Tag Archive for: allocation of parental responsibilities

Father’s Rights in Illinois

Father’s Day is a special time to celebrate the men who have given so much to their families. But it’s also the perfect opportunity to reflect on fatherhood in America. Here at Masters Law Group, we want to take this opportunity to remind fathers their rights are equally important; to you, to your child/children, and to the law. 

If you are the father, you may worry about what your parental rights are under Illinois law. Unmarried or divorcing fathers are often especially concerned about their parental rights and responsibilities.  According to the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, the state recognizes “the right of every child to the physical, mental, emotional and monetary support of his or her parents.” The law provides that “the parent and child relationship, including support obligations, extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents.”

Before paternity is established, the current system has mothers as primary caregivers by default, even though we know that most dads want equal time with their kids. If you’re one of those dads, or know someone who hasn’t been treated fairly, here’s what you should know to help ensure that your rights as a father are protected.

The Importance of a Father in a Child’s Life

It is no secret that mothers and children share a special bond. Mothers are viewed as the most important person in a child’s life, being their capable caregivers, caring supporters, and strong providers. While there is no doubt that mothers play a vital role in children’s lives, it is also important to know about the importance of fathers or father figures in children’s lives. 

Studies have shown that children who have involved and supportive fathers tend to do better academically while also having an easier time with their language and social development. Fathers can also act as capable caregivers, loving nurturers, and effective disciplinarians for children.

Because of these findings, it is essential for both parents to be involved in their child’s life. It is important for both parents to spend quality time together with their children so they can share experiences together as well as develop meaningful relationships with one another.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

If you are a father who wants to establish your parental rights, one of the first steps you need to take is to establish paternity, also known as “parentage”.

In Illinois, all children have a right to the mental, physical, monetary, and emotional support of their parents. Additionally, Illinois law states that both children and parents have a right to a relationship with one another—whether or not they are married. Married parents have an easier time establishing paternity than unmarried ones do: married couples can simply marry after the child is born in order to establish paternity, while unmarried couples must take additional steps.

There are four processes parents can follow in order to establish paternity: 

  • Marrying after the child is born
  • Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity 
  • Paternity action brought before the court
  • Paternity order issued by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Child Support Services.

The easiest way to establish paternity is by signing a VAP form. When families go to the hospital or medical facility to have their baby, the staff provides them with this form if the couple is unmarried. Both parents should read the form, ensure they understand it, and then sign and date it before a witness (someone 18 years or older). Once this form is completed, the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate before the family leaves the hospital.

When both parents sign a VAP form, they are agreeing that the male listed on the form is the child’s legal and biological father. This form also waives both couples’ right to genetic testing for themselves and the child. Both parents are acknowledging that they will provide financial support and medical care for the child. While signing this document provides all of these rights, it does not give either parent any right to custody or visitation – parents need to take any custody issues they have through the family court system in Illinois.

Father’s Rights to Custody and Visitation

In Illinois, child custody and visitation are called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that all parents have a right to enjoy “reasonable” parenting time unless there is a good reason for the parent to be denied access to his or her child. If the court holds a hearing and finds that granting parenting time “would seriously endanger the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development,” the parent may not be allowed to spend time with his or her child unsupervised. Unless you have a history of domestic violence or previous convictions for violent crime, or if there is another reason for the court to restrict your parenting time, you have a legal right to spend time with your child.

In cases where parents have gone to court to determine Illinois child custody and visitation, the judge overseeing the case uses the “best interests of the child” standard in order to guide his or her decision making. This means the judge only considers a decision that benefits the child involved regardless of the parents’ other group’s wishes.

The judge deciding the case looks at a number of different factors when choosing the best possible custody decision for the child. Some of those factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between each parent and their children
  • How well each parent is able to care for their children
  • The age of each child involved in this case
  • The mental health status of each parent involved in this case (if either party is suffering from some sort of mental illness or addiction)

Should fathers be granted primary custody, they have the same right to seek child support as mothers would in the same situation. Should fathers have difficulty collecting the ordered child support, there are a number of resources to use in order to collect those payments. For the state of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is solely dedicated to providing child support services based on both state and federal laws.

Final Thoughts

Fathers often feel as though they are at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody and support. This can make it difficult for fathers who want to fight for their rights in a paternity case, child custody case or child support case. As attorneys experienced in father’s rights, we can help guide you through this process by explaining your options and help you understand what steps you need to take to ensure your rights are protected under the law. 

