Chicago Divorce Attorneys: Working with Masters Law Group in 2023

If you are contemplating divorce or your spouse recently dropped the “D Bomb,” you may be on the fence debating whether you should hire a divorce attorney or if you should represent yourself. If you’re about to go through a divorce, here’s why you should invest in a divorce attorney.

If you are currently in a bad situation with your partner and you want to settle for divorce, you might consider getting a lawyer. When choosing a divorce attorney, there are a few factors you should consider. Experience, costs and reputation are just a few of the most important considerations.

Having a reputable attorney by your side will help ensure your interests are well-represented. Having a lawyer will also ensure that the settlement you receive is fair and your rights are protected. You will also want to know whether any loopholes in the law may result in an unfair settlement.

How to Choose the Right Divorce Attorney

You may be reluctant to hire an attorney for many reasons such as trust and associated costs, but without one, you may find yourself facing costly repercussions. Divorce is no simple feat, so having a good relationship with your divorce attorney can make the process so much easier. Maintaining good communication with your attorney will only help you in the long run.

If you live in the state of Illinois and are in need of legal representation for a family law matter, look no further. Here’s what you need to know about working with Masters Law Group in 2023.

Working With Reliable Lawyers

Reliability is key when it comes to working with a divorce lawyer. When looking at your options for lawyers, pay attention to how they communicate with you. It’s important to develop a positive rapport with your lawyer, as most divorces take several months to settle. 

Throughout the divorce process, you’ll have an array of questions, concerns, or disputes you’ll want to take care of. As such, you’ll want someone on your side who will alleviate your stress, address your concerns, and answer your questions to the best of their ability.

When we first meet with our clients, we ask them what they hope to achieve from their divorce and how they would like to feel after it is complete. We then carefully discuss their goals so that we can provide the best legal representation possible. We offer complimentary consultations so that you can get a feel for our firm before deciding whether or not we are right for you!

Google Reviews and Client Testimonials

Word of mouth advertising has always had a leg up in certain markets. For the law industry, hear-say isn’t always credible. But looking at client testimonials and reviews of previous clients that have worked for a law firm can be extremely beneficial.

Lawyers that provide high quality services will have more clients who are willing to share their experiences with other potential clients. The law industry is no different from any other when it comes to word of mouth advertising.

If you want to get a better idea about a certain law firm, then it is important that you take some time to look at client testimonials and reviews of previous clients that have worked with your lawyer. A great tool and resource is google reviews. When you type in a business name, the reviews automatically pop-up. Another way to look for testimonials is by checking out their website.

At Masters Law Group, we are fortunate to have a great relationship with many of our clients. Our reviews and testimonials truly bear witness to our commitment to our clients.

We believe that each client deserves a legal team that will be willing to go the extra mile for them. We will always provide you with honest advice and guidance on all matters related to your case.

Client Reviews:

“Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph are an amazing duo. They helped me get through my divorce. In the words of my newly ex husband “your lawyer looks like a shark.” You’re damn right they are. They will go as far as you need them to go with any battle you are going through and I love that about them. I would recommend them to anyone in need of incredible lawyers who are not only knowledgeable but keep every aspect of the process very real. Anthony and Erin thank you very much for handling my case. You are very much appreciated!”

-Bianca 

Divorce Client

 

“Masters Law Group was incredibly helpful with my divorce. Erin and Anthony were a pleasure, very responsive, efficient, and very knowledgeable. I always felt that my case was in good hands and it was a relief to trust them with the process. I highly recommend Masters Law Group to anyone needing help with a family law matter.”

-Luz

Divorce Client

A Little Bit About Masters Law Group

Recognized Best Law Firms 2023 by Best Lawyers® and U.S. News & World Report, Masters law group is located in Chicago, Illinois and handles family law matters in Cook county and other surrounding areas. They concentrate in areas such as divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, and other family law matters. 

Masters Law Group is highly esteemed and well respected by peer review publications such as Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and Leading Lawyers. Our Lawyers Erin E. Masters and Anthony Joseph have been recognized by such prestigious publications numerous times. This not only speaks volume about their work–but also their character.

Having an attorney who is respected by their peers is a testament to both their work ethic and their character. When you’re facing a legal issue, having someone you can trust on your side makes all the difference.

Working with Masters Law Group in 2023

Here at Masters Law Group LLC, we’re committed to helping you achieve the best outcome in your case. With a long history of awarded recognitions in Family Law, we have a unique depth of knowledge, experience, and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field.

Our highly experienced divorce attorneys are dedicated to providing you with the best possible service. No matter what kind of case you may have—divorce, child custody or relocation—we will work tirelessly to help you get the results you deserve. We have over 10 years of experience handling family law cases and we know how important it is for our clients to feel comfortable with their lawyer. That’s why we offer free consultations so that you can meet with us before deciding whether or not to hire us.

