IL family lawyerIn the past, mothers have had the power in the custody courtroom. The mother is often given custody as a result of female stereotypes and age-old parental roles. She is seen as nurturing, selfless, and “the primary parent” whereas fathers can be seen as careless and unfit to care for a child on his own. Though times have changed and these parental stereotypes have been proven inaccurate, fathers continue to fall short in the courtroom.

Dad Data

Joint custody is the most common decision made because it is thought that a child should be raised by both of his/her parents. Joint custody may allow for both parents to be in the child’s life, but not necessarily in equal amounts. Illinois ranks in the bottom five states for the amount of custody time allotted to fathers. These children only spend an average of 23.1 percent of their time each year with their dad, giving the mother the other 3/4 of their time. The United States may be moving towards eliminating gender bias; however, the state of Illinois is in 47th place in the U.S. for the amount of custody time fathers are provided.

Though joint custody is often best for the child, not all situations allow for this to happen. Extenuating circumstances force judges to choose one parent over the other, leading to the impossible choice of giving full custody to one parent. According to the 2016 U.S. Census Report, fathers only win primary custody 17.5 percent of the time. Laws may have been passed stating that there is no custody preference for women over men, but the data shows otherwise.

Four Tips to Win Custody

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Posted on in Family Law

IL family lawyerChoosing to adopt a child is a life-changing decision for both the potential parents and the child. Though you may have made up your mind about adopting, the process involves much more than just a signature on paper. One of the first choices that must be made is the type of adoption you wish to have. Common misconceptions about domestic and international adoptions often lead people into selecting the latter; however, many people fail to realize that international adoption is not always the best choice for every family.

Cost

Many people believe that international adoption costs far less than domestic adoption, but this is often not the case. According to Adoptive Families’ 2016 survey, the average cost to adopt from China was $36,070, Ethiopia was $38,667, and South Korea was $46,412. These are three of the most popular countries to adopt from, with China taking the lead at 2,354 adoptions to the U.S. in 2015. That same year, the average cost for domestic adoption through an attorney totaled $34,594.

Many people fail to recognize the travel and medical expenses that are involved in international adoptions. Often times the adoptive parents must get vaccinated, along with their future child, and make multiple trips to their future child’s country of origin. Travel and medical expenses greatly increase the cost of international adoptions.

Timing

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 IL divorce lawyerWhen an individual is unhappy with his or her marriage, the obvious solution is for him or her to file for divorce. In some cases, the individual has another option: annulment. An annulment is different from a divorce in that it officially breaks down an invalid marriage, rather than legally dismantling a legitimate one. Annulments are rare in Illinois, but a judge may award one when an individual provides sufficient documentation to show that he or she is in an invalid marriage.

If you are in an invalid marriage, meaning that the marriage is not legally binding for some reason, an annulment is a way to officially recognize that the marriage is invalid and relieve you of any obligations you face related to it. In most cases, each party simply reverts to the lifestyle he or she led before the marriage, complete with his or her separate assets, after an annulment. When necessary, the court may create a property division or spousal maintenance order for a couple annulling their marriage. Any children born into an invalid marriage have the same rights as children born to married and unmarried parents.

Valid Reasons to Annul a Marriage in Illinois

In Illinois, a marriage may be annulled for any of the following reasons:

  • One spouse cannot engage in sexual intercourse;
  • The couple is closely related to each other;
  • One spouse or both spouses were already married to another person when the marriage was performed;
  • One or both spouses were underage and did not have parental permission to marry when the marriage was performed;
  • At least one spouse was unable to consent to the marriage due to mental incapacity, duress, or being under the influence of drugs when the marriage was performed; and
  • One or both spouses entered the marriage fraudulently. An example of a fraudulent marriage is one where a resident alien marries a citizen to avoid deportation.

Certain Grounds Have Time Limits for Annulments

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 IL divorce lawyerWhen you marry another single parent, you create a blended family. Whether you both have your children living in your house full-time or the children move in and out of the home according to their parenting time schedules, you and your spouse are the heads of a new family unit. Integrating your children into your new blended family is not always easy. The tips below can help you make the transition less stressful for you, your spouse, and your children.

Create New Family Hobbies and Traditions

Every family has their special traditions and hobbies they enjoy. Now is the time to cultivate the family traditions you and your spouse will enjoy with your children. Determine a few fun, age-appropriate activities the whole family can enjoy and make them part of your routine. They do not have to be expensive or complex – just enjoyable.