We can also assist you in gaining the time with your children that you deserve while providing valuable assistance when it comes to paying child support and other expenses associated with raising a child. 

For more information on Father’s Rights, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. 

Parenting Time & Visitation Tips for Visit your Relatives Day

National Visit Your Relatives Day is recognized on May 18. It is a day dedicated to spending time with your loved ones and cherishing family time. Parenting Time of your child can be an emotional law topic. Parenting Time rights may be determined by the agreement of the parties or by a court order.

Masters Law Group represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. Here are a couple parenting time and visitation tips you can follow in honor or visit your relatives day.

Create a Parenting Plan

This is by far one of the most important steps you can take when you’re divorced and co-parenting. A parenting plan is a legally-binding agreement and should be respectfully treated as such. You can develop one informally if you are communicating well or you can have your attorney or mediator help create one for you. 

It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan. 

The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children. Once you have it in place, you’ll be a little more at ease. If you don’t already have one, it can make your life a little easier.

Be Reasonable when Establishing a Parenting Arrangement

A divorce is difficult to go through. At times you may need to take a step back and try to be reasonable when it comes to your children. Start by looking at the relationship your children have with each parent, and remember that children do best when they are allowed to continue to have a strong relationship with both parents. 

While you may have some disdain for the other person, your children love them. Pointing out every flaw the other parent has is not going to help your children when it comes down to establishing custody. 

Respect the Needs of Your Children

Children do not need to be put in the middle of your divorce. They need to know that both parents love them, and that both parents want to be part of their lives. Telling your children how horrible the other parent is will only confuse them. Respect the needs of your child by enjoying them when they are with you, doing your best to parent them. Unfortunately when it comes to younger children they aren’t able to verbalize what they want out of a custody arrangement, but older children can. For example, they may verbalize that they want to stay in the same home during the week while they are at school. 

Perhaps you were an absent parent, always on the road working. While it may be hard to agree that the child should spend more time with the other parent, your sacrifice will make the divorce easier on your children.

Think About Your Support Network

Having children is hard, and raising them without a support network is nearly impossible. Think about your new life, and how being divorced is going to impact your support network. Look at the people around you, and those you believe will still be around even during the aftermath of your divorce. While you can’t create a custody schedule based on support alone, it’s important that you have the help you need if an emergency arises.

Communication is Key

If the two of you struggle to communicate in a civil manner, it’s important to establish one form of communication right away. Many couples use different methods of communication but it’s ultimately what works for the both of them.  Nowadays there are various online software programs, where both parties can send messages, a calendar can be created, and all communication between the two of you can be recorded in one place. 

The court will look at this communication when there are issues brought forth to the court, and both parties will be held responsible for what they are communicating with the other person.

Final Thoughts

We hope with the help of these tips mentioned above, it can make way for you to navigate through parenting time and visitation in an appropriate and enjoyable manner. Shared legal and shared physical custody entitles you to regular visitation, and decision-making in all aspects of their lives. While the other parent may try to prohibit you from making decisions, you need to know that you have the legal right and obligation to help make these decisions. 

For more information on Divorce, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. With their in-depth knowledge and experience in Family Law, we’re sure to help you get through parenting time and visitation together.

What is Parent Alienation?

Parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to foster a child’s rejection of the other parent. If your former partner is constantly, and severely, making false statements about you to your child, can this lead to alienation and an accompanying syndrome? Let’s take a closer look.

In divorce and child custody cases, a syndrome often develops called parental alienation. Parental alienation is a strategy where one parent intentionally displays to the child unjustified negativity aimed at the other parent. The purpose of this strategy is to damage the child’s relationship with the other parent and to turn the child’s emotions against that other parent. Parental alienators are adept manipulators and you should look out for signs of this behavior immediately.

Here is everything you need to know about emotional abuse and how you can take action to protect yourself and your children.

Traits of an Alienator

Parental alienation syndrome, was a term coined back in the 1980s by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner. As mentioned above, the sole purpose of parental alienation behavior is to keep the children with the alienating parent as much as possible, away from the targeted parent. A parent who is angry at the spouse accomplishes this goal by painting a negative narrative of the other parent by making deprecating comments, throwing blame, and making false accusations which are shared with the children.

Clinical psychologists have noted this type of behavior shown by the alienating parent has narcissistic or borderline tendencies. A narcissist is a person who has an excessive interest and admiration in themselves – essentially they think the world revolves around them. While those with borderline personality disorders have emotional hyper-reactivity often expressed as anger and a tendency to see themselves as victims. A parent with an antisocial personality is an accomplished liar who has the ability to harm others without any guilt. 