Contact us to schedule a consultation today!

Hague Convention – International Child Abduction – San Francisco

When San Francisco courts determine custody arrangements, they ultimately consider the best interests of the child involved. However, a custody agreement can get extremely complex when the issues are international. 

The Hague Convention was enacted to protect children from international abduction and to return children to their home country residence. It also includes child custody conflicts when a parent or guardian resides in a different country to the home country of the child.

If you’re in need of legal representation to protect your rights or the rights of your child, Masters Law Group can help. We can represent parents and children in a variety of complex international abduction cases. 

Here’s everything you need to know about international abduction cases and the Hague Convention in San Francisco. 

The Hague Convention

The Hague Convention is a treaty that works to help parents whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained from their custody by enabling them to petition for the child’s return to their country of habitual residence. A number of counties have joined this treaty which was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and officially entered into force in December 1983. 

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” when it breaches custody rights attributed to a person or any other body. Even if a parent already has legal custody of the child, the Convention is needed to return the child back to their habitual residence. 

The Convention’s framework allows countries to help one another find solutions for difficult custody cases where a child is abducted. This doesn’t rely on the immigration status or nationality of the child. In certain situations, a child may be wrongfully detained in another country, where they are not a resident. Violations of custodial rights happen if the child is wrongfully removed from their habitual home and are now living in a foreign country. 

Presenting a custody order is not needed to prove that a parent’s custodial rights were violated when the child was taken from their country. This can be proven by showing proof of parenthood. 

Filing a Hague Application in San Francisco

Whether or not the Hague Convention is an appropriate solution for you depends on a variety of factors. Perhaps after separating from their partner, a parent wants to take their child and move to another country. Another situation may be that a parent moved internationally in violation of a custody agreement. It’s important to know that filing a case under the Hague Convention does not automatically guarantee the child will be returned. 

To obtain the return of the child, it must be proven that:

  • The child was habitually resident in one Convention country and was removed to or retained in another Convention country.
  • The removal or retention of the child is considered wrongful and was in violation of custodial rights, and those rights were exercised at the time of removal or retention.
  • The Convention must have been in force between the two countries at the time of the wrongful removal or retention. 
  • The child is under the age of 16.

If a court decides the child must be returned to its country of habitual residence, they may make the return contingent upon certain obligations from the petitioning parents. This might include: 

  • Paying for the travel of the respondent and child to the country where the child habitually resides.
  • Arranging housing or paying for living expenses for the respondent and child in the country of the child’s habitual residence. 
  • An order that the petitioner have no contact with the respondent if the respondent returns to the country of the child’s habitual residence. 
  • An order that the petitioner will have no contact or limited contact with the child once the child returns to the country of the habitual residence. 

Getting the Legal Help You Need in San Francisco

High-stakes international child abduction cases require experienced, knowledgeable and fast-acting attorneys. Your lawyer should be ready to file a Hague Convention application and institute or defend a Hague Convention lawsuit on short notice.

Our attorneys at Masters Law Group have extensive experience in international child abduction cases.  Instead of trying to navigate international law issues alone, take advantage of the experience and knowledge of our attorneys at Masters Law Group. We are committed to vigorously representing our clients in these high-stakes proceedings. 

Contact Masters Law Group Today

The award-winning attorneys at Masters Law Group have successfully represented clients in such cases across the country and globe; including Hague cases across the United States and Internationally in New Zealand, but to name a few.

Contact us to schedule your consultation here today.

Social Media and Divorce – 5 Things You Should Know

We get it. Anger, resentment and what seems a waste of your time can lead to social media rants. But even private DMs can land you in hot water. 

When you’re going through a divorce, it can be tempting to use social media as an outlet to redefine who you are without your spouse in the picture. But while social media can be a valuable tool during this difficult time, it can also cause major problems if you’re not careful.

Recent studies show that social media is one of the leading causes of marriage breakdowns. It’s been shown that social media causes many marriages to break down because it causes trust issues between spouses and can be used against you during a divorce.

Here are five things you should know when using social media during a divorce.

Social Media Posts Can Be Used Against You

Divorce is a stressful and emotional time. Many people turn to social media to vent their frustrations, but this can have serious consequences. Posts on social media during a divorce can become evidence against you in your case.

There are two big rules to follow when it comes to social media. Don’t post about a new relationship on social media during a divorce. Posting about a new relationship can negatively affect your case because it could be deemed as adultery—a fault ground for divorce in many states. It’s always in best practice to wait until the divorce is final to begin new relationships. 

Secondly, don’t post your location. Many social media platforms track your location when you post. To avoid this, you can easily evoke location-tracking permissions from these sites. This will stop these sites from recording your location when you make a post.

