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IL family lawyerBecoming a father is one of the most impactful things that can happen to a man. Fatherhood allows a man to further his legacy, knowledge, and wisdom to future generations through a deeply meaningful relationship with a child, giving both the child and the father an opportunity to grow and learn. Some men are understandably concerned with ensuring that a child is truly theirs before investing so much time and effort into raising him or her.

It can be devastating to discover that a child you thought was yours actually belongs to someone else. When paternity is uncertain, or when you can prove you are not a child’s father, you may want to disestablish paternity and sever your legal obligations to the child. If you are in this situation and want to know more, read on.

What if I Am Married to the Child’s Mother?

When a couple is married and the wife gives birth, the husband is automatically assumed to be the child’s legal father, and disestablishing paternity can be a challenge. If a married father discovers through a DNA test that a child is not his own, he may be able to ask a judge to grant him disestablishment.

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IL divorce lawyerNot so long ago, divorce laws in virtually every state enshrined the belief that children really only needed their mothers after divorce. Too many fathers lost their ability to create and maintain crucial relationships with their children, and many of those children suffered because of the loss of their father in their lives.

Fortunately, things are a little different today. Illinois’ divorce laws now recognize the importance of both parents in a child’s life and the law gives preference to having both parents legally involved whenever it would be in the best interests of the child. This does not mean that fathers never have to aggressively advocate for their parenting rights, but the work it takes to protect a relationship with a child is well worth it. Here are some tips for fathers who are hoping to increase their chances of getting parenting time (visitation) and parental responsibilities (custody) in Illinois.

Create a Child-Friendly Home

There are certain things all parents can do to make their house a comfortable and appropriate environment for children. Make sure the children’s physical needs are met, that they are fed healthy food and that you are present and available for them when they are with you. Courts do take children’s preferences into account when they are old enough, and you can increase your chances of your children wanting to be with you by giving them a happy home.

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IL defense lawyerAlthough people frequently think of “burglars” as people who break into houses and steal things, Illinois considers any form of breaking and entering to be burglary whether or not anything was actually stolen. As long as the prosecution can determine that an alleged burglary intended to commit the crime of theft or another felony crime, breaking and entering is considered a felony.

Additionally, breaking and entering can take place in other buildings and facilities besides homes; public buildings like schools and government offices, storage sheds, RVs or other trailers, and even aircraft can be burgled. If you have been charged with burglary in Illinois, it is important to understand the law and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

What Is Burglary?

Under Illinois law, burglary charges can be filed against an alleged offender who knowingly, and without permission, entered the property of another person intending to steal something or to commit another felony crime. No locks have to be broken for the charge of burglary to apply. The seriousness of the charges and consequences will depend on what exactly happened during the burglary. These charges, and when they apply, include:

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IL family lawyerThe research on children who experience divorce is surprisingly clear. In nearly every measurable way, divorce has the potential to negatively affect a child's quality of life - both during the divorce and well into the future. However, not all divorces have lasting negative effects on children. Parents who put their children first and work hard to cooperate during divorce can give their children a supportive environment to process the stresses of divorce and set them up for future success.

Unfortunately, not all parents are committed to giving their children the best future possible. Many parents are more interested in getting revenge after the relationship is over, and sometimes this means using the children as weapons in a never-ending fight. One way this can manifest is through one parent’s efforts to alienate a child from their other parent. If you are afraid that your ex is trying to interfere with your ability to have a great relationship with your child, read on.

Common Signs that Your Ex is Trying to Negatively Affect Your Relationship with Your Child

Although there is some controversy about exactly how parental alienation is described and recognized, there is no question that a child can suffer when one parent tries to distance them from their other parent. Behaviors that might be considered parental alienation include:

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IL family lawyerIllinois family law has been updated over the years to reflect the fact that children get the most out of life when they can have warm, supportive relationships with both parents. When parents decide to get divorced, children usually divide their time between each parent’s household even if their parents find it difficult to cooperate or get along. However, in some circumstances, it is not in the child’s best interests to spend time with one of their parents. In this blog, we will look at how Illinois defines child custody and examine some situations where a parent may be given full custody.

Custody vs. Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Illinois no longer uses the legal term “custody” and “visitation” when referring to the relationship with parents and children. Instead, the terms “parental responsibilities” (meaning major decision-making authority) and “parenting time” (time physically spent with the child) are used. When a parent has full custody in Illinois, that really means that they have total responsibility for the child. They make decisions about the child’s religion, education, healthcare, and daily activities. If a parent has visitation, that means they have parenting time where they are responsible for caring for the child’s needs within the parameters of the other parent’s decisions about education, etc.

When Could a Parent Get Full Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time in Illinois?

