, or concerns that your child is being intentionally prevented from communication or visitation with you may all be examples of such endangerment. Additionally, if your child’s other parent is marrying or living with a sex offender, you can petition to have your child removed from the custodial parent’s custody based on the best interest of the child.

Modification Judgment

As with any custody petition, the judge will consider the best interest of the child in light of all of the evidence presented to decide whether modification is warranted. The court’s decision will be based on careful consideration of all available information and, if determined to be appropriate, any modifications to the custody order will typically go into effect immediately upon being entered. In the event that either parent objects to the ultimate determination, the court is required to enter the specific findings of fact on which its decision was based.

If you feel the best interests of your child are not being met, you need to speak with qualified child custody lawyer. Illinois takes child custody very seriously and you want an advocate on your side that will fight for the rights of both you and your child. Contact an experienced Chicago family law attorney today and Anderson & Associates, P.C. We have offices conveniently located in downtown Chicago, Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, and Orland Park to better serve clients throughout the region.

 

Petitioning for Sole or Joint Child Custody

March 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am

joint custody, sole custody, Illinois Family Law AttorneyIllinois recognizes two types of child custody agreements: sole and joint custody. If you are considering filing for divorce and you have children, deciding between sole and joint custody will be one of the most important choices you make during your case. The best interest of the child or children will be the first consideration with the judge, which is determined bsd on several factors set forth in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. In order to understand what these factors are and how they may apply to you and your family, you should speak with an experienced Chicago child custody and divorce lawyer.

Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody

Sole and joint custody does not just refer to which parent will have the child more or less time than the other. More importantly, it involves the decision-making power of each parent. When you are filing for divorce and children are involved, the court will take several considerations into account, including, but not limited to:

  • Who is the primary caregiver;
  • Wishes of the parents and child or children in question;
  • The nature of the relationship each parent has with the child;
  • History or likelihood of abuse while under each parent’s care;
  • Living situation at each parent’s house; and
  • Likelihood of the custodial parent to foster a relationship between the child and non-custodial parent.

If a parent has sole custody, the child will live with the parent and the parent will have the legal rights to make all major decisions regarding the child. These decisions include education, religion, medical, and other major life-changing decisions. The custodial parent may ask the non-custodial parent for their opinion, but ultimately, the sole custodial parent makes the decisions. This does not mean the non-custodial parent will not see the child; they typically will have visitation rights as ordered by the court.

Parents with joint custody, on the other hand, must work together to make the major decisions for the child to further his or her best interest. They can work through their lawyers or a court appointed mediator to work out their differences when making decision about education, religion, medical procedures, and other important issues. In joint custody situation, one parent is usually designated as the residential parent, meaning the parent with whom the resides primarily, and the other parent will have a visitation schedule. Ultimately, a Joint Parenting Agreement that outlines each parent’s powers, rights, and responsibilities, will be signed by both parties and entered with the court.

Best Interest of the Child

Illinois courts may consider the wishes of both parents and the child, and typically will approve custody arrangements negotiated by the parties, but the judge is not required to do so. The judge must take the child’s best interest into account and make a decision based on the findings of his or her investigations into each parent, living situations, income, and any other relevant information. Using your children to hurt your spouse may end up hurting your case if the judge feels you are trying to petition for sole custody just to hurt your spouse’s relationship with your children or for tactical purposes in your divorce case.

If you are filing for divorce and have children, you will want to ensure that your divorce judgment furthers your children’s best interest. Contact a Chicago child custody attorney today to discuss your options regarding the custody agreement for your family’s situation. Anderson & Associates, P.C. assists clients in Illinois from one of our five offices, conveniently located in Chicago, Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, and Orland Park.

Representation of Children in Custody and Visitation Disputes

February 19th, 2015 at 9:05 pm

representation of children, child custody, Chicago child visitation attorneyMost parents would never do anything to intentionally put their children at risk for physical, emotional, or psychological harm. However, even the most conscientious parents may find themselves in the midst of a bitter, contentious divorce. In such cases, the needs and well-being of the couple’s children can be underrepresented or unintentionally neglected. The potential effects of such a situation may be long-lasting as child custody orders or visitation arrangements can be difficult to alter once entered. For this reason, the law in Illinois permits the court to appoint an attorney to protect a child’s best interest in any proceedings related to custody or visitation.

There are three appointment options available to the court when necessary. Judges are permitted to appoint a qualified attorney to fill the role of either attorney for the child, guardian ad litem, or child representative. Whichever the court chooses to utilize, the law expects the work of the appointed attorney to be in compliance with the statutes regarding each and to be seriously considered by the court throughout the case.