Check Your Privacy Settings

You should make all of your social media accounts private during a divorce. This is to prevent unwanted attention from other people. Locking accounts prevents people who don’t follow your account from viewing your posts. Changing your passwords for all of your accounts is also a good idea. 

Have you ever shared a computer with your spouse? If so, you should change your password for all accounts, including email addresses that both of you use. It’s a good practice to use new passwords for every site you visit so that other people won’t be able to access them if they get their hands on them.

Be Mindful of Deleting Posts

It’s a common instinct to want to clean up your social media accounts when you’re going through a divorce. It’s common to not want painful reminders of happier days, or you don’t want your spouse to find any private messages or DMs between you and someone else.

But deleting posts from your Facebook or Twitter may not be as effective as you might think.

If your spouse requests the entire social media history from you during the discovery process, you must provide it. Deleting posts doesn’t necessarily delete them from Facebook or Twitter’s servers—they can still be retrieved by experts, who will charge fees for their time and efforts.

Deleting evidence may affect your reputation with your judge. Deleting or destroying evidence can be used against you in court.

Go Through Your Friends List

You and your spouse probably had mutual friends, and if you accepted friend requests from them, those friends may be reporting back to your spouse.

Spend some time going through your lists of friends and followers to unfriend or block accounts of people you believe might be sending information back to your spouse. Divorce litigation isn’t a time to worry about what your spouses’ friends will think of you—it’s about self-preservation and putting yourself first!

Just be sure not to direct them to interact with your spouse or harass them in any way—that will end poorly for everybody.

Think Before You Post

If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to think twice before you post anything on social media. It’s especially important to be careful not to post anything that would look like bad-mouthing the other parent. Your spouse can then take that post and use it in court against you. 

Judges might not like it when parties call their decisions unfair – even if you think they are. If you choose to trash a judge in your case on social media, you may find yourself in contempt of court. If you can’t use social media to highlight the positives in your life, like being a good parent, maybe take a break from posting. Creating new posts won’t be subject to misinterpretation and can really help your case in the long run.

Final Thoughts

At Masters Law Group, our skilled attorneys understand that divorce is a stressful situation. Many of our clients are ready to move on with their lives, and as such, we move through mediation and litigation with our clients’ well being in mind. Are you facing a family law issue? Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Hague Convention – International Child Abduction – South Carolina

Every day, children are wrongfully removed from their residing homes and taken to a foreign country, in violation of parental rights. Navigating international child abduction cases in South Carolina can be a legal minefield. During these situations, knowing your legal rights and options through the Hague Convention could prove detrimental to protecting the victims involved.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects on International Child Abduction provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. This treaty can yield beneficial results when it’s implemented correctly and appropriately. 

Here’s everything you need to know about international child abduction and the Hague Convention for residents of South Carolina.

What is the Hague Convention? 

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects on International Child Abduction was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA) which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained their custody may petition for the child’s return to their country of habitual residence. This treaty was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and entered into force in December of 1983. 

The countries that participate are also included in a large treaty that governs the way different legal systems work together. The two main goals were to: 

  • Create a means to ensure that judicial and extrajudicial documents to be served abroad can be brought to the notice of the addressee in sufficient time. 
  • Improve the organization of mutual judicial assistance. 

Filing a Case Under the Hague Convention in South Carolina

Filing a case under the Hague Convention doesn’t immediately guarantee the return of a child. First, the following must be demonstrated:

  1. The child was habitually residing in one Convention country and was wrongfully removed or retained to another.
  2. The removal or retention was considered wrongful if it was in violation of custodial rights and those rights were being exercised at the time of removal or retention.
  3. The Convention was in force between the two countries at the time of wrongful removal or retention.
  4. The child is under 16 years of age.

Returning of the Child

If your child/children have been wrongfully removed from your home in South Carolina and taken overseas, you need to move fast.

The return of an internationally abducted child is often settled through negotiation or with the left-behind parents filing a civil petition pursuant through the Hague Convention. Deciding whether to file a Hague application is an important decision and must be considered based on each case’s specific circumstances. If a court decides the child must be returned to its country of habitual residence, they may make the return contingent upon certain obligations from the petitioning parents. This might include: 

  • Paying for the travel of the respondent and child to the country where the child habitually resides.
  • Arranging housing or paying for living expenses for the respondent and child in the country of the child’s habitual residence. 
  • An order that the petitioner have no contact with the respondent if the respondent returns to the country of the child’s habitual residence. 
  • An order that the petitioner will have no contact or limited contact with the child once the child returns to the country of the habitual residence. 