Although judges prefer to see children spend as much time with each parent as possible, there are circumstances where this would be inappropriate or dangerous. These include:

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IL divorce lawyerDivorcing couples frequently cite the marital property division process as one of the most difficult parts of getting divorced. Haggling over who owns what property is never easy, and it can be especially difficult if money has been set aside for a specific purpose. Many parents begin setting aside money for their child’s education in a 529 plan and getting a divorce can impact this money. If you find yourself worrying about how divorce could impact your child’s educational opportunities, read on.

What is a Marital Asset?

Anything that is considered a marital asset must be divided in a divorce. In Illinois, almost anything acquired during a marriage is considered a marital asset, including cash, property, vehicles, retirement accounts, stock options, and more. Even if the asset is owned by only one spouse, if it was acquired after the marriage began, it is almost certainly marital property.

What is a 529 Savings Plan?

Parents can begin saving money for their child’s education in a tax-exempt savings plan. These plans are called 529 plans because they refer to the 529 section of the Internal Revenue Service’s code. Illinois currently only has individual 529 plans, although some other states have 529 plans maintained by a state agency or a public college. Parents can contribute up to $15,000 per year to each plan and as long as the money in the plan is only spent on educational expenses, it remains untaxed. 529 plans must have one account owner and one beneficiary, which in this case are a parent and child, respectively.

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IL defense lawyerOrders of Protection, also known as restraining orders, are a powerful legal prohibition against an alleged abuser coming into contact with, or even coming within a certain distance of, an alleged victim. Although Orders of Protection are important and necessary in genuine situations of abuse, they can also be weaponized by people who are not acting in good faith. To learn more about Orders of Protection in Illinois, including when they can be implemented and removed, read on.

Types of Orders of Protection

Illinois law provides three basic types of Orders of Protection: Emergency Orders of Protection, Interim Orders of Protection, and Plenary Orders of Protection. It is important to understand what each order entails and when it can be used.

  • Emergency Orders of Protection can be obtained right away, without obtaining testimony from the alleged abuser. They can last up to 21 days and can prohibit an abuser from coming into contact with the victim. Even if you believe that an Emergency Order of Protection has been wrongly filed against you, it is important to abide by its terms because violating Orders of Protection carries serious consequences. There will be time to contest a further Order of Protection in the future.
  • Interim Orders of Protection are meant to extend an Emergency Order of Protection if there has not been an opportunity to have a final hearing about whether an extended Order of Protection is necessary.
  • Plenary Orders of Protection are final orders that a court gives after hearing testimony from both parties. Although the alleged abuser must be notified about the hearing, they may not come. In this case, the Plenary Order and its terms will be approved and can last up to two years, offering a victim the greatest form of legal protection available. If you have been notified of a hearing for a Plenary Order of Protection against you, it is crucial that you attend the hearing; once a permanent Order of Protection is put in place, it is very difficult to challenge it.

Challenging an Order of Protection

If you feel you have been wrongly targeted by an Order of Protection, it is important to comply until you have an opportunity to challenge it in court. Penalties for failing to comply include fines and even jail time. You will be notified of a court hearing, where you can challenge the testimony of your accuser and offer evidence that contradicts his or her claims. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney by your side during the hearing.

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IL divorce lawyerPrenuptial agreements can be great financial instruments for protecting the wishes and interests of a couple if they get divorced. Although nobody plans on getting divorced, the statistics on the success rate of marriages are clear, and more and more couples are electing to protect themselves with a premarital agreement. From ensuring a personal or family business remains intact to protecting one spouse from the other spouse’s student loans, a prenup is a highly customizable way to mitigate losses in a worst-case scenario.

In our last blog, we talked about the advantages and potential disadvantages of having a prenup. However, a prenup does not do anyone any good if it turns out to be unenforceable. Part of writing a strong premarital agreement is understanding its limitations, including when Illinois courts may declare all or part of an agreement invalid. Before you start writing your prenup, make sure you have the facts.

How Can I Make Sure I Have a Legally Enforceable Prenup?

Most prenuptial agreements are enforced by courts in Illinois without a problem. However, certain factors can cause a judge to deem a prenup invalid. These include, but are not limited to:

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IL divorce lawyerPrenuptial agreements are growing in popularity as a great way for engaged couples to delineate their financial expectations in a relationship and stipulate what will happen with certain issues if they get divorced. However, not everyone wants a prenuptial agreement before they get married and cannot imagine a scenario in which they get divorced.

Fortunately, the state of Illinois allows married couples to create a postnuptial agreement after the excitement of the wedding wears off and spouses settle into real life. But postnuptial agreements are not only for couples facing challenges - they can give all couples comfort in knowing that if a divorce is down the road, but they can also settle certain issues quickly and easily, potentially saving themselves time, money, and heartache.

What is the Point of a Postnuptial Agreement?

