Posted on in Family Law

 

Kane County stepparent adoption lawyerYears ago, the nuclear family typically consisted of a mother, a father, and their biological children. Today’s nuclear families come in all different “shapes and sizes,” including single-parent, blended, same-sex, and extended families. Given the high rate of divorce and remarriage in the United States, it should come as no surprise that stepfamilies have become fairly common, with one or both spouses bringing children from a prior relationship into the marriage. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, the biological parent of the children has either passed away or is not an active part of the children’s lives, and the stepparent essentially steps into that absent parent’s role. Many families decide to take steps to make that role a legal one.

Stepparent Adoption

Under Illinois law, there are several factors that must be met in order for a stepparent to adopt their spouse’s child. The first factor is that the stepparent must be legally married to the child’s biological mother or father. This also applies to same-sex couples.

Another factor under Illinois law is that if the child is 14 years of age or older, they must consent to the adoption.

A third factor that applies is the state’s law that does not permit a child to have more than two legal parents. This means that if the child’s other biological parent is not deceased, they must either sign away their parental rights, have disappeared from the child’s life, or have been proven to be an unfit parent.

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Posted on in Family Law

Kane County stepparent adoption lawyerYears ago, the nuclear family typically consisted of a mother, a father, and their biological children. Today’s nuclear families come in all different “shapes and sizes,” including single-parent, blended, same-sex, and extended families. Given the high rate of divorce and remarriage in the United States, it should come as no surprise that stepfamilies have become fairly common, with one or both spouses bringing children from a prior relationship into the marriage. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, the biological parent of the children has either passed away or is not an active part of the children’s lives, and the stepparent essentially steps into that absent parent’s role. Many families decide to take steps to make that role a legal one.

Stepparent Adoption

Under Illinois law, there are several factors that must be met in order for a stepparent to adopt their spouse’s child. The first factor is that the stepparent must be legally married to the child’s biological mother or father. This also applies to same-sex couples.

Another factor under Illinois law is that if the child is 14 years of age or older, they must consent to the adoption.

A third factor that applies is the state’s law that does not permit a child to have more than two legal parents. This means that if the child’s other biological parent is not deceased, they must either sign away their parental rights, have disappeared from the child’s life, or have been proven to be an unfit parent.

Adoption Process if One Parent is Missing

Even if the child’s other parent has disappeared, the law states they still have the legal right to object to the adoption. If their location is unknown and there is no way to notify them of the adoption petition by conventional means, then the courts will allow notice by publication. Service by publication is when a legal notice is published in newspapers of the area the parent was last known to have lived in. The notice is published several times and if the parent still does not respond, the courts will consider the adoption an uncontested one.

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Posted on in Family Law

St. Charles prenuptial agreement lawyerMany engaged couples now make sure that they have a prenuptial agreement on their wedding to-do list. And while most prenups are fairly standard, it is still important to have an experienced family law attorney working with you when putting it together. This is because there are certain things that Illinois law does not allow in prenuptial agreements and could declare the contract void if you ever do divorce.

A valid prenuptial agreement can include the assets and debts that each spouse has, what will be considered marital property and what will be considered separate property, how marital expenses will be paid, how any student loan expenses will be paid, and whether there will be any spousal support should the parties divorce in the future. There should also be a provision regarding any arbitration or mediation requirements. The following are some of these items that are unenforceable.

Prenup Made Under Involuntary Circumstances

The first issue a court will look at to determine the validity of a prenup is whether or not it was made voluntarily by both parties. The agreement can be ruled void if any of the following applied when the contract was signed:

  • Failure to provide full disclosure of assets
  • Fraud
  • Duress to sign the agreement (or undue influence)
  • Unfair or unconscionable provisions

Child Custody and Support Provisions

Illinois law has specific laws when it comes to child custody and child support. Child custody – called allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time under the current state statute – is determined using the “best interest of the child” doctrine. This means that the court will have the final say in matters related to child custody. Couples cannot have provisions in a prenuptial agreement that state how custody should be divided in the event they break up.