Possible Defenses Against the Hague Convention

Under the Hague Convention, a court may deny the return of a child if one of the following applies:

  • There is a grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.
  • The child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which the court can take account of the child’s views.
  • More than one year has passed since the wrongful removal or retention occurred and the child has settled in their new environment. 
  • The party seeking return consented to or subsequently acquiesced to the child’s removal or retention.
  • The return would violate the fundamental principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the county where the child is being held.
  • The party seeking return was not exercising the right of custody at the time of the wrongful removal or retention. 

Choosing a Hague Attorney for Residents of South Carolina

To ensure you have the best chance possible in your international child abduction case, you need to find an attorney who understands both the dire circumstances and the delicate interplay between federal and international law.

The award-winning attorneys at Masters Law Group have successfully represented clients in such cases across the country and globe; including Hague cases in Washington State, California and Internationally in New Zealand, but to name a few. And we’re ready to help you.

Contact the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our experienced team will help you navigate the legal complexities of your case and are committed to vigorously representing you in these frightening and high-stakes proceedings. 

Contact us to schedule your consultation here today. 

 

Should I Wait Until After the Holidays to Get a Divorce?

One of the most common questions that we get around Christmas time from potential clients is whether they should wait until after Christmas to file for divorce. Here’s what you need to consider. 

The holidays are a time for family and friends, and the last thing on your mind should be whether or not you should get divorced.

But if you’re in this position, it’s important to know that you don’t have to keep your divorce plans under wraps forever. There are many situations where it could be good to hold off, and in some cases it’s better to rip the bandaid off. Here are several considerations to keep in mind when deciding whteher to wait until after the holidays to get a divorce.

Avoiding Extra Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, but they can also be a time of joy and togetherness. If you’re considering divorce, it’s important to remember that divorces often take a long time to finalize, and it may be best to wait until after the holidays are over before starting proceedings.

If you’re in a marriage that is teetering on the brink of divorce, the holidays can be especially hard. It’s important to focus on what makes you happy. Whether it’s spending time with family or taking some alone time—and not allowing yourself to fall into the trap of focusing on how unhappy your marriage is making you. Try not to let stress get the best of you during this holiday season.

Be Aware of False Hope

Holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they can also be a source of false hope. Thanksgiving and Christmas are often times when couples will try to rekindle their passion and romance, often “for the sake of the kids”. When couples have been in a long-term relationship, it’s not uncommon for them to experience periods of disconnection or lack of intimacy. But when the season rolls around, these high spirits can sometimes cloud the deeper issues.

However, despite the aura of togetherness over the season, always remember why you wanted to get a divorce in the first place. Are these reasons going to pop up again in the new year? Will everything be magically solved in your marriage? Weigh up the pros and cons carefully before making your decision. 

Supportive vs. Interfering Relatives

If you have decided that it is time to divorce, but are worried about how your family will react, you may want to consider filing for divorce during the holidays anyway.

Depending on your relatives and relationship with them, filing for divorce amidst the holidays can be a great way to get away from the stress of everyday life and spend time with those who mean the most to you. Many people find that they are able to spend more quality time with their families during this time of year, which is why it can be an ideal time to file for divorce and reap the family support you need during this time.

However, we all have that one relative (or multiple relatives) who wish to give their penny’s worth on the topic of your marriage. This negative interference can be detrimental to your mental health and personal strength when it comes to filing the papers. Depending on where you are spending the holidays, consider keeping it quiet. These relatives don’t need to know what’s happening with your marriage now. Wait until the papers are complete and you have the confidence to discuss it further down the line.

Toxic Family Environments

Regardless of your marriage situation, arguments are sometimes impossible to not have during the holidays. The stress gets to everyone, however, If you are in a toxic or abusive situation it’s important to know that you don’t have to stay in your marriage if you’re unhappy. While divorce proceedings can be difficult and stressful for everyone involved, it is better if it is started sooner rather than later. Divorce attorneys can help guide you through the process.

Remember, if you or your children are in danger, it’s important to get out of the situation as soon as possible. Even consider filing for an Order of Protection.

Protecting Children

Announcing divorce at any time can be difficult for children, but it’s even more painful when it’s during the holidays. The festive season is one of generosity and cheer, and children are eager to experience the wonderment of this special time. 

Setting irreconcilable differences aside, even for just an additional month, allows the children and both parents to spend one last holiday together as a family. The gift of family togetherness is one that children will cherish and remember long after the divorce is over.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your relationship situation it’s important to consider all of the factors before you make the decision to get a divorce. Whether you anticipate divorcing before, during or after the holiday festivities, you can always rely on the attorneys at Masters Law Group to guide you through the process.

We’ll be by your side every step of the way as we work towards a resolution that is fair, equitable and compassionate. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Can Hiding Crypto from Your Ex Get You in Legal Trouble?