Maintain Consistent Household Rules and Expectations

If you and your spouse decide that all the children are expected to finish their homework before dinner, maintain this expectation equally for all children. Enforcing certain rules more strictly with one “set” of children and maintaining different expectations for them can cause conflict and make your children feel like you are showing favoritism.

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IL divorce lawyerDivorce is the legal process of dismantling a marriage, and as such, the divorce process involves many financial decisions like dividing a couple’s marital property and determining whether spousal maintenance is necessary and appropriate. For the individuals getting divorced, the divorce process can be expensive. It also involves individual planning on each partner’s part to ensure that he or she does not face financial hardship after the divorce. Your discussions with your lawyer should cover every financial topic related to divorce, such as the tax obligations that come with certain marital assets and how to divide your retirement accounts through a QDRO. On your end, take the following initiatives to make the divorce process as financially straightforward for yourself as possible.

Completely Sever Yourself from Your Spouse Financially

Before the divorce is finalized, work with your spouse to close all your joint accounts. If he or she is an authorized user on your credit cards, remove him or her from them. You might choose to divide your outstanding credit card debt yourselves by transferring it to two new, separate credit cards. This is also the time to determine how to divide your shared investments.

Determine Your Post-Divorce Obligations and Create a Budget

After your divorce, you will probably be living off just your own income. This significant change in household income warrants a new budget.

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Posted on in Divorce

IL divorce lawyerEvery marriage has its ups and downs. Communication differences, differences in life goals and lifestyle needs, infidelity, addiction, and financial distress can all challenge a couple to the point of making them consider divorce. In many of these cases, the couple does divorce. In others, the couple chooses to remain together, sometimes in a miserable relationship and in other cases, happily and successfully after making an effort to resolve the conflicts that drove them apart.

Couples who successfully recover from marital distress do so by employing effective conflict resolution strategies. The most effective way for you and your spouse to learn more about these strategies and how to employ them in your life is to work with an experienced marital counselor.

Actions that Will Not Fix Your Marriage

Some couples attempt to fix their marriages with significant life changes like moving to a new state or having a baby. In most cases, these are not effective ways to resolve marital difficulties because they do not address the couple’s existing conflicts, they only mask them. Additionally, certain life-changing actions like having a new baby only increase a couple’s stress level, pushing their marriage closer to divorce instead of strengthening it.

Actions that Can Fix Your Marriage

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IL divorceSome divorce factors are obvious, like high levels of conflict and disparate drinking habits between a couple. But there are many other factors that can predict a couple’s likelihood of divorce, some of which are not quite obvious and can even be surprising or counterintuitive. Below are four surprising factors that can influence whether a couple’s marriage will end in divorce.

The State Where You Live

Some states have higher divorce rates than others. In fact, some regions of the United States have higher divorce rates than others. You are more likely to get divorced if you live in the South than if you live in the Northeast. But couples who live in Nevada have the highest divorce risk of all, while New Jersey couples have the lowest.

How Much You Spent on Your Wedding

Some couples think of the money they spend on their weddings as an investment in their marriages, but the opposite is actually true: couples who spend less money on their weddings are less likely to divorce than couples who spend a lot of money. To put it into perspective, couples who spend $20,000 or more on their weddings are 3.5 times more likely to divorce than couples who spend between $5,000 and $10,000, and the group with the lowest divorce rate is couples who spend less than $1,000.

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IL divorce lawyerToday, the divorce rate for individuals over the age of 65 is three times what it was in 1990. There are many different factors that contributed to this rise in “gray divorces,” such as Americans living longer and a reduced social stigma around divorce.

Couples who divorce at later stages in their lives have very different needs and considerations to make than younger couples. One big difference between these divorces and divorces among couples in their 20s, 30s, and 40s is that usually, couples over 50 no longer have minor children and thus, do not need to develop parenting plans or create child support orders. This does not mean their divorces are any less complicated than divorces between parents of young children, just that they are different. Below are a few important issues that older divorcing couples face.

Your Retirement Plans

Your retirement accounts are marital property, which means they are subject to equitable distribution in your divorce. The court will likely divide your retirement accounts through a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), which ensures that an alternate payee, the spouse whose name is not on the account, receives his or her fair share of its contents.