Attorney for the Child

The role of attorney for the child is a very straightforward one: counsel and legal representation for a child of the parties in the case. As any lawyer, the Attorney for the Child is expected to represent his or her client’s wishes before the court. The attorney has the same obligations and confidentiality to the child as any other client, even though he or she is not an adult. Such representation may be fine for an older child, but younger children typically lack decision making skills necessary to effectively utilize an Attorney for the Child’s services.

Guardian ad Litem 

By contrast, a guardian ad litem serves as an extension of the court to independently determine the child’s best interest. Unlike an attorney for the child, a guardian ad litem is not bound by the child’s expressed wishes. The guardian ad litem has the authority to investigate the family circumstances and may speak with all involved parties to establish what outcome would best benefit the child. The guardian ad litem then presents a report which he or she can testify about, subject to cross examination. The guardian ad litem’s opinion is typically important to the court’s decision.

Child Representative 

For many cases, a child representative may be most appropriate, as this role combines the strengths of each of the other two roles in such a way that make it an attractive choice for the court. The Child Representative is granted all of the same investigative powers as a guardian ad litem to determine the child’s best interest.

However, the child representative does not act as a witness or make a report; rather, he or she represents the child’s best-interest position as a party to the case. Any wishes expressed by the child must be taken into account, but if they are not aligned with his or her true well-being, the child representative is not required to advocate for that position. In addition, the child’s representative’s communications with the child are protected by confidentiality.

If you have an on-going custody or visitation case and you would like the court to appoint an attorney to represent your child’s interest in the case, contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney. Call Anderson & Associates, P.C. today at 312-345-9999 for a free initial consultation. We offer five convenient offices throughout the greater Chicago area to best meet your family’s needs, including downtown, Orland Park, Schaumburg, Wheaton and Northbrook.

Seeking Visitation Rights as a Grandparent, Great-Grandparent, or Sibling

February 15th, 2015 at 4:58 pm

grandparent visitation rights, Illinois family law attorneyIllinois law allows all parents to petition the court for visitation with their children. Grandparents, great-grandparents and siblings may also petition for visitation rights under certain specific circumstances when the child’s parents unfairly deny them such rights.

The law presumes that parents make decisions regarding contact with other family members with their child’s best interests in mind. But this is not always the case.  A grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling may rebut that presumption if he or she proves that the parent’s decision harmed the child’s physical, emotional or mental health. Some factors that the court will consider regarding this decision include:

  • The child’s wishes regarding visitation, depending upon the child’s maturity level;
  • The child’s mental and physical health;
  • The petitioner’s mental and physical health;
  • The length and quality of the relationship between the petitioner and the child;
  • The petitioner’s reasons for seeking visitation rights;
  • The amount of visitation time requested by the petitioner and how it may affect the child’s normal activities;
  • Whether the petitioner resided with the child or was the child’s primary caretaker for at least six consecutive months;
  • Whether the petitioner had regular contact with the child for at least 12 consecutive months; and
  • Whether denying visitation would harm the child’s mental, physical or emotional health..

Petitioning for Visitation Rights

When a parent unreasonably denies visitation to a grandparent, great-grandparent or sibling, these individuals may petition for visitation rights if at least one of the following circumstances exists:

  • The child’s other parent is dead or has been reported missing for at least three months;
  • A parent has been deemed legally incompetent;
  • A parent was incarcerated during the three-month period before the family member filed the petition;
  • The parents are divorced, legally separated, or in the midst of a court proceeding involving custody and at least one parent does not object to visitation;
  • The child’s parents were not married when the child was born, the parents do not live together and the petitioner is related to the mother; or
  • The child’s parents were not married when the child was born, the parents do not live together, and the petitioner is related to the father who has established paternity through the court.

Note that visitation rights granted to a grandparent, great-grandparent or sibling cannot diminish the visitation rights of the unrelated parent.

If you are a grandparent, great-grandparent or sibling seeking visitation rights denied to you by the child’s parents, contact one of our family law lawyers in Chicago today. Anderson & Associates, P.C. can help you file a successful petition seeking visitation rights. Contact us for a free initial consultation. We can assist those from our offices in Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, Orland Park and downtown Chicago.

Establishing the Father-Child Relationship Under Illinois Law

February 14th, 2015 at 10:23 am

father-child relationship, Chicago family law attorneysIt is easy to establish the parent-child relationship between a birth mother and her baby. After all, the only legal requirement is proving that she gave birth to the child. Establishing paternity, however, is not always as simple.

