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St. Charles parenting plan attorneysThe COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people on a global scale, from China to Italy to the United States, as well as many other countries. This novel (new) coronavirus is highly contagious and results in respiratory illness that can range from mild to life-threatening. Those who have pre-existing medical conditions or who are over the age of 65 are reportedly at a higher risk of fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is aggressively responding to the worldwide outbreak of the virus, with updates and guidelines for citizens to follow. Some of these directives include isolation or quarantine orders if someone tests positive for the virus. During this unsettling time, parents who are divorced may be worried how it will affect their parenting plans

Illinois’ Response to Coronavirus 

Here in Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker and his administration are committed to the health and safety of citizens across the state. In an effort to flatten the curve on the number of new cases, Pritzker issued a “stay at home” order that began March 21 and tentatively runs through April 7. This means that all “non-essential” businesses are closed, including schools, restaurants (dine-in service), bars, casinos, shopping malls, salons, and more. Students are doing online schooling and people who can work from home are doing so. Government offices, medical facilities, gas stations, and grocery stores are still open. Health and county officials are urging people everywhere to practice social distancing. This means keeping six feet away from others and refraining from large gatherings or traveling unless absolutely necessary.   

Child-Related Issues Amidst the Outbreak

In an Illinois divorce, one parent is typically awarded the majority of the parental responsibilities (child custody). The non-custodial parent has designated parenting time (visitation), which is outlined in a parenting plan. This document is basically a schedule of when the children are with which parent. For example, some parents alternate weeks or weekends and holidays. However, what happens when the kids are off school for a prolonged period of time, such as during the COVID-19 outbreak?  

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Kane County family law attorneyA divorce can be difficult for a child to process. His or her world changes dramatically when the family unit as he or she knew it is no longer intact. Moving out of the marital home and into a new residence may be a challenging adjustment for any child, especially if he or she is living part time with both parents. 

According to Illinois law, parenting time (visitation) is determined based on several factors if the parents cannot come to their own arrangement. Depending on the allocation of parental responsibilities, one parent may have the majority of the time with the child once the divorce is final. However, there may be other family members who wish to see the child on a regular basis. In certain situations, other relatives such as grandparents or aunts and uncles may be awarded visitation rights. There are specific conditions that may warrant this scenario.      

Best Interest Considerations

Unlike parents, other immediate or extended family members typically do not have the presumed legal right to visitation, even if the child lived with them for a period of time or has a close personal relationship with them. However, depending on the circumstances, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or sibling may have been denied visitation. This is common in contentious divorces, where a bitter spouse does not want the child to spend time with the other parent’s family. In these cases, those family members may file a request with the court asking to modify an existing visitation order. 

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Kane County divorce attorneysNo couple really expects to get a divorce when they first enter into a marriage, but unfortunately, not all partners live happily ever after. In some cases, people slowly grow apart for various reasons, causing a relationship to deteriorate over time. In other situations, one spouse may abruptly leave and file for divorce, leaving the other spouse shocked. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a divorce, there are many issues the two parties will have to resolve before they can legally end their union. A divorce decree is a legal document that specifies the court’s final ruling on matters as well as any judgment orders that make the termination of a marriage official. However, in certain situations, it may be possible to appeal a judgment handed down by the court if you feel it was made erroneously. In other words, an appeal is a formal request of the court to set aside a judgment and hear the case again.   

Divorce-Related Issues That May Be Eligible for Appeal 

A request to change a court’s ruling is called an appeal. The right to appeal is included in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. It is important to note that someone cannot appeal a decision simply because he or she does not agree with it. An appeal is used to address a procedural mistake, a judge’s incorrect interpretation of the law, the admissibility of evidence, or how the law related to the initial proceedings. For example, it is possible for a judge to miscalculate a spouse’s available resources when determining spousal or child support order amounts. In other cases, insufficient evidence may have been presented during the initial court proceedings, resulting in unfair bias toward one spouse. 