Like a prenuptial agreement, postnuptial agreements are legal contracts wherein spouses agree ahead of time about what they will do regarding certain issues if they should get divorced. Specifically, postnuptial agreements often address the question of marital and individual property, determining how spouses will divide what they owned before getting married and what they have accumulated together. Spouses can also address the question of spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony) and may even address what the financial contributions of each spouse towards retirement and savings funds will be during the marriage.

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IL divorce lawyerOnce you’ve made the decision to get divorced, you have to choose from a wide variety of options and strategies. Do you want to try to do it yourself in an uncontested divorce? Is it better to approach the situation cooperatively, or to try to aggressively pursue everything you are hoping for? Do you want to utilize a large team of professionals, or keep the process as small as possible?

While not every situation allows parties to cooperate, there are two great alternative dispute resolution strategies that are highly effective even when the dynamic between divorcing spouses seems impossible to navigate: Collaborative divorce and mediation. Whether either of these options is good for you can be a tough decision to make, but a qualified Illinois divorce attorney may be able to provide advice.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce involves both spouses hiring their own attorney who is committed to working together with a team to create a divorce agreement. Because attorneys are required to work with each other, everybody shares the goal of solving issues and reducing conflict. Spouses can hire a team of divorce professionals that may include a child psychologist, a divorce coach, financial professionals, as well as anyone else who might be helpful. If the collaborative divorce process fails, the entire team is dissolved and the attorneys cannot represent spouses in the future.

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IL defense lawyerAlthough marijuana was legalized for recreational use in Illinois, other controlled substances continue to be illegal without a prescription. Possession of an illegal drug carries charges and penalties that can vary according to substance; for example, having even .05 grams of heroin, which is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, allows for felony charges, including prison time.

In addition to the illegality of using or selling controlled substances, drug paraphernalia - such as pipes, bongs, or hypodermic needles - is illegal to possess or sell as well. Charges of possession of drug paraphernalia are serious and Illinois is notoriously hard on drug crimes. In this blog post, we will answer some general questions about drug paraphernalia charges, but each case is unique and a qualified Illinois criminal defense attorney is the best person to answer your questions.

What Counts as Drug Paraphernalia?

Certain materials are clearly drug paraphernalia, but there may be some question about others. For example, if heroin is found in a backpack, is that backpack paraphernalia? It depends. Illinois law defines drug paraphernalia as materials used for the following purposes:

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IL family lawyerIllinois family law is primarily interested in preserving the best interests of children. Because both parents have a financial obligation to support children, child support payments must be calculated when parents get divorced. This can be a stressful experience for both parents, and a certain amount of anxiety and frustration is normal.

Calculating child support payments in an Illinois divorce or child support order modification is done according to a formula, but it is not a simple process. Illinois uses a process known as the “income shares method” to determine each parent’s financial obligation and whether one parent must make payments to the other. We will discuss this method in some detail below.

How Does a Parent’s Income Influence Child Support Payments?

Both parents must share their gross monthly income in a financial affidavit with supporting evidence like pay stubs or W-2s. Then, using a standardized chart, the parents’ gross incomes are used to estimate their “Standardized Net Income.” By combining each parent’s Standardized Net Income, child support payments are then estimated using the Income Shares Schedule chart to determine the total child support amount parents must contribute. Then, according to the percentage of the parents’ Combined Net Income each parent earns, as well as how much time each parent spends with the child, final monthly payments are determined.

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IL divorceThe prospect of divorce in Illinois brings with it a host of questions and issues that must be resolved. Because pregnancy also raises complex questions and difficulties, it is no wonder that getting divorced while one spouse is pregnant presents unique concerns.

People who are considering divorce but are unsure of how a pregnancy would change the process often have many questions. In this blog, we will answer some of the most common questions about combining these two important processes, but readers should keep in mind that a qualified Illinois divorce attorney is the best person to go to for help.

Is a Simplified Divorce Available to Pregnant Couples?

Many young couples who have not been married for long and who do not share complex assets can file for a simplified divorce, which is generally easy, faster, and less costly than a contested divorce. But simplified divorces are only available to couples who do not have children or who are not pregnant.

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IL family lawyerDivorced parents in Illinois often feel relief at the prospect of seeing child support payments end when their child turns 18 or graduates from high school. Of course, this does not signal the end of the parent’s support for the child but instead marks the end of one parent making payments to another parent on behalf of the child.

But divorced parents should be aware that certain circumstances exist wherein they may be ordered to financially support their child even after the age of 18. A court order to assist a child with college expenses is one such case. Understanding how Illinois law works in this regard is important for ensuring you meet your legal obligations.

When Can Parents Be Ordered to Pay College Expenses for an Adult Child?

Interestingly, Illinois courts do not have the authority to require married parents to pay for their child’s college expenses. But if the parents are divorced or were never married, the courts do have this authority. This kind of child support is called “non-minor support.”