Alienation by one parent interferes with the rights of the child and the other parent involved to have a healthy relationship.  It also interferes with the other parent being able to exercise their right to care for the child.

Signs and Symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome

When Gardner talked about PAS, he identified eight “symptoms” (or criteria) for it:

  1. The child constantly and unfairly criticizes the alienated parent (sometimes called a “campaign of denigration”).
  2. The child doesn’t have any strong evidence, specific examples, or justifications for the criticisms — or only has false reasoning.
  3. The child’s feelings about the alienated parent aren’t mixed — they’re all negative, with no redeeming qualities to be found. This is sometimes called “lack of ambivalence.”
  4. The child claims the criticisms are all their own conclusions and based on their own independent thinking. (In reality, in PA, the alienating parent is said to “program” the child with these ideas.)
  5. The child has unwavering support for the alienator.
  6. The child doesn’t feel guilty about mistreating or hating the alienated parent.
  7. The child uses terms and phrases that seem borrowed from adult language when referring to situations that never happened or happened before the child’s memory.
  8. The child’s feelings of hatred toward the alienated parent expand to include other family members related to that parent (for example, grandparents or cousins on that side of the family).

Impact of Alienation on Parenting Time

Parental alienation and parenting time go hand in hand when trying to determine an appropriate parenting plan that lays out with which parent the child will mainly live. Parenting Time of your child can become a very emotional law topic. The division of parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilites to make decisions for the child. 

To determine the child’s best interests, the court must look at anything relevant to the question, including specific factors listed in state statute. Of those, some are particularly relevant when parental alienation may be involved:

  • The child’s needs.
  • The mental health of all parties involved.
  • Restricted or modified parenting time.
  • Parental ability to put the child’s needs first.
  • Abuse against the child, including emotional or psychological abuse to try to alienate the child against the other parent.
  • The ability of each parent to facilitate a close relationship between the other parent and the child.
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with each parent.

Any parent who believes their spouse is trying to alienate their child against them should seek immediate assistance from an experienced Family law attorney. It’s important to have someone who can assist with reporting emotional abuse or protection for themselves or loved ones.

The safety of the child or children involved should always be your number one priority. If your child is being emotionally abused, there are several steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of the situation at hand prior to legal help. Masters Law Group is here to help you with divorce consultation or litigation involving parental alienation.

Final Thoughts

While all forms of abuse can feel like a never-ending hopeless situation, Masters Law Group is here to help you see a light at the end of the tunnel. We provide an array of family law services including Orders of Protection and divorce services for our clients. Our highly experienced family law attorneys offer skillful legal representation that will guide you through to safety for your children and yourself.

Get in touch with us here today to discuss and execute the best plan of action for you and your family.

Determination of Parentage Under Illinois Law

What is parentage? Why is establishing parentage important? What is the process of establishing parentage or paternity? Find the answers to all your Illinois-paternity questions here. 

In parentage cases, also known as “paternity cases,” the court makes orders that say who the child’s legal parents are. If parents are married when a child is born, the law assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother, so paternity is automatically established in most cases. But for unmarried parents, the parentage of their children needs to be established legally.

Only after paternity is established, allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time and child support can then be set forth via a Final Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Judgment. While this topic can be very emotional to deal with, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about  Determination of Parentage in the state of Illinois.

Causes of Action Related to Paternity in Illinois

There are several causes of action in Illinois related to paternity, including establishing paternity by consent of the parents, contested paternity suits and suits to establish the non-existence of a father-child relationship. ‍All of these causes are governed by the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 which deals with issues revolving around children born out of wedlock. In Illinois, certain forms must be presented to non-married parents at the hospital upon the birth of a child, which allow the parents to establish paternity by mutual consent. The forms look like the following:

  • An agreed order to establish paternity by consent, and reserve issues of child support until a later date.
  • A verified petition to declare paternity.

‍If the parents are in agreement regarding paternity, they can deliver these forms to the clerk of court, whereupon the judge will enter the agreed order establishing paternity. ‍If there’s a presumed father other than the father signing these forms, the parents must obtain his signature as well. The Illinois Parentage Act states that a man is the presumed father of the child if any of the following statements are true:

  • He is married to the mother, or in a civil union or substantially similar relationship when the child is born.
  • He was married or in a civil union with the mother, but the marriage was terminated within 300 days prior to the birth of the child.
  • He married or entered into a civil union with the mother after the child’s birth, and he is listed as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate. 
  • The child was born during or within 300 days of an invalid marriage or civil union into which he and the mother entered in apparent compliance with the law.