The individual who challenges a court’s decision is known as the “appellant,” and the other party is called the “appellee.” When someone appeals a ruling, the case goes to appellate court instead of going back to trial. It is important to note that a person has up to 30 days after the ruling to file an appeal.

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Kane County divorce lawyerAlthough it would be nice if all divorces were amicable, that is rarely the case. Even if a couple mutually decides to end their marriage, they may disagree on many of the marital issues that need to be resolved when divorcing. Some typical points of contention include dividing assets or property, determining spousal support, and creating a parenting time schedule. When children are involved, it can be hard for parents to reach common ground, especially for the allocation of parental responsibilities. Child custody disputes during the divorce process can cause both parents and children to feel anxiety and guilt. In some situations, it may be necessary to seek the professional opinions of subject matter experts in addition to a skilled divorce attorney to come to a resolution.   

How Can a Professional Evaluation Help?

When determining which parent will be awarded the majority of the parenting time, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the children when making any decisions. A judge may order one or both parents to undergo a mental health evaluation. This is often the case when one parent is worried that the other parent may pose a risk to their children due to a mental illness, substance abuse problem, or similar psychological issues. The judge then uses the findings to determine whether one parent is better equipped to care for the children. In certain cases, the results can affect parenting time rights. 

A psychologist or a licensed clinical social worker can conduct an evaluation using different personality tests and interviews. He or she then submits recommendations to help the court decide what would be best for the children’s emotional well-being. This third-party evaluation will address the developmental needs of the children and the capacity of each parent to meet those needs. He or she will consider several factors regarding the parents, including: 

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St. Charles family law attorneysIf you are feeling a heightened sense of anxiety since having the prenuptial agreement talk with soon-to-be spouse, you are not alone. Many engaged couples experience great trepidation when considering the idea of creating a prenuptial agreement. Whether you were the one who had to initiate the discussion because you would like your partner to sign one, or you are the one who was asked to sign, the subject of prenups and hypothetical divorce can be touchy and downright uncomfortable for both parties in a relationship.

The Marriage Business

One of the most obvious reasons the concept of a prenuptial agreement is so uncomfortable for some is that the idea seems to imply by signing one, you are essentially planning to divorce before you are even married. The mere mention of a prenup can be offensive to a person, making the conversation about whether or not to sign very difficult. It is natural to feel as if you need to tread carefully with the discussion. However, every couple, regardless of circumstance or which stance they take on the subject, can benefit from reminding themselves what psychology experts reiterate for us all: Marriage is a business relationship, whether we like it or not.

Here are three reasons engaged couples experience serious apprehension over the idea of signing a prenuptial agreement:

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St. Charles parental relocation attorneysWhether you are accepting a position with a new employer, can no longer afford your current residence, or need to be closer to extended family or friends, the decision to relocate in the midst of divorce is not an easy one to make. When you share a child with the other parent, planning a move after the separation can be especially challenging, yet circumstances can arise that leave you little choice in the matter. Whatever your situation, if you have children and find yourself planning to relocate during the divorce process, Illinois law will require you to adhere to specific guidelines as you begin putting your relocation plans into motion.

Relocation Guidelines for Divorced Parents

The state of Illinois considers the relocation of a parent after divorce to be a significant change in the lives of any children involved and for the family as a whole. As the state recognizes the impact a move can have on children of divorce, laws have been put into place to govern how the relocation process should be handled. 

Here are some basic guidelines that you will be expected to follow:

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Kane County family law attorneyWhether you are about to be a parent or have just recently experienced the birth of a newborn, the issue of paternity is a critical part of protecting not only your relationship with your child but also protecting your child’s best interests. Paternity is a term that defines the legal relationship between a father and his child. In the state of Illinois, an unmarried man is only considered the legal father of a child when his name is placed on the birth certificate, regardless of whether or not he lives with the mother or is engaged to marry. 