If you typed this article’s heading into an online search engine, chances are you’re considering hiding digital assets in your divorce case. Here’s why it’s a very bad idea.

The dramatic rise of cryptocurrency has led some spouses to hiding those digital assets during divorce settlements. In a divorce, both parties are expected to be honest about their assets, as all assets acquired during marriage are subject to division in a divorce. While property, stocks, bonds, bank accounts and 401(k)s can be easily tracked down, cryptocurrencies can be a bit more difficult. However, as it becomes more common, many lawyers are more aware of them and have started to learn the challenges surrounding them. 

Which begs the question, is it illegal to hide crypto from your ex during a divorce? 

What assets must be disclosed in a divorce? 

In an Illinois-based divorce case, it is legally required that each spouse discloses any and all assets, income and debt as part of the financial disclosure process. This also includes digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies. The issue with crypto, though, is enforceability and tracking it down if it is hidden. Regardless, spouses who fail to disclose still face legal trouble. Financial disclosures are signed under penalty of perjury so non-disclosure could lead to criminal charges. 

Tracking crypto

While there are ways to locate cryptocurrency activity, it is still difficult to discover and you could need experienced help from a Cryptocurrency experienced attorney. Older forms of crypto like bitcoin and ethereum are easier to track but other, more anonymous forms, are much harder for even experts to find. If exchanges are based in a foreign country, it can become even more difficult. However, it is still possible. Lawyers like the attorneys at Masters Law Group can grant subpoenas to get information if trades occurred in the United States. Additionally, forensic investigators or financial experts may be hired to uncover the assets.

What happens if I hide assets in a divorce? 

Hiding assets in a divorce will likely lead to discovery. Submitting incorrect documentation, failing to disclose assets or intentionally concealing them could lead to facing criminal charges. Perjury and contempt of court are the most common charges faced from these activities, but in extreme cases, you could pay large fines or even be forced to spend time in jail. 

Additionally, hiding assets is considered highly unethical by the court. Judges can use this information to make their own decisions relating to asset division. Oftentimes, attempting to hide your assets leads to your ex-spouse’s benefit, receiving a higher percentage of the total assets. 

Final Thoughts

Hiding assets is always a risky proposition and likely not worth it. Even though crypto is difficult to track, it’s still possible and the outcome would not be in your favor. It’s best to be honest about your assets during divorce proceedings, increasing the chances of getting your assets split fairly.

If you’re going through a divorce and are in need of legal help, Masters Law Group is here to help. Contact us today.

Masters Law Group Awarded 2023 “Best Law Firms” Tier 1 Ranking in America by U.S. News – Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers and U.S. News & World Report publicly announce the Thirteenth Edition of the “Best Law Firms” rankings. And Masters Law Group have again been regognized – and now ranked Tier 1.

Chicago, Il, November 3, 2022 – Masters Law Group LLC is pleased to announce that the firm was recognized by Best Lawyers® and U.S. News & World Report in their “Best Law Firms” rankings for 2023.

“We are honored, to once again, be recognized nationally as a top firm among our peers,” said Erin Masters of Masters Law Group. “Receiving this recognition in Tier 1 – based on the input from our clients and peers – is gratifying as many exceptional firms practice in the areas in which we are recognized.”

All the rankings, in all tiers, were published online at bestlawfirms.usnews.com. The National and Metro Tier 1 rankings were also published in print in their Twelfth Edition of “Best Law Firms”. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise. Firms that received a tier designation reflect the highest level of respect a firm can earn among other leading lawyers and clients from the same communities and practice areas.

ABOUT MASTERS LAW GROUP

Located in Chicago, Illinois, the firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes International Law via The Hague Convention, divorceallocation of parental responsibilitieschild support and related family matters.

ABOUT “BEST LAW FIRMS”

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process
that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in the
field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission
process. To be eligible for a 2023 ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer recognized in the
28th edition of The Best Lawyers in America® for that location and specialty.

Their annual “Best Law Firms” publication showcases all Tier 1 firms ranked nationally and by region and includes a wealth of discussion on industry-shaping issues penned by firms honored in their rankings.

ABOUT U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

U.S. News & World Report is the global leader in quality rankings that empower people to make better,
more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. A digital news and information
company focused on Education, Health, Money, Travel, Cars and News, USNews.com provides
consumer advice, rankings and analysis to serve people making complex decisions throughout all
stages of life. More than 40 million people visit USNews.com each month for research and guidance.
Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

ABOUT BEST LAWYERS

For more than four decades, Best Lawyers has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the
lawyers best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Lawyers are not
required or allowed to pay a fee to be recognized; therefore, recognition by Best Lawyers is
considered a singular honor.

Contact the award-winning firm and attorneys at Masters Law Group here. 