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IL DUI lawyerIt is a well-known fact that colleges and universities are often hotbeds of reckless underage drinking. More than half of college students admit to riding in a car knowing the driver was under the influence, and college-age students represent an outsized share of drunk driving accidents.

Because of the inherent dangers of driving while drunk, Illinois takes driving under the influence (DUI) charges very seriously. At any age, getting hit with a DUI has expensive and long-lasting consequences, but the penalties faced by underage college students can be particularly damaging to a young adult’s future.

What Is a Zero-Tolerance Law?

Illinois law states that a minor who has even the smallest amount of detectable alcohol in their system while driving can be charged with an underage DUI and have their driver’s license suspended for three months to a year.

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Posted on in Divorce

IL family lawyerParents in Will County, IL who are getting divorced or modifying their joint parenting order must create a legally binding document stipulating the decision-making responsibilities and parenting time schedule of each parent with their child. This document is called a “parenting plan.” Parents are encouraged to work together to create a parenting plan that meets the needs of the children while making sense for both parents.

The “right of first refusal” is an important piece of any parenting plan. Designed to maximize the time a child can spend with each parent, the right of first refusal requires divorced or separated parents to contact each other, rather than a babysitter or family member when they need additional child care. This article contains three helpful facts about the right of first refusal in Illinois. If you have any questions about the right of first refusal, contact a Lockport family law attorney right away.

The Right of First Refusal Only Applies Under Certain Circumstances

Parents must stipulate the circumstances that require offering each other the right of first refusal, including how long the absence from the children must be. The law on this matter is intentionally somewhat vague, referring to the time a parent might be away from the child as a “significant period of time.”

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IL divorce lawyerNow more than ever, technology allows us to do all kinds of things online. Activities that were only possible face-to-face just ten years ago have now become ubiquitous in the online world. Among the explosion of online utilities now available is a wide variety of legal services that allow users to do anything from creating a will to getting a divorce.

These services advertise themselves as easy, less expensive alternatives to in-person legal counsel from a qualified attorney. Although in some cases this may be true, it is certainly not always wise to use online divorce technology, and doing so may end up costing you significant amounts of time and money in the long run.

Is it Ever a Good Idea to Use Illinois Divorce Websites?

There are many reasons that a “do-it-yourself” divorce may seem appealing. Low costs, faster processing time, and fewer complications all sound great - especially if you are trying to separate from a hostile spouse as soon as possible.

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IL divorce lawyerFor children who are born to married parents, establishing paternity is easy: The mother is obviously the mother, and the mother’s husband is assumed to be the father. However, when two people are not married, establishing the parentage of a child can pose some challenges.

Parents must seek to establish legal paternity for their child another way. Because Illinois law is deeply concerned with the wellbeing of a child and seeks involvement and support from both parents, courts will often issue Orders of Paternity in order to establish who is the child’s legal father. Before a court does this, however, it will need to determine who is the father; for this reason, genetic testing is often used.

What Is Genetic Testing?

We receive our genes, or genetic material, from two people: Our father and our mother. DNA testing compares the genes of a child to the genetic material of his or her parents. This DNA can be obtained in a variety of ways, including blood, hair, bone, or other body fluid samples, but the most common method of gathering DNA is through a simple cheek swab. This does not hurt a child.

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joliet criminal defense lawyerIllinois criminal law divides criminal conduct into two main categories: Crimes against property and crimes against a person. If a thief broke into a home and stole money, but nobody else was home, then the thief committed an offense against property. However, if the same thief confronted someone on the street with a gun and stole their wallet, the crime is robbery and is considered an offense against a person. 

Assault and battery are both offenses against a person. Because assault and battery are often discussed in the same context, many people believe they always happen together or are the same crime. However, assault and battery are two distinct legal offenses that describe different behaviors and carry different penalties. 

What is Battery?

The crime of battery is committed when one person, without legal authority or justification, intentionally causes bodily harm to another person or makes physical contact in a way that insults or provokes the victim. Serious physical harm does not have to take place in order for someone to be successfully prosecuted with battery. A single slap, punch, or even finger poke in the chest could be considered battery. 

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joliet divorce lawyerEven under the best of circumstances, Illinois parents getting divorced with young children at home face a number of difficult challenges. In addition to the loss of the relationship, parents must figure out how to tell the children about the divorce and attempt to help them process their emotions.

Professionals in divorce and child psychology have developed strategies for minimizing the negative impacts of divorce on children and families. With careful planning and a commitment to avoid blame and hostility, parents can help children through the transition so they may continue to have healthy, loving relationships with both adults. 

Practice the Conversation Together First

Experts suggest planning and practicing what you will share with your children ahead of time. Choosing the right words can be difficult in the heat of the moment. A practiced conversation can help parents avoid conflict and strong emotional reactions, allowing them to focus on the child’s reaction and needs. 

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