Presumptions of Paternity Explained

The petitioner in a paternity action unfortunately bears the burden of proving paternity or absence of paternity by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the allegations in the petition are more than likely not to be true. When there is a “presumed father,” the presumption must be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, a higher standard of proof than preponderance of the evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is also required if paternity is sought after the death of a parent in order to determine heirship. 

‍A presumption of paternity arising from a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity becomes conclusive if the acknowledgment is not rescinded either within 60 days from signing the voluntary acknowledgement or the date that the paternity suit is initiated, whichever occurs first.  If the presumption becomes conclusive, paternity can only be challenged by the presumed father in the case of fraud, duress, or a mistake of material fact. 

DNA Tests in Illinois Paternity Cases

The court as well as any party involved in a paternity action can request a DNA test. If the party from whom DNA testing is requested refuses to submit to the test, the court will likely decide the case against them.‍ The court will appoint an expert to perform the DNA test. It’s important to note that each party involved has the option to hire an independent expert in addition to the court-appointed expert to perform tests or to testify regarding the court-appointed expert’s credentials.  

If the experts agree that the alleged father is not the natural father the case will be dismissed.  If the experts disagree, the court will weigh the experts’ separate testimony along with other evidence.  

Illinois Paternity Situations & Cases

In a paternity action, child support is treated as in a divorce case with two exceptions. Unlike child support in a dissolution case, if the suit was brought within two years of the birth of the child, the court has discretion to award reasonable expenses related to the mother’s pregnancy. Retroactive child support is also treated differently in a paternity case. 

In a dissolution case, child support may be awarded in certain limited circumstances.  However, in a paternity case, the court may award child support retroactive to the child’s birth, based on the following factors:

  1. The father’s knowledge of the circumstances of the child’s birth.
  2. The father’s previous willingness to help support the child.
  3. The extent to which the father was previously informed of the child’s needs and to which his help was sought in supporting or raising the child.
  4. The reasons that the mother did not file the parentage action sooner. 
  5. The extent to which the father was prejudiced by the mother’s delay in bringing suit.  

The difference between child support in a paternity case versus a dissolution case is, in a dissolution case, the couple was previously married and the father was contributing to the care of the child during the marriage. 

Final Thoughts 

If you find yourself in a paternity battle, and are in need of legal counsel, Masters Law Group can help. Hiring an attorney highly experienced in family law will help you understand your legal options and create a plan for what comes next. 

Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. We help clients put aside their grief and educate them about their options in Parentage as well as Child Support modifications. If you need help with a parentage  case in Illinois, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

5 Tips to Survive the Holidays Co-Parenting

Co-parenting over the holidays. These four words can bring either a sense of joy or dread this season, or even both. But with the right planning in place, you can experience a harmonious Hanukkah, cohesive Christmas and no-drama New Year. 

The holidays can be a magical time for everyone. Children have breaks from schools; families and friends gather for meals and multi-day celebrations; and emotions run hot. While the season brings joy and laughter for some, they can also be hard to manage – especially when co-parenting.  Yes co-parenting has its challenges on a good day, but throw in the holidays and it takes on a whole new level.

To make sure your holidays remain special for you and your children, it’s important to have a plan. Here are 5 tips to help you survive the holidays and set your loved ones up for a season of success.

  • Create a Parenting Plan

Since you and your spouse went through the formal divorce process, you likely have a parenting plan in place that also includes how the holidays are meant to be shared. If you feel that you need to make new arrangements this year and it is not your first time co-parenting during the holidays, do not save this for the last minute. A parenting plan is a legally-binding agreement and should be respectfully treated as such.

If you don’t have a parenting plan you may want to consider getting one. You can develop one informally if you are communicating well or you can have your attorney or mediator help create one for you. It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan. 

The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children. Once you have it in place and on autopilot, you won’t have to stress over everything. Try one if you don’t already have one. It can make your life a lot easier.

