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DuPage County virtual divorce attorneyCourtrooms across the nation, including in parts of Illinois, have begun improvising over the last few months as a result of Stay-at-Home orders. For instance, Bankruptcy Courts in the Northern District of Illinois are conducting most hearings through Zoom video conferences or telephone calls. Divorce is no different—more and more courtrooms are conducting “virtual divorce proceedings.” But what are the benefits and drawbacks of this new trend, and will it have staying power in divorce and family law? Maybe, maybe not; but it is worth considering as an option depending on a couple’s situation.

Pros of Virtual Divorces

Many people undergoing divorces have found that they actually appreciate virtual divorces for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Convenience—The convenience of virtual divorces means they can do it anywhere they are comfortable, such as in their home. This allows them to focus on the divorce itself instead of being worried about all the tangential aspects of the experience. For example, they do not have to stress themselves out about the hustle-and-bustle of driving or parking downtown, or making their way through unfamiliar territory, be it different cities or intimidating courtrooms.

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DuPage County parenting time attorneyGoing through a divorce can be difficult on an adult as well as a child. The end of a marriage also means the end of the family unit as they knew it. Determining child visitation, now referred to as “parenting time” in Illinois, can be a complicated matter. The child’s best interest is what the court considers when parenting time rights are being established in any divorce settlement. Parenting time can be divided in many different ways, but it is imperative that the parents keep personal preferences out of the equation and devise a plan that works best for the child.

Determining the Child’s Best Interests

It is recognized by the state that in most cases, it is best for children to have a healthy relationship with both their mother and father, and those familial bonds are essential in their development. While parents may be able to reach an agreement on how to share parenting time, they may need to settle these issues in court if they cannot do so on their own. A judge will consider various types of information when determining the best outcome for the child, and the following elements are taken under advisement:

  • Parents’ wishes

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DuPage County child support modification attorneyAfter you have gone through a divorce and are paying or receiving child support, there may come a time when you believe the amount you pay or the child receives should be adjusted. In Illinois, this may be done through a modification review process.

When Can I Have My Child Support Order Modified?

Under Illinois family law, an order for child support is eligible for modification review every three years, or when there is a significant change in either parent’s income or in the needs of the child. In the case of a three-year review, a parent will receive a letter from the agency in charge, informing them of the right to request a review.

Who Conducts the Modification Review?

Modification reviews of child support orders in Illinois are done by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). The agency is tasked with the responsibility to make sure child support orders are consistent with applicable Illinois law and changed circumstances involving all concerned.

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Wheaton divorce attorneyIn recent years, a lot of emphasis has been placed on fathers’ rights during and after a divorce. This is partly due to a trend in which many dads have taken more active roles in parenting compared to fathers in previous generations. In divorces that took place in the past, mothers were typically awarded what was called “sole custody” of the children, as well as alimony, child support, the marital home, and other assets. However, things often turn out differently in today’s divorces, since many mothers and fathers share in earning household income and raising children.

In modern divorce cases, mothers’ rights regarding child custody should not be automatically assumed like they often were in the past. During divorce, both parents should be sure to understand their rights and the ways they can reach a favorable outcome.

Protecting the Best Interests of the Child

In Illinois, the court is instructed to consider what is in the best interests of the child when it comes to the “allocation of parental responsibilities” (formerly known as child custody) and “parenting time” (formerly known as visitation). According to Illinois law, if married parents reside in the state, then a family court will decide on these matters as a part of their divorce proceedings. For an unmarried couple, paternity must be established before a court can address matters of parental responsibility and parenting time.

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Wheaton-supervised-parenting-time-lawyerDuring and after a divorce, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows both parents to have reasonable parenting time with their child. In some situations, if a parent is worried about his or her child’s physical or mental well-being when spending time with the other parent, he or she can request a hearing to ask for supervised visits. The parent requesting this supervision needs to show evidence to support this request. If you are ordered to have supervised parenting time with your child, an experienced family law attorney can help you determine the best way to proceed.

Factors that May Require Supervision

Many factors are considered when deciding if parenting time will be supervised or not. In general, Illinois courts prefer to promote a healthy parent-child relationship, even during disputes over parental responsibilities (child custody). For a parent to have supervised parenting time, the court must consider the child to be in serious danger if he or she were to be left alone for a period of time with that parent. The court also has the right to modify an existing parenting time order if needed. If two ex-spouses have an argument, or if one parent does not like the other parent’s new partner, that typically does not qualify as seriously endangering the child mentally, physically, or emotionally. On the other hand, if the other parent (or his or her new love interest) is physically or verbally abusive to the child, that is grounds for seeking supervised parenting time. In some cases involving domestic abuse to the other parent or the child, the court may issue an order of protection to limit or restrict an allegedly abusive parent's access to the child entirely. If one parent is diagnosed as mentally ill or is found to be abusing drugs or alcohol, those would be valid reasons for supervised parenting time. After a certain amount of time, supervised parenting time orders can be reviewed to determine if they should be reversed or modified. This could happen in cases where an alcoholic parent becomes sober, or if they are under the care of a physician and are seeking treatment or therapy for a mental disorder.

Who Can Supervise Parenting Time?

Once supervised parenting time is ordered, the court can appoint another family member, a friend, or a third party to supervise the visits between a parent and child. Supervised parenting time centers can provide a neutral meeting place where trained staff or social workers can observe the visits. In most scenarios, there is no fee for low-income families to attend these centers. In Illinois, courts can place other types of restrictions on parenting time if they determine it is necessary or in the best interest of the child, including specifying certain locations for visits,  denying parenting time when the parent is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or restricting overnight parenting time. Normally, only parents have a legal right to parenting time. In certain situations, however,  grandparents, great-grandparents, step-parents, and siblings can request a visitation order from the court if they so choose.

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