Why Paternity Is Necessary

There are many reasons why establishing paternity is crucial for both parents and for the child, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding the family situation. Here are some major points every parent should consider when it comes to making parental status official:

  • Your child’s security depends on it. By establishing paternity, your child will have the opportunity for financial security now and in the future. For example, they will have the right to social security benefits in the event that a parent passes away or becomes disabled, as well as the right to receive potential inheritances or veterans benefits, if applicable. Additionally, they will have the right to receive any health or life insurance benefits due to them.
  • Your child may need access to medical history records. When paternity is officially established, a child also has the chance to obtain important medical information about their parents, which can be useful throughout the course of their lifetime.
  • An unmarried father’s rights are limited without it. If an unwed father wishes to ask for any rights that allow him involvement in his child’s life—anything from visitation to custody, or a say in educational decisions—then  he must be recognized as the child’s legal parent.

How to Go About Establishing Paternity

Once you have explored the various advantages of establishing paternity and are ready to get started, you can proceed in any of the following ways:

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St. Charles family law attorneysA postnuptial agreement, or postnup, is a legally binding contract that can be executed after a couple finalizes their marriage. Similar to a prenuptial agreement, a postnup can help two individuals identify marital and non-marital assets following a divorce. Although the introduction of this topic might upset a spouse, a legally binding document may be beneficial for both parties. If a dissolution of marriage were to take place, having an agreement in place could expedite the process and better prepare each individual for the future. 

Why Should I Establish a Postnuptial Agreement?

When the thought of a postnuptial agreement goes through an individual's head, a preconceived notion of a failed marriage can quickly resonate. Although it may be simple to make that connection, it is oftentimes not true. Before a marriage is enacted or if situations start to change, the idea of planning for your future could be favorable for both members. 

A postnuptial agreement may be beneficial if:

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St. Charles divorce attorneysIn Illinois, basic child support payments end when the child reaches 18 years of age or if the child earns a high school diploma (whichever comes last). During the divorce process, parents can come to an agreement in regards to their child’s continuing education costs. If an agreement cannot be reached, either party can petition a family court to address the matter and possibly assign a fair amount to be divided between both parents and the child. This amount is intended to specific eligible expenses related to college, trade school, or other post-high school education programs (i.e. tuition, housing, textbooks, etc…). Pre-college expenses such as application fees and ACT/SAT test fees could be included in the parental support payment agreement.

Support can be granted for a college-level child until their 23rd birthday or their graduation (whichever comes first). For good cause shown, the court could extend the support until the child’s 25th birthday.

How Is College Expense Support Determined?

Many college students pay for tuition and other expenses on their own. Others are granted scholarships for academic or athletic ability to help with college expenses. Why then would it be necessary to order divorced parents to pay for their non-minor child’s school fees?

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St. Charles family law attorneysMany things change after a couple decides to separate. In some cases, one parent may have been a stay-at-home parent before the divorce, but now they must find a new job. When they land a job, they may need to move to be closer, and they will, of course, want to bring their children.

If it is a short distance, the parents should have no trouble relocating with their children. However, in the Chicago metropolitan area, a parent cannot move over 25 miles within Illinois or out of the state without permission from the other parent and/or the court. In other parts of Illinois, in-state moves of over 50 miles require prior permission. 

What Are Some Reasons to Want to Move?

As already stated, a new job may be a reason for the primary parent to move, but it is not the only reason a parent will elect to move. Sometimes, a move is necessary to:

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Kane County divorce attorneysToo often, children believe that a divorce is their fault and that if they had behaved better, maybe mom and dad would not be splitting up. Parents know that this is not true, but these thoughts can lead youngsters down a path of mental disturbance.

This is why having a proper parenting plan put in place is important for children whose parents are  involved in a divorce. As part of a parenting plan, both parents can decide on a schedule for visitation—now called parenting time in Illinois—after the physical separation of the family.

Keeping Parents Involved

Child development experts and mental health professionals tend to agree that is usually best for children of divorce to have both parents continue to play an active role in the children’s lives. There are exceptions, but children who grow up with only one active parent seem to be at a higher risk for:

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