  • Allow Flexibility

You’ve gone through a lot this year; trying to process divorce, finalize child support and navigate the co-parenting world – just to name a few. Add coronavirus to the mix, and you have yourself the perfect ending to a horrible year. COVID-19 has arisen many grey areas for families across the world, including parenting time schedules. Use your parenting plan as a tool to keep things focused, but while compromising might not be easy, it is an effective way to make things easier for your children, assuming they are only minor adjustments. For example, help yourself by giving your ex some wiggle room on logistics. A great rule of thumb is to plan at least 15 minutes of flex time around any child exchange. Depending on your location and the weather gets worse, you will need more flex time.

Consider having a civil conversation about what you both have in mind for the holidays and how time with the children can be shared with each of you and extended family members. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin the conversation. “The sooner the better” is in order to iron out any initial disagreements that could occur. 

Try to cooperate with each other during this emotionally-charged season and do what is needed for both you and your ex so that you can both spend happy, quality time with your children.

  • Stability is Key

Once you have made some logistical decisions, present a united front in telling the children together (if possible) what the plans are going to be. Make them feel that everything is worked out and it’s going to be a good holiday season because mom and dad have figured it out.

This will provide stability and comfort to your children. It will ease their anxiety and their concerns about mom and dad getting along during the holidays. Children think about holidays and how mom and dad are going to feel if they are alone. Give them peace of mind that everything will be okay even though you are no longer together.

  • Tolerate Difficult Circumstances (New Partners)

Divorce can be a painful and draining process. Be kind to yourself while going through your divorce. Many medical and mental health professionals recommend treating divorce like grief. There is happiness on the other side of all the legal and emotional issues, and the chances of your children feeling that pain are highly likely. If you or your ex are in the process of separating, try to not make small matters an issue. 

While the holidays can be a delicate time to test your tolerance, by doing so, you’ll look back without regret at handling these emotional issues maturely. Try to have an open discussion with each other about the role of a new significant other and how that will play in the lives of your children. Introducing a new partner is a big and important decision. Incorporating new partners into the family structure is delicate, especially during the holidays. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can receive sound advice on how to speak with your children so everyone involved is comfortable.

It’s important to remember to stay calm, the chances of your child remembering you losing your temper are high in the event that someone interferes with your plan. When something goes wrong, you can absolutely feel angry. The suggestion here is to try to have some patience, and focus on your child’s priorities.

  • Show Yourself Some Love

The holidays can be hard even for those who are not recently divorced, so do not begrudge yourself some self-care. There is a chance that you will spend some time alone this holiday season, and with Covid-19 variants looming, you could end up alone more than you expected.

Try to make some plans for yourself that do not involve the kids, even if it is just to sit at home on your own, binge-watching TV shows with your favorite takeaway meal. A little time to yourself can do wonders for your mood and help you get through the holidays with a little less stress. As much as you might want to make the holidays perfect for your kids, you cannot forget yourself. The happier you are, the smoother the holiday season will be them, too.

Last Thoughts

The holidays are meant to be a special time for everyone involved. And remember, having patience while trying to execute the holiday co-parenting plan is crucial to maintaining everyone’s enjoyment of the holidays. 

We hope with the help of these tips mentioned above, it can make way for you to navigate through your holidays in a seamless, appropriate and enjoyable manner. 

For more information on Divorce, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. With their in-depth knowledge and experience in Family Law, we’re sure to help you get through the holiday season together.

 

Top 5 Family Law Issues Over the Holidays

The holidays are often spent with family. For some people, this is an exciting time of the year. For others, it is a source of stress. For divorced couples, how do you share custody during the holidays? Can you change a custody agreement in Illinois? What about grandparent visitation rights? Read on to learn more about the most common family law issues during the holidays and some potential solutions.

The holidays can be a difficult time for a lot of people. Some grapple with the loss of a loved one over holidays. Some couples put off their divorces until after the holiday season. Some people struggle to spend a lot of time with their families.

While the holidays can be a wonderful time, they can also come with a lot of tension. If you are struggling during the holiday season, you are not alone. Here are the top 5 family law issues that occur during the holidays.

  1. Couples Putting off Divorce

Going through a divorce can be a stressful experience in someone’s life. Unfortunately, it’s common for couples who wish to get a divorce to hold off until after the holidays. They tend to do so for the sake of the kids and other family members, but it can be hard to keep a brave face with an impending divorce looming as soon as the holiday magic is gone. It is important to know that this is something many couples struggle with.

  1. Rushed Proposals

Proposals are a common occurrence during the holiday season. In fact, Christmas Day is the most popular day to propose. Because of the excitement of the holidays, many people rush into proposals without considering all the legal issues to take into account. For example, do you know if you want your partner to sign a prenuptial agreement?