What are my Legal Rights As a Birth Parent of an Adopted Child?

Adoption, like childbirth, is a life-changing event in your life. If you are seeking to adopt a child, or if you have already started the adoption process but you are encountering legal barriers, you will need to be advised by the right legal team. Learn about a biological parent’s rights after an adoption below. 

Deciding to give up a child for adoption is a very difficult decision and definitely should not be committed until you, as the biological parent, have fully understood what this means for your parental rights. Once the adoption process is finalized, you have relinquished your parental rights and responsibilities by law. However, during the pregnancy, you have undeniable parental adoption rights throughout the adoption process. 

If you are considering adoption, it is important to know the limits of your parental rights and how they may affect you long-term. 

First, let’s discuss the rights you do have prior to the adoption, during pregnancy.

The Right to Change Your Mind at Any Time

Prior to completing any adoption paperwork, the birth mother has a legal right to change her mind at any point in the process. This means you will always have the option to parent your child, whether you change your mind early in pregnancy, after you’ve met the adoptive parents, or even after you’ve given birth, as long as no paperwork has been completed. Your adoption specialist will respect these inherent legal rights you have as the biological parent. 

The Right to Create Your Own Adoption Plan and Choose the Adoptive Family

As the birth mother, you have the right to create your own adoption plan from start to finish. You will have an adoption specialist with you to support and help you through the process, but you should never be forced into making decisions you’re not comfortable with. Once of the decisions you also get to decide is if it’s going to be an open or closed adoption. With open adoption, you also have the right to choose the family that you wish to place your child with. Normally, your adoption specialist will thoroughly discuss with you what your desires for the adoptive family are, and show you profiles of families who meet those preferences. 

Additionally, you will be able to meet with and get to know the prospective families. You can take as long as you need to find the family you believe is the right fit for your child. 

The Right to Choose Your Post-Placement Relationship

Another factor in open adoptions is choosing the contact you want to have with the adoptive family before and after the adoption is complete. While you have no legal parental rights after you give up your child for adoption, open adoption allows you to remain a part of your child’s life. Your adoption specialist helps coordinate communication to make sure the adoptive family maintains their communication with you. 

The points discussed above dealt with rights parents have prior to the adoption being finalized, but following the finalization, your parental rights are completely terminated. Let’s discuss what this means and if there are other options. 

Voluntary vs Involuntary Termination

Generally, birth parents have the right to choose what’s in the best interest of their children, this includes the difficult decision of adoption. When parents choose to offer their child for adoption, they are voluntarily terminating their parental rights. Alternatively, when birth parents are forced to terminate their parental rights, it’s known as an involuntary termination. This can determine how the adoption moves forward and the long-term situation. 

Before voluntary termination can take place, one or both parents must legally consent to the adoption. Most states require this to be done in writing and before a judge or court-appointed person. 

There are other times when birth parents’ rights are terminated involuntarily. For this to take place, someone must be going on that endangers the well-being of the child. Common occurrences include:

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Mental illness
  • Incapacity based on alcohol or drug use 
  • Conviction of a crime by the parent

Timing 

The exact moment the birth parents’ rights are terminated depends on the state, but can range from immediately after the child’s birth to 30 days after. Terminating birth parents’ rights is a serious matter and most states have very strict timing requirements that must be set and agreed to prior to the termination. 

Visitation Rights

Following the adoption, the adoptive parents have sole authority to decide on visitation rights. If they feel it’s in the best interest of the child, they may enable a healthy relationship with the birth family. 

Although, if a post-placement relationship was agreed upon and put into the paperwork, you have the authority to choose what kind of relationship you wish to have with your child. 

It’s important to note that, generally, adoptive parents are not required to communicate with birth parents after the adoption. The only exceptions being severe illness or death. 

Free Counseling for Birth Parents

Every birth parent has the right to counseling during both the pregnancy and following the adoption. This can help a lot of mothers and fathers cope with emotional and physical trauma. Birth mothers are at a much greater risk of experiencing depression due to the negative feelings of guilt and shame. Which makes pre-adoption counseling very beneficial for all parties involved. 

Revoking Consent

In most states, consent to adoption is irrevocable since consent is meant to be a lasting and building agreement to help ensure a stable environment for the child. Although, in extreme cases, some states allow for revoking consent to adoption, usually only before the adoption has been finalized. Some situations include; 

  • Fraud or coercion was involved
  • The state allows a set period of time for revoking consent
  • The state determines the revocation is in the best interest of the child
  • The birth parents and adoptive parents mutually agree

Can Adoptive Parents Cut Off Acces?  

The current trend for adoptions seems to be to allow open adoptions that encourage a relationship between birth and adoptive parents. Unfortunately, if the adoptive parents do not want them in the child’s life, there is not much you can do as a birth parent. Again, this is why it’s important to enter a visitation agreement into the paperwork. 

