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DuPage County divorce attorneyIn hostile divorces, couples are often unable to come to an agreement about important issues such as parenting responsibilities and the division of assets. These issues can become contentious to the point where a trial is the only way to reach a resolution in the divorce.

When a divorce goes to trial, a judge will make decisions about contested issues according to Illinois law. However, before such decisions can be made, the judge needs to understand the divorcing couple’s situation. Each spouse’s attorney will make an argument to the judge and try to convince them that their client’s perspective is correct. One way to do this is through the use of something called an expert witness.

What is an Expert Witness?

An expert witness is an individual whose experience qualifies them to form an opinion regarding an issue relevant to the case. The witness testifies before the court about things such as child welfare, a parent’s mental health, or a business’s financial value. A spouse could independently hire an expert witness to advocate for their perspective, or the court may require an expert witness and require one or both parties to pay the cost.

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Wheaton IL child custody attorneyIn Illinois and America in general, the legal system has a tarnished history of awarding child custodial rights to mothers more than to fathers. In the past, a legal principle known as the “tender years doctrine” assumed that, especially during a child’s youngest years, the mother should automatically have custody. As a result, it has often proved difficult for fathers to get full custody of their children, even when the mother’s caregiving capabilities are compromised.

Fortunately, courts and society at large have gotten much better at recognizing how important of a role fathers play in the nurturing and well-being of their children. The “tender years” doctrine has been replaced by the “best interests of the child” doctrine when deciding which parent should have custody. Social research supports the idea that a child’s interests are best served when both parents are involved in his or her life.

Unmarried Fathers Must Establish Parentage

Fathers still face unique challenges in obtaining full or partial parental responsibility for a child, and this is especially true when a father is not married to a child’s mother. Of course, establishing who is the biological mother of a child is easy to do. And when fathers are married, they are legally assumed to be the father of a child.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Wheaton IL family law attorneyPhysical discipline, including spanking, used to be a much more common punishment for children in the United States. Now, many parents view it as a thing of the past, but there are still those who believe it is sometimes an appropriate form of discipline. This can be a major source of conflict between divorced and unmarried parents who are in a custody dispute and are dissatisfied with each other’s parenting strategies. During these cases, questions may arise about whether physical discipline is ever appropriate, and how a history of physical punishment can affect the allocation of parental responsibilities.

Is Spanking Against the Law?

There is a law in Illinois that deals with spanking and other forms of corporal punishment, but the language is quite vague. Parents are not legally prohibited from spanking their children, but inflicting “excessive corporal punishment” is considered child abuse, and it can be grounds for action by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

But what constitutes “excessive”? This is subjective, not only in terms of what a parent believes, but in terms of what a judge might believe. The court is required to determine what is in the best interests of the child, but the result may seem subjective.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Wheaton IL family law attorneyDuring a contentious divorce or custody battle, parents may not be able to agree on what is best for their child. A judge, who is a third-party observer, will hear arguments from both parents’ lawyers but may still need to know more. One way courts in Illinois deal with situations like this is by appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child. This is especially true when there are allegations of abuse. But what exactly is a guardian ad litem, and what can you expect them to do in your case?

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem (GAL) in Illinois is a person who has undergone specific and ongoing training that qualifies them to act as an independent representative of a child in a divorce or custody case. They are also often a licensed attorney, but when acting as a GAL, they do not represent either of the parents, but rather function as a kind of special investigator whose role is to collect information and analyze the entire family situation of the child.

Even if a parent requests a guardian ad litem be appointed by the court, the GAL is concerned only with understanding a child’s best interests. They will meet with parents, teachers, and extended family members, assess each parent’s living situation, and investigate any allegations of domestic violence or abuse. They will then create a report to detail their findings.

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Wheaton IL child custody lawyerIn 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act and changed the way marijuana is treated under Illinois state law. Although marijuana use and possession remain illegal under federal law, this follows a national trend of legalizing marijuana use on the state level.

Included in this new law are provisions which state that marijuana use in and of itself cannot be used as a factor in making decisions in child custody disputes. Judges, custody evaluators, and guardians ad litem are not allowed to discriminate against a custodial parent based on recreational or medicinal marijuana use.

However, this law has certain limitations. Like alcohol, marijuana usage can cross into unhealthy behaviors, particularly when children are in the picture. Keeping a few basic principles in mind will help you keep your children safe and ensure marijuana never becomes an issue in a child custody dispute.

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