Legally, an engagement ring is considered a “conditional gift” based on the marriage taking place and the ring goes back to the purchaser if the engagement is broken, regardless of who ends it. But rings given on Christmas, Valentine’s Day or birthdays are typically classified as more traditional gifts, and the majority of courts have allowed the receiver to keep them. 

  1. Making a Holiday Parenting Plan/Schedule

When it comes down to it, the most difficult aspect of child custody during the holidays is figuring out who will be where and when. The next hardest component is making that schedule happen. Be realistic with the holiday itinerary and consider input from the children, if possible. Be proactive and create a Holiday Parenting Plan. Here are some considerations:

  1. Identify the specific holidays that are important to you and your family.
  2. Be specific about the times that define the holiday.
  3. Consider whether or not the holiday may or will involve travel. It is important to build this into your holiday plan even if you do not plan to travel every year.
  4. Consider whether or not the holiday can be incorporated into the regular parenting time plan.
  5. Consider whether or not it is possible to have the holiday included. For example, some holidays are during the school day (Halloween) and if you decide you want to split the holiday, how will that happen once the children are in school? Dividing this time means that one parent is transporting the children during prime trick or treating time. Is this really what you want for your children?

4. Changes to custody agreements

Often, divorced couples with children wish to change their custody agreements as the holidays roll around. When seeking a modification, a motion to modify custody must be filed. The motion must be filed in the county where the original custody order was signed. If the child no longer lives in that county, it may be possible to have the case transferred. This can be difficult to do at the last minute, so you should contact our firm to discuss your options. If you are facing an issue where your child has been taken overseas by the other parent, you could be entitled to file legal action under the Hague Convention for international parental child abduction. 

  1. Questions about visitation

Many families have questions about custody and visitation rights. What rights do grandparents have to see their grandkids over the holidays? Unfortunately for the state of Illinois, it does not provide for any visitation to grandparents or other non-parents by default. Unless it’s proven to harm the child, parents are given the discretion to choose who their child has a relationship with or not. 

In the event a grandparent is trying to petition for visitation rights, they must show that a relationship existed with the children before a divorce. In other words, a court may help restore an existing relationship but will not help build a new one.

Final Thoughts

Holiday parenting time issues are extremely common.  They often create strong emotional responses from each parent because not only is it their parenting time, but also it frequently includes extended family members visiting or who have traveled to see the children. In the event of battling with an ex over visitation schedules, or any other family law issue such as divorce or even post-divorce disputes: Remember, if you’re facing any of these issues you aren’t alone. We’ve seen and heard it all and are here to serve and guide you through this season.

Get in touch with our award-winning Masters Law Group Attorneys today for help figuring out a solution to your problem. 

 

Child Relocation Laws in Illinois

Whether it be for a new career, a remarriage or even the desire to get to a specific school district, moving a child’s primary residence has serious legal complications if not carried out properly. 

Divorces and separations can be emotionally overwhelming. Especially when a child is involved. Disputes regarding child custody (parenting time), child support or even where the child will live can easily arise between parents. Even if these specific issues have been resolved by an Illinois court order, other problems can arise quickly. Here’s a look at the Child Relocation Laws in Illinois and how Masters Law Group can help.

Parental Responsibilities in Illinois

With today’s economy, many parents are discovering that they need to move great distances in order to find work – sometimes across state lines. Before a parent can remove a child from Illinois they must seek approval from the court, even if they are the primary parent.

Currently under Illinois Law, a child is governed by Section 609.2 of the IMDMA (Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act). This IMDMA indicates when a parent is looking to move with their child or children, they must seek court approval, since a parent’s relocation is a substantial change for the child. 

If you move out of state, and the other parent files a parental responsibilities case in Illinois within 6 months, you will probably have to come to Illinois to participate in the case, or you might have to return your child to Illinois. You can move with your child if there is no court case involving your child and:

  • You and the other parent are married or are in a civil union
  • You are the natural mother and the child has lived with you for more than 6 months

Relocation Inside and Outside of Illinois

There are a couple things to note when you’re considering relocating. Relocating in terms of Child Relocation Law, means to move more than 25-50 miles away from the child’s original home if it is in Cook, DuPage, McHenry, Kane, Lake, or Will Counties or if the new home is out of state. 