Final Thoughts

Adoption is a lifelong commitment and a permanent decision. Once you have given consent and signed the paperwork, it’s extremely difficult to go back. That’s why it’s so important to work with a legal team that understands these kinds of situations and knows just what to do. Our award-winning attorneys at Masters Law Group have seen it all and can help create solutions right for you. We’re here to help guide you through these difficult times. 

If you need help with any family law issues, reach out today.

Family Law Issues to Avoid This Holiday Season

November is the unofficial start to the holiday season. While many are filled with excitement and joy, others are left worried about their family law issues such as custody, visitation rights and even starting divorce proceedings. As an Illinois resident, it’s important to know your rights as we approach this family-orientated time of year.

The holiday season can be stressful on any family, but it can be even more difficult for divorced parents, their children and other family members. How do you deal with conflict? Can it be avoided altogether? Read on to learn more about common family law issues that occur over the holiday season and possible solutions.

Discussing Divorce

Many couples attempt to put off divorce until after the holiday season for the sake of their children and to avoid telling other family members. This is common, but just as difficult as being honest about the impending divorce. 

If you’ve taken the alternative route, here are some tips for discussing the divorce around your family during the holidays: 

  • Be honest. You don’t need to give away every detail, but lying could cause more issues in the long run. Being upfront also allows you to control the narrative within your family.
  • Set boundaries. As we said before, you don’t need to tell your family everything or go into detail about your situation. If it becomes too much, take a step back. Explain to your family you do not wish to discuss the divorce and want to focus on enjoying the holiday. 
  • Be courteous. If you find yourself around your spouse’s family for some reason, it’s best to not discuss the divorce with them. If they press, tell them you do not want to talk about the divorce at the moment and need to remove yourself from the situation.

But always remember, if you or your children are in danger in any form, never hesitate to leave a high-risk environment immediately. You can even seek councel and advice on getting an Order of Protection. 

Custody Agreements/Allocation of Parental Responsibilities 

If possible, it’s best to build holiday plans in a custody agreement. If you and your ex spouse live in different cities or states, and travel is difficult, it may be best to arrange the children to be at one house for a certain holiday, and the other for the next. For example, the children spend Thanksgiving with you and Christmas with your ex, and you alternate the following year. 

Whatever your family decides to do, clear communication is key. Be specific about the days and times that are included for the holiday, as well as pick up or drop off times. Be realistic about what’s possible, if possible, get input from your children. Try to make this time easy on everyone. Need help on arranging an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities agreement? Learn more here.

Gift Giving

Communicating about gifts can also be beneficial. Avoiding duplicate gifts can help reduce any stress of having to return items. Keeping an open line of communication could also allow you to work together on purchasing larger gifts for your children, such as a computer or a new phone.

Changing Schedules

Sometimes, changes in schedules are inevitable. If there’s a legitimate reason for the party needing to adjust plans, try to be flexible. Obviously, it’s ideal for everything to go as planned, but being adaptable can make things easier on everyone involved. Alternatively, if you’re the one needing to make adjustments to the schedule, try to communicate them as clearly and as soon as possible.  Any change to your existing parenting time schedule is called a post-decree modification. 

The court may grant a modification without a showing of changed circumstances if the modification is in the child’s best interests and any of the following are proven:

  1. THE MODIFICATION REFLECTS THE ACTUAL ARRANGEMENT UNDER WHICH THE CHILD HAS BEEN RECEIVING CARE, WITHOUT PARENTAL OBJECTION, FOR THE 6 MONTHS PRECEDING THE FILING OF THE PETITION FOR MODIFICATION, PROVIDED THAT THE ARRANGEMENT IS NOT THE RESULT OF A PARENT’S ACQUIESCENCE RESULTING FROM CIRCUMSTANCES THAT NEGATED THE PARENT’S ABILITY TO GIVE MEANINGFUL CONSENT;
  2. THE MODIFICATION CONSTITUTES A MINOR MODIFICATION IN THE PARENTING PLAN OR ALLOCATION JUDGMENT;
  3. THE MODIFICATION IS NECESSARY TO MODIFY AN AGREED PARENTING PLAN OR ALLOCATION JUDGMENT THAT THE COURT WOULD NOT HAVE ORDERED OR APPROVED…HAD THE COURT BEEN AWARE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES AT THE TIME OF THE ORDER OR APPROVAL; OR
  4. THE PARTIES AGREE TO THE MODIFICATION.