Changing Your Estate Plans

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IL divorce lawyerIt is easy to feel inundated with information about what to expect when you are expecting. Few pregnant women expect to get divorced while they are expecting, but it happens. Here is what you can expect from your divorce and the months that follow when you are pregnant.

You Can Make Parenting Decisions, but you Cannot Establish a Parenting Plan Before Birth

Talk to your partner about the parenting plan you will put into place when the baby is born.

Though you cannot create an official parenting plan before birth, you can be ready with tentative agreements regarding parenting time and responsibilities after your child is born.

A parenting plan for a newborn is much different from a parenting plan for an older child, especially if you plan to breastfeed and thus will need to be present almost constantly. A newborn’s attachment needs and sleep schedule also need to be taken into consideration when developing a parenting plan. Keep in mind that the parenting plan you establish shortly after birth can be modified later as your child grows.

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Posted on in Divorce

IL divorce lawyerWhen a marriage ends, both partners can feel a sense that their identities have changed. This can be especially true for individuals, usually women, who chose to change their surnames when they married. Changing your name after your divorce is a personal choice. There are as many valid reasons to change your name as there are reasons to keep it, just like there were when you first married. Think about the following reasons why others choose to keep or change their names after divorce to determine the right course of action for yourself.

Reasons Why Divorced Women Keep Their Married Names

For many people, changing their last name to their spouse’s when they marry is not “taking” the spouse’s name, but creating a new family with the new surname. An individual with this mindset might choose to keep his or her married name after divorce because to him or her, it is as much his or her name as it is his or her former spouse’s name.

Other divorced individuals keep their married names for more practical reasons. These include:

  • Having the same name as their children;
  • Keeping the name under which they established themselves professionally; and
  • Avoiding the legal complexities of changing their name on all their documents, like their passport and driver’s license.

Reasons Why Divorced Women Change Their Names

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Illinois divorce lawyerIn a healthy relationship, both parties can manage their own emotional and personal needs. In a codependent relationship, one or both partners cannot do this for themselves, so they rely on each other to manage all their personal needs. Do not confuse emotionally supporting a spouse with codependency – in a healthy marriage, both partners should be expected to be there for each other. Codependency goes beyond this level of emotional support. Codependency describes a relationship where one partner sacrifices his or her own needs to fulfill the other’s, causing him or her to suffer from the difficulties that come with poor coping mechanisms like internalized shame, people-pleasing behavior, and perfectionism to the point of fearing failure. A codependent relationship is not healthy for either party or if they have children, the children. Often, divorce is an important step toward recovering from codependency.

Recognizing Codependency in Your Marriage

Often, a codependent spouse is known as an enabler. The term “codependency” first arose to describe spouses of alcoholics, because often, they would exhibit this type of behavior and enable their spouses to continue to drink dangerously. Individuals in abusive relationships and relationships with addicts also frequently exhibit codependent behavior.

Codependency symptoms can be seen in the spouse who is not addictive or abusive. It is the enabler who suffers these symptoms, which include:

  • Low self-esteem;
  • Reactivity;
  • Little to no respect for others’ boundaries;
  • Internalized shame;
  • Learned helplessness;
  • Difficulty with communication;
  • A need to control others and situations; and
  • Denial that there is anything unhealthy about their relationship.

Preparing for Your Divorce

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Illinois divorce lawyerSome couples believe they should hold off on their divorces until their children are grown. It can be easy to see why a couple would think this way – divorce can be stressful for children, having a parenting plan means the children do not get to see both parents every day, both parents have to face the stresses of parenting individually, and when one parent finds a new partner, conflicts can arise and create wedges within the family. These are all legitimate challenges divorced couples face, but none of them are a good reason to forgo exiting an unhealthy marriage until one’s children are adults.

Why? Because when a marriage is marred by constant conflict, divorce is the healthiest solution for every member of the family. In fact, it is better for children to experience a divorce and grow up with healthy, functional parents than it is for them to grow up in “intact” families where fighting and stress are the norm.

Constant Exposure to Conflict Is Unhealthy for Children

When there is tension in a household, everybody is affected. Even babies and toddlers pick up on their parents’ conflicts and feel secondhand stress. Children who grow up watching their parents constantly fight and fail to resolve their conflicts appropriately can internalize harmful ideas about relationships and develop unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with household stress. If children are not taught how to resolve conflicts appropriately and instead, spend their days watching their parents fight, they can repeat the harmful patterns that drive the conflict in their homes.

