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Reeder & Brown, P.C.

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 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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