750 ILCS 5/610.5(e).

Visitation Rights

Parents and Grandparents alike may have questions about their own rights when it comes to seeing your children around the holidays. In the state of Illinois, it is ultimately up to the parent’s discretion to choose who their children have a relationship with or not. If the grandparent or family member wishes to petition for their own visitation rights, they first must prove they had a relationship with the child prior to the divorce. The court can help extend an existing relationship, but it cannot help create a new one.

Final Thoughts

Co-parenting can be difficult, but if you find ways to work together and create a plan, it can make the holiday season much easier. Sometimes, parents do attempt to defy court orders and make plans on their own. If speaking to the other parent on your own doesn’t help the situation, it may be time to get attorneys involved.

Our award-winning attorneys at Masters Law Group have seen it all and know just how to handle these types of situations. We’re here to help guide you through this difficult time. 

If you need help with any family law issues, reach out to us here today. 

Can I Change a Child Custody Agreement?

When a child custody case is resolved, the court issues what is known as a permanent custody order. However, despite the word “permanent,” custody orders can be changed later if there’s a reason to do so.

When parents separate or divorce, you may get an initial child custody order (also known as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities order) that outlines the custody arrangement. However, if circumstances change, the court can modify the order at any point until the child turns 18.

We’ve put together a list of possible situations that could lead to a change in your child custody agreement, along with information about how to proceed.

Here’s what you need to know.

Facts on Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

There are three basic types of child allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois — joint allocation of parental responsibilities, sole allocation of parental responsibilities and shared allocation of parental responsibilities:

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities requires parents to cooperate in decision-making regarding education, health care and religious instruction. It does not mean that the children live with each parent for an equal amount of time. The parties will agree or the court will assign a residential parent. The non-residential parent will pay child support and exercise parenting time. The amount of time the children spends with the non-residential parent is addressed in a parenting time agreement or order.

Sole allocation of parental responsibilities is the term that describes the arrangement that gives one parent the responsibility for deciding everything related to the child’s welfare. It does not mean that the other parent is out of the picture. Parenting Time and parenting time can be the same in a sole allocation of parental responsibilities case as it is in a joint allocation of parental responsibilities case.

Shared allocation of parental responsibilities is a form of joint allocation of parental responsibilities. It is appropriate when the child spends equal time with each parent, the parents reside in the same school district and are able to joint parent.

Why Would a Parent Need to Modify a Custody Order?

A parent may want to obtain a change in custody or visitation if substantial changes in the other parent’s lifestyle threatens to harm the child. Examples might include if one parent starts to abuse drugs or alcohol, or leaves a young child home alone. If one parent becomes incarcerated or incapacitated in some way which leaves them unable to care for the children might be another reason for a modification.

The Two Year Rule

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage act clearly states that these parental responsibility plans may not be modified for two years following their entry in court. However, there are two exceptions to this rule. 

The first exception is if the courts determine that there is a factor present that could seriously endanger the wellbeing of the child, either physically, mentally or emotionally. This also applies to visitation plans that address grandparents, step parents and siblings. The second exception is if the parents file a joint stipulation waiving the two-year moratorium.

If you are seeking to change your existing parenting plan, it’s best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Your case might fall under one of these exceptions and you’ll want to prepare accordingly.

Making Modifications at Any Time

You can change your custody agreement at any time, as long as both parties agree to the modification. The court will still have to approve these changes to ensure that the child’s interests are still served. 

The law specifies several other conditions that could lead to change at any time. Here are the following rules:

  • If there is an environment that is seriously harmful to the child.
  • If a parent either lives with or marries a sex offender.
  • If the child’s emotional development is seriously impaired due to current arrangements.

In order to make changes, a parent will have to file a petition. From there the court will make the decision on if the petition is approved or not.

Other Changes and Circumstances

If you are a parent with child custody, you know that it can be a difficult arrangement. However, the Illinois Courts point out that the parties involved in these arrangements have a continuing duty to provide information that could affect a pending arrangement. 

A court may also take into account any substantial changes that have occurred since the agreement was entered and approved. In order to have a modification approved, it will be necessary to prove that the substantial change has affected the child’s best interests. 

Some of those changes and circumstances can be the following:

  • Changes in work schedules for both parents
  • Children starting school
  • Misbehavior of either parent i.g. Criminal charges or inappropriate significant other

If you think that there has been a change in circumstances since your original agreement was approved, it is important to talk with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. As long as you can prove that there has been an impact on your child’s best interests, then you could be able to get your custody agreement modified quickly.

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, Illinois law gives parents a number of options for changing custody orders. While this is a good thing, making modifications can quickly get messy and turn into complex issues. It’s always important to consult with your family law attorney before making any decisions.   

At Masters Law Group, it’s our duty to ensure any modifications made to your child custody agreement are done in a proper and swift manner. If you’re currently navigating child custody or considering your legal options, schedule a consultation with us today to learn how we can help.