Divorced Couples Who Co-Parent Effectively Set a Healthy Example

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Illinois divorce lawyerIt is not always easy to recognize when your marriage has reached a point that divorce is necessary. We become accustomed to certain patterns and over time, can become so used to a certain lifestyle that we cannot see that it is toxic.

Take a step back and look objectively at your marriage. Every marriage has rough patches, but when a rough patch becomes a permanent way of life, it might be time to exit the marriage. If you are not sure if your marriage is a healthy one, discuss it with an experienced mental health care professional to get deeper insight into the difficulties you are facing and possible solutions. You might be able to change your lifestyle to rebuild your marriage, or you might find that divorce is the healthiest choice for everybody in your household. If one or more of the following is true, divorce might be the way to go.

You Cannot Resolve Conflicts in a Healthy Way

If all your attempts to resolve conflicts in a productive way end in screaming matches, slammed doors, and hurt feelings, you are not communicating in a healthy way.

A strong marriage requires clear communication between the partners. Communication skills can be learned, but like learning any other skill, it takes practice. Both partners need to be willing to practice healthy communication skills and hold themselves accountable for their mistakes.

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Illinois divorce lawyerSummer vacation is right around the corner. If this will be your first summer co-parenting with a parenting plan, it can be easy to get confused about how co-parenting works once school is out for the summer. If you included specific summer vacation plans in your parenting plan, co-parenting this summer can be easy. If you did not, talk to your former spouse about creating a modified parenting schedule for the summer. If you agree on a modification, you can alter your parenting plan at any time.

Adjusting to life after a divorce can be difficult for every member of your family. Use the following guidelines to make this summer the easiest transition possible.

If You Have a Summer Vacation Parenting Plan, Follow It

Many divorcing parents include a summer vacation plan in their parenting time schedules. While the children are out of school, they might spend more weekdays with their non-custodial parent or switch to a weekly alternating schedule, rather than a schedule where they only spend a few fixed days each week with one parent. In your summer parenting plan, be sure to include the start and end date for the seasonal schedule and if applicable, specific, recurring vacations each parent takes. If your child has specific plans for each summer, such as going to summer camp the first week in August, include this as well.

Be Willing to Be Flexible

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IL family lawyerDomestic violence always has negative effects on a victim. Many of these effects, like lowered self-esteem, bruises, broken bones, and anxiety, are immediate and appear concurrently with the abuse. Others do not become apparent for months or years after the abuse begins. In some cases, an individual experiences long-term effects of domestic violence even after leaving the abusive relationship.

If you face domestic violence, discuss it with your doctor so he or she can have more context with which to diagnose your physical health conditions. Your doctor can also refer you to a mental health specialist to help you work through the lasting psychological effects of facing domestic violence. Below are a few of the long-term issues domestic violence victims face:

Increased Severity of Chronic Conditions

Domestic violence is stressful, and stress exacerbates all other health conditions. When an individual faces domestic violence, his or her risk of suffering from chronic pain, asthma, heart disease, and arthritis increases.

Additionally, physical injuries sustained through domestic violence can increase your risk of suffering from new conditions later in life. One example of this is the correlation between traumatic brain injuries and Alzheimer’s disease.

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 Illinois divorce lawyerIf anybody told you co-parenting was easy, they were either lying to you or woefully misinformed. Co-parenting with your former partner can be quite a challenge after your divorce, even if the divorce itself was fairly amicable. When your parenting styles differ, it can be difficult to find a “middle ground” that serves your children in terms of structure, expectations, discipline, and parental involvement in your children’s daily lives. But difficult does not mean impossible. You can work cooperatively with your former spouse to co-parent your children, but you both have to be willing to be flexible. Keep the following in mind as you, your former spouse, and your children settle into their new parenting plan.

Communicate Your Concerns

Put your negative feelings toward your former spouse aside and talk to him or her about your children. If you have concerns about the way he or she is parenting your children, discuss them. You should not feel entitled to control how your former spouse parents your children, but you should also feel comfortable raising concerns with him or her and expect that your concerns be validated.

Be Willing to Be Flexible

Adjusting to life with a parenting plan is a big change for every member of your family. The reality of life with a parenting plan could look very different from the lifestyle you envisioned, and when this is the case, be willing to adjust your expectations and adapt your lifestyle to your children’s needs. After all, your child’s parenting plan is for his or her benefit, not yours or your former spouse’s.