After you ask the court for permission to relocate, you’ll have a hearing where the court will decide if relocating is in the child’s best interests. The court is going to look at many things, primarily the quality of each parent’s relationship with the child, to the reason why the parents would be relocating. Here are a couple other things the court will consider:

  • Educational opportunities available in each location
  • The arrangements for parental responsibilities
  • Impact on the child, and the wishes of the child

If you are relocating with your child, you must follow these steps. 

  • File a Notice of Relocation, and give a copy to the other parent at least 60 days before your planned relocation. If the other parent agrees and signs your notice, you can file the signed notice with the court and move without going to court any further. 
  • The court will also change your current parenting plan or parental responsibilities order to allow the move. 
  • If the other parent doesn’t agree or doesn’t sign the notice, then you must ask the court for permission to relocate. You would then file a Petition to Relocate.

Summary

It is important to keep your current parenting plan or parental responsibilities up to date so if you do look to relocate, the process of following said steps above are made easier for you and your loved ones. It can unfortunately become complicated and require much interaction between the parents and the court. It’s in your best interests to hire an experienced attorney if you need assistance with Child Relocation Law.

Hiring Child Relocation Legal Help

Hiring an attorney highly experienced in family law will help you understand your legal options and create a plan for what comes next. Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. We help clients put aside their grief and educate them about their options in child allocation of parental responsibilities.

We represent individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. If you require a review of your current parenting time schedule or parenting plan, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Can Social Media Affect My Family Law Case?

Social media is a popular way to keep in touch and communicate with your loved ones, but it has also become an increasingly useful tactic to collect information for family law hearings. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now being submitted as evidence in family law cases.

When you are going through a divorce, child custody, or placement battle with your ex, what you post on social media networks could come back to haunt you.

While it is not unusual for character witnesses to be called in family law cases, social sites can sometimes be used in a similar manner. Negative comments, images, offensive posts, and hostile interactions can all be submitted as evidence in custody cases. Partners can much more easily keep tabs on one another – and collect evidence against one another – by using social media.

Social Media Evidence in Hearings

Social media is affecting relationships and being used as ammunition in hearings. Lawyers can effectively use or defend against social media evidence in cases. According to the National Law Review, 

  • 81% of attorneys discover social networking evidence worth presenting in court. 
  • 66% of cases involving divorce employ Facebook as one of their principal evidence sources. 
  • 1/3 of all legal action in divorces cases is precipitated by affairs conducted online.

Not all evidence can be used in a divorce case. For example, an opposing attorney cannot open a fake account to “friend” or “connect” with their client’s spouse to obtain evidence.

Generally, public posts that can be inspected by anyone are fair game and can be submitted as evidence in court. If a “friend” or “connection” on a spouse’s social media account shares a post or text and that secondary post is seen by the spouse’s ex, that too, can typically be legally used as evidence in a divorce case.

What’s Fair Game and What’s Not

It is important to note that you should not delete items from your social media for the purpose of “hiding” bad evidence if you have a reason to believe that litigation may be coming. This may be considered spoliation of evidence. 

In most cases, a spouse’s social media posts are admissible as evidence in the U.S. as long as you don’t obtain them illegally. An example of obtaining evidence illegally would be if your estranged husband or wife created a false account with the purpose of “following” you to collect damning evidence. It’s illegal for your ex to hack your accounts to try to gain evidence.

For many, using social media is second nature. However, it is worth discussing your situation with a family law attorney to determine the best way to deal with any social media evidence that may hurt your case.

Social Media Can Affect Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Divorcing parents often have disagreements about child custody and visitation which is officially called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time“ in Illinois. There are several ways that social media posts can influence child custody matters. 

Imagine a scenario in which a husband and wife each want to have the majority of parenting time with the children. If the wife posts pictures of herself going out to bars several nights of the week when she is allegedly caring for the children, this could call into question her desire and ability to take on a large amount of parental responsibility. 

It is important to remember that even if you have your social media account set to private, there are still many ways that your social media activity could be used against you during divorce proceedings. The best way to avoid negative consequences from social media during divorce may be to simply take a break from social media websites until the divorce is finalized.

Final Thoughts

It is important to be very cautious when using social media during divorce or other family law hearings. Masters Law Group takes social media into account when dealing with family law cases. Each case is uniquely different and the attorneys at Masters Law Group have the experience to help you during difficult times. Learn more and set up a consultation with us here today.

New Child Tax Credit 2021 for Parents Who Share Custody

As a part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, monthly child credits are starting this July. But if you share custody with your ex-spouse, who claims the child tax credit? 