Illinois law presumes paternity if:

  • The man and the child’s natural mother were married at the time of conception;
  • After the child’s birth, the man and the child’s natural mother marry and he is named (with his written consent) on the birth certificate as the father; or
  • The man and the child’s natural mother have signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity or other acknowledgment of parentage approved by Illinois law.

If the presumption of paternity arises due to marriage, it can only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence. If the presumption involves a signed acknowledgment of paternity or parentage then that presumption is conclusive unless the acknowledgment has been legally rescinded within a certain time period.

Acknowledging and Challenging Paternity

The easiest way to establish paternity when the man is not married to the child’s mother is by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital when the child is born. Both parents must sign the form in front of a witness who is at least 18 years old, who also signs the form. If either parent wants to rescind this acknowledgment, he or she must submit a rescission form to the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services within 60 days of signing the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.

Once the 60-day period has passed, it is very difficult to disestablish paternity. An acknowledgment of paternity can be challenged in court, but only for fraud, duress or material mistake of fact. The challenging party has the burden of proof.

Paternity can be established voluntarily, or it can be established by a court. The law permits certain parties to bring a legal action to determine the father-child relationship, including:

  • The child;
  • The child’s mother, including when she is pregnant;
  • Any person or public agency with custody of, or providing financial support to, the child; or
  • A man presumed or alleging himself to be the child’s father.

These various parties will likely have different reasons for establishing paternity. Once paternity is established, a parent has certain legal rights and obligations, including custody, visitation, and contributing to the child’s financial support. If you want to bring a legal action establishing–or challenging–paternity, contact one of our Chicago, IL paternity lawyers today. From offices in Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, Orland Park, and Chicago, Anderson & Associates, P.C. can help you with your paternity matters throughout Illinois.

Voluntary and Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

February 12th, 2015 at 10:11 am

parental rights in Illinois, Chicago IL child custody attorneyBeing a parent is both a responsibility and a privilege. The basic responsibilities– contributing to your child’s care and support–are fairly straightforward. Parental privileges are a little more obscure and vary by family. Legally, however, parenting is a privilege because parental status comes attached with certain rights, such as the right to make decisions regarding the child.  It also comes with responsibilities, such as contributing to the child’s financial support.

Note that parental rights can be terminated and the legal parent-child relationship destroyed. Under these circumstances, the parent relinquishes the responsibilities and the privileges, including the right to be part of the child’s life. The child also loses any legal obligations toward the parent.

Parental rights can be terminated voluntarily, or involuntarily, if:

  • The parent surrenders the child to an authorized agency for adoption;
  • The parent consents to the child’s adoption;
  • The parent waives his parental rights as pursuant to putative father laws; or
  • A court determines that the parent is unfit and then appoints a guardian ad litem who is authorized to consent to adoption.

Parental unfitness must be established by clear and convincing evidence and does not turn on the best interests of the child. Common grounds for unfitness are:

  • Child abandonment;
  • Substantial neglect;
  • Failure to maintain interest, concern or responsibility for the child’s welfare;
  • Deserting the child for a three-month period prior to the adoption;
  • Physical abuse;
  • Depravity (i.e., conviction for certain serious crimes, including murder);
  • Failure to protect the child from dangerous conditions; or
  • Failure to contribute to the support the child despite having the physical and financial ability to do so.

Once the court rules on the termination of parental rights, it must next consider the best interests of the child. For example, should the child be placed in a foster home or adopted by a family member? The court will decide; the former parent does not have a say.

Reestablishing Parental Rights by Petitioning for Adoption

Former parents may sometimes reestablish their parental rights by petitioning for adoption. The child is eligible for adoption if:

  • The child was a ward of the state when the parental rights were terminated; and
  • The child was adopted by blood relatives who have since died without appointing a standby guardian or adoptive parent; or
  • The adoptive parent has a physical or mental impairment rendering him unable to care for the child, and he consents to the adoption petition.

Adoption eligibility is not the only criteria. The parent must also prove that the adoption is in the child’s best interest and that the former parent is willing and able to care for the child. The petition will likely hinge on the initial basis for terminating parental rights, as well as the steps the parent has since taken to resolve the issues existing at the time of the termination.

If you are a parent facing involuntary termination–or seeking voluntary termination–of parental rights, contact one of our Chicago family law attorneys today. We will help you understand your legal rights and the legal consequences of termination. Contact us today for a consultation. Anderson & Associates, P.C. has offices in Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, Orland Park and downtown Chicago.