The same applies to child support provisions. Because of the laws of the state govern how much a parent should pay based on the income shares model, this is another area where a child support clause in a prenup would be ruled null.

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st. charles divorce lawyerThe results of a new study released last week reveal that the number of calls to the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline continues to increase each year while the number of domestic violence survivors reaching out to police for help has decreased. The study was conducted by The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence. The organization gathered data from a variety of sources, including public agencies, service providers, law enforcement, the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline, the Department of Children and Family Services, and interviews with survivors.

Serious Statistics

According to the data collected, there were more than 32,000 calls made to the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline, up by 9 percent from the year before. Although there was an increase in hotline contacts, the number of domestic violence survivors reaching out to police decreased by 5 percent. The reasons cited for that decline by survivors are alarming. Many said that there is a lack of support from law enforcement, including being met with denial by police and even accused of lying.

In contrast, the support that survivors say they receive from community-based programs was cited by survivors as being beneficial, with many saying if it were not for those services, they would still be trapped in their abusive living situations.

Another alarming statistic cited in the study was the problem with access and funding in order to secure safe housing once a survivor has left their abuser. Many victims are unable to access subsidized housing and other public benefits. In fact, less than 6 percent of domestic abuse survivors who applied for housing were approved, for a total of only 86 applicants.

This lack of safe housing is also a problem when survivors seek help from domestic violence shelters. Last year, more than 4,450 survivors were turned away from shelters because there was no space available. Many of these survivors have no financial resources – more than 40 percent of survivors that received help from the state of Illinois last year had an income of less than $500 per month. Sadly, this is far too common, as a recent study in California discovered. According to that study, financial abuse occurs in more than 99 percent of gender-based violence cases.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_st-charles-il-family-law-attorney.jpgIllinois family judges take parental rights seriously and only terminate them against the wishes of the parent in the most serious cases. Abuse, neglect, or abandonment can make it dangerous for a child to live with a parent in their home and Illinois DCFS must sometimes take action against a parent’s and even a child’s wishes. Unfortunately, this means that if your parental rights have been terminated, it is very unlikely that you will get them back, even if you have taken extensive measures to improve your circumstances. 

However, it is sometimes possible to reverse a parental rights termination and reunite a child with his or her parent. An experienced Illinois family law attorney can talk to you about your situation and help you understand your options. 

Clear and Convincing Evidence

Most states never allow parents whose parental rights have been terminated the option to reinstate those rights. However, Illinois law states that parental rights can be reinstated if a motion has been filed by the child or by DCFS that is supported by “clear and convincing evidence” that reinstating parental rights would be in the child’s best interests. While this may sound open to interpretation, it is a strict burden of proof that must be met before a judge will reinstate parental rights. In addition to providing clear and convincing evidence that reinstating parental rights would be in the child’s best interests, the following conditions must also be met: 

  • Three or more years have gone by since parental rights were originally terminated 
  • The child must be at least 13 years old, or be the younger sibling of a child who is 13 years old and wants their parent’s rights reinstated, and understands the full implications of the parental rights being restored 
  • The parent wants reinstatement and can prove there has been a substantial change in circumstances since their parental rights were terminated

Children of Deported Immigrant Parents

A unique circumstance that sometimes grants more flexibility in the reinstatement of parental rights is when a parent who is an undocumented immigrant is deported, leaving a child who is a U.S. citizen without a parent. These children are often left in foster care or are cared for by relatives who are not their parents. A judge may reinstate your parental rights if you lost your parental rights due to deportation. 

Contact a Kane County Parental Rights Attorney

At Shaw Sanders, P.C., we know that good people make mistakes. We also know how important your children are to you and how important you are to them. If you have had your parental rights terminated and want to know whether you may be able to get them back, schedule a free consultation with a St. Charles parental rights attorney who can walk you through your options. Call us today at 630-584-5550

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