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 Illinois divorce lawyerIf you are going through a divorce, be careful with how you use social media. If you are the type of person who shares every thought and moment of your day with your followers, now is the time to start tapering off your social media usage and getting yourself used to a more private existence. Once you post something on social media, you cannot control where it ends up or how it might be used later. When you are working through the divorce process, keeping tight control on your social media profiles will help you keep your divorce and any “ammunition” your former partner can use against you under control.

Below is a list of what to do, and what not to do with your social media profiles while your divorce is pending. For additional advice tailored to your specific case, speak with an experienced divorce lawyer.

What to Do on Social Media

Take a closer look at your current privacy settings to see who can view your posts. Consider making your privacy settings more stringent and removing friends and followers who you do not want to have access to your content. Remember, though, that removing somebody from your followers list cannot completely prevent him or her from seeing what you post – all it takes is one of your remaining followers taking a screenshot of your content and sharing it with the follower you removed.

If you choose to continue using social media while your divorce is in progress, keep your posts to positive, inoffensive content.

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 Illinois divorce lawyerIn the 1960s, developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three distinct parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Later, researchers Maccoby and Martin theorized that the parenting style identified as permissive by Baumrind has two types, indulgent and uninvolved. Identifying and understanding your parenting style can help you co-parent with your former partner and relate to your child more effectively. When the court develops a parenting agreement, it considers the child’s relationship with each parent and each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, which can both be tied to the parent’s parenting style. Keep in mind that very few parents fit neatly into one of the boxes below. Rather, these types are the pillars of a parenting style spectrum, and nearly all parents fall somewhere between two or more of these pillars.

Authoritarian

Authoritarian parents are commonly known as “strict parents.” Rather than discussing why rules and boundaries exist, these parents expect their children to obey without question. Authoritarian parents often have high expectations of their children and generally use punishment as a means to encourage compliance with these expectations and control their children’s behavior.

Authoritarian parenting is correlated with insecurity, low self-esteem, mental health problems, and poor social skills in children.

Authoritative

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IL family lawyerWhen a couple chooses to divorce through mediation, they work with a neutral third party to develop their divorce settlement. Usually, mediation is a less expensive, less stressful option than divorce in the courtroom.

Mediation only works when a couple is capable of working amicably together. Sometimes, couples who initially think they can mediate their divorce successfully find that it is a much different process than they envisioned. If you face challenges with your mediation, take the following steps to determine your best course of action:

Talk to Your Spouse About Your Issues to Work Them Out

Address your difficulties with your spouse directly. If you feel he or she is not taking the mediation process as seriously as you are or that he or she is not being cooperative, talk about it. Successful mediation is only possible when both partners are willing to communicate and cooperate. Your spouse might not realize he or she is being difficult or stalling the mediation process, or he or she might be unwilling to move forward and actively trying to sabotage it.

The issue could also be with you and your approach to mediation. The only way to determine whether it is worthwhile to continue pursuing mediation is to determine whether you and your spouse are both 100 percent on board with it. If not, mediation is not for you.

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Posted on in Family Law

Illinois family lawyerMany grandparents and parents are familiar with the term “grandparents’ rights,” but do not fully understand it as a concept. It does not mean that grandparents automatically have the right to spend time with their grandchildren or seek custody of them by the virtue of being grandparents. What it means is that under certain specific circumstances, grandparents have the right to petition the court for visitation with their grandchild. Grandparents’ rights vary from state to state, but they exist in some form in every state. They are an important part of family law, the legal area that governs family relationships.

Circumstances Under Which Grandparents can Sue for Visitation with a Child

In Illinois, grandparents may file petitions for visitation with their grandchildren if an “unreasonable denial of visitation” has occurred. This could be in conjunction with a child’s parents’ divorce, the issuance of a parenting plan, or because there is a reason why the parent through whom the grandparent would access the child cannot facilitate their relationship. This could be because the child’s parent is incarcerated, deceased, legally incompetent, or has been reported as missing to law enforcement. Typically, it is easier for grandparents to be granted visitation rights when one of the child’s parents is unavailable to maintain their relationship with the child.

When both parents are present in a child’s life, a grandparent may seek visitation when the parents are separated, divorced, or in the process of divorcing if at least one of the parents does not object to the grandparent having visitation. If both object, the grandparent’s request is denied.

In order to have court-ordered visitation with a grandparent, a child must be at least one year old.

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