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Lake County Family Law Blog

Same-sex couples still face biases in the adoption process

The rights of same-sex couples in Illinois have expanded with 2015's legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide. While this and other rights may give same-sex couples a greater opportunity to adopt a child if they so choose, unfortunately social biases still exist that may prevent them from doing so, despite the fact that thousands of children nationwide are in need of parents.

For example, a same-sex couple from Illinois started the road toward adoption when they took in a newborn child who had been born into foster care. A number of years later, the couple adopted not only that child, but also the child's four biological older brothers and sister, who were also in need of parents and were living in foster care. Despite this success story, some politicians in the United States want to allow faith-based adoption agencies to disallow same-sex couples from adopting.

Making sure parenting plans serve the best interests of the child

It is important for divorcing parents in Waukegan to understand that the divorce process can be difficult on a child, even if the divorce is an amicable one. Following a divorce, a child needs to have a good sense of security. A well thought out child custody and visitation plan can provide the child with the stability he or she needs going forward. Therefore, parenting plans should be both in the best interests of the child and of the parents.

In Illinois, whether a case involves joint custody or sole custody and visitation, both accomplish essentially the same thing. Both of these types of cases lay out when each parent will spend time with the child. For example, the child may reside solely with one parent and the other parent will have visitation time. Or, the child may reside with one parent some of the time, and the other parent the rest of the time.

What can a protective order in Illinois do?

Domestic violence is a serious issue in Waukegan. Young or old, married or in an unmarried relationship, those going through a divorce, with children or without, domestic violence has the capacity to affect many people in Illinois. Even if one isn't a victim of abuse, they may know of someone who is. It is important, then, to understand what remedies are available for victims of domestic violence.

If all the requirements are met, victims of domestic violence may seek a protective order. Under Illinois statutes, if a protective order is issued, it can accomplish a number of things. As many people may already know, a protective order can prohibit a person from harassing, abusing or stalking the person who sought the order. However, a protective order can do so much more.

Bill would suspend child support payments if payer is in jail

One issue that can complicate child support matters in Illinois is if the paying parent is incarcerated. After all, if the paying parent is in jail, they will not be able to work to afford to pay child support. Moreover, once released from prison, they are left with a large child support bill that strips them bare financially. Some may even turn to committing further crimes in order to pay child support, which then may land them back in jail. It's a vicious loop.

However, one Illinois Representative has introduced legislation that addresses this issue. Under Representative Lashawn Ford's bill, if a paying parent is incarcerated, their child support obligations will be suspended. In addition, the applicable interest rate on the child support owed would be frozen. This bill has the support of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

A 'gray' divorce presents unique complexities

Divorce was once seen as taboo, especially for those who had been married a long time. However, these days divorce is much more socially acceptable and even couples who had been married for decades may decide that, as life went on, they became incompatible and it is best they go their separate ways. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that "gray divorces" -- that is, divorces of people age 50 or over -- have grown twofold over the previous 25 years. However, as some Waukegan couples may find, the longer a couple is married, the more complex their divorce might be.

For starters, some couples may decide to enter into a legal separation before ultimately divorcing. Part of this is for each spouse's own protection. For example, if a couple is living apart and there is no formal, legal separation or divorce, each spouse will still be responsible for any debts their ex takes on even though they aren't living together anymore. Moreover, unless a couple has legally separated or divorced, if one of them becomes incapacitated, the other can make important decisions regarding their ex's medical care and finances, which may be undesirable.

How does Illinois law address grandparents' rights?

Whether it is baking cookies with grandma or going fishing with grandpa, children in Waukegan often benefit from a grandparent's love. Grandparents pass on their wisdom to their grandchildren, and provide a sense of history and belonging. The grandparent-grandchild relationship is important to nurture. However, sometimes this relationship is disrupted, and a grandparent is being kept away from his or her grandchild. When this happens, grandparents in Waukegan may wonder if they have the right to go to court to pursue visitation rights.

Illinois law addresses grandparents' rights to seek visitation with their grandchild. Grandparents can move the court for visitation with the grandchild if the denial of visitation is unreasonable, and is causing the grandchild to suffer emotionally, physically or mentally. In addition, in order for grandparents to be granted visitation, either the child's other parent must no longer be alive, the child's parent is deemed legally incompetent, the child's parent is incarcerated for at least 90 days, the child's parents are unmarried or the child's parents are getting a divorce and one of the child's parents has no objection to granting the grandparent visitation. In the case of divorce, the grandparents' visitation, cannot come at the cost of the parenting time granted to the child's other parent.

Bill allows domestic violence victims to keep their phone number

Sometimes it may not seem so obvious why a person in Illinois remains in an abusive relationship. However, simply packing up and leaving is not always so easy. This is because, in addition to the emotional abuse and physical abuse the victim has suffered, the abuser often exercises a certain amount of control over the victim, including financial control.

In fact, according to one source, 98 percent of those who are the victims of domestic abuse said that finances played a big role in whether they are able to leave their abusers. One senate bill, however, aims to help victims of domestic abuse.

Stepparent adoption and blended families

Families in Waukegan come in all shapes and sizes. As divorce and remarriage becomes more acceptable and common place in our society, many parents and children live in blended families. Sometimes the bond between a stepparent and stepchild is as strong as if the stepchild was born to the stepparent. Stepparents in these situations may wonder if it is possible for them to formally adopt their stepchild.

The short answer is "yes" stepparent adoption may be a possibility in some cases, but there are still requirements that must be met. First and foremost, the permission of the child's other biological parent must be obtained. Sometimes this is not easy, as by consenting to the stepparent adoption, the biological parent is rescinding all of his or her rights to the child. This means that the biological parent will no longer be obligated to pay child support, but also that the biological parent's rights to visitation with or custody of child are terminated.

Help is available for those seeking a child support modification

Children in Illinois depend on the support of both of their parents, both emotionally and financially. Of course, it costs money to raise a child in a healthy and supportive environment. For the benefit of the child, when the child's parents are no longer in a relationship with each other, either due to divorce or a break-up, the noncustodial parent will usually be ordered to pay child support.

Of course, life rarely stays the same. As time marches on, one's life circumstances will change. Sometimes these changes necessitate a modification of an existing child support order. For example, the paying parent may have lost his or her job, or conversely, may have obtained a higher-paying position, resulting in an income change. There may have been a change to the existing parenting plan, wherein the paying parent is spending more time with the child. Also, a child's needs may change as he or she grows, necessitating a modification of an existing child support order.

Paying child support in the digital age

In today's digital age, gone are the days when a noncustodial parent must mail a check for child support. While that is still an option, these days noncustodial parents in Illinois can pay their child support obligations over the phone, with a credit card online or have payments automatically deducted from their bank account.

If a parent chooses to pay child support over the phone, they must first go through a registration process. After that, payments can be made using a credit card. There is a processing fee that will apply if child support is paid this way. It might take as many as seven business days for the payment to appear on the applicable child support account.

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