President Joe Biden recently signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. Amongst other things, the legislation will increase the child tax credit to $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 annually for children under 6 for the tax year 2021. Here’s what else you should know…

How Claiming Child Tax Credit Typically Works

When parents share joint custody, they usually work out a schedule according to their work requirements, housing arrangements and the children’s needs. This includes financial plans like which parent is eligible for child tax credit payments. 

However, if you are recently divorced or separated – or simply don’t have a plan in place – which parent claims the new tax credits? 

Fundamentals of the New Child Tax Credit

The American Rescue Plan temporarily expands the child tax credit for 2021 which aims to substantially reduce child poverty by supplementing the earnings of families receiving the tax credit. The U.S. Department of the Treasury states that Child Tax Credit has been revised in the following ways:

  1. The credit amount has been increased. The American Rescue Plan increased the amount of the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age 6, and $3,000 for other children under age 18.
  2. The credit’s scope has been expanded. Children 17 years old and younger, as opposed to 16 years old and younger, will now be covered by the Child Tax Credit.
  3. Credit amounts will be made through advance payments during 2021. Individuals eligible for a 2021 Child Tax Credit will receive advance payments of the individual’s credit, which the IRS and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service will make through periodic payments from July 1, to December 31, 2021. This change will allow struggling families to receive financial assistance now, rather than waiting until the 2022 tax filing season to receive the Child Tax Credit benefit.
  4. The credit is now fully refundable. By making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, low- income households will be entitled to receive the full credit benefit, as significantly expanded and increased by the American Rescue Plan.
  5. The credit is now extended to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories. For the first time, low- income families residing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories will receive this vital financial assistance to better support their children’s development and health and educational attainment.

To facilitate the disbursement of Child Tax Credit advance payments during 2021, the American Rescue Plan requires the IRS to establish an online portal for taxpayers to update relevant data for mid-year payment adjustments (for example, the birth of a child during 2021). In addition to this online tool, the Treasury Department and the IRS will carry out a sweeping public awareness campaign parallel to its Economic Impact Payment campaign to reach all Americans who may be eligible for this financial assistance.

What Are The Updated Requirements For The New Tax Credit?

There are net income limits and rules to be aware of. But simply put, if your adjusted gross income is $75,000 a year or less and you are a sole taxpayer, you can receive a full tax credit for your child. It fluctuates as your net income increases.

For now, the tax credit extends to:

Children ages 5< 

  • $3,600 per child

Children age 16<

  • $2,000 per child

Children age 17<

  • $3,000 per child

Children 18-24 currently enrolled in college and full-time status

  • $500 per child

To help see exactly how much money you’ll receive in advance, Kiplinger has released a Child Tax Credit Calculator. Try it out here.

Can Both Parents Receive The Monthly Payment In A Shared Custody Situation?

For parents who share custody, child support can sometimes add complications to their stimulus check total and eligibility. Furthermore, rules for the third payment have changed from the first two payments, removing a loophole that allowed some families to “double-dip” (both parents receiving their own dependent payment for the same child), among other major changes as listed earlier. If you are wondering if there are the same loopholes when it comes to claiming the new child tax credits, the short answer is “no”. Only one parent can claim a child and receive the credit.

So which parent gets the tax credits? When the terms of the divorce clearly identify a custodial parent — the parent who has primary custody of the child — that parent is legally entitled to claim the child as a dependent and receive any associated tax refunds. Many parents have a 50-50 custody agreement but don’t have a written agreement regarding which of the parents claims the child on their taxes. Whether you have primary custody or joint custody of a child after divorce, the fact remains that only one person can claim the child on each year’s tax forms.

Be aware that if you falsely claim your child, you will possibly have to pay all or a portion of that payment back the following year.

Can The Tax Credit Money Pay For Overdue Child Support?

If you are divorced and haven’t been paid the correct child support unfortunately, the tax credit cannot be used for overdue payments – according to the congressional research service. However, the credit you will claim in 2021 and 2022 can be subject to overdue child support CRS stated. 

What Action do Families Need to Take to Receive the Payment?

Most families won’t have to do anything to receive their child tax credit payment starting July 15. Similar to the stimulus payments, the CTC payments will be automatically deposited into the taxpayer’s bank account, or sent in the form of a prepaid debit card or paper check (depending on what information the IRS has on file for each qualifying taxpayer).

However, action should be taken for non-filers. Even those who made too little to file a 2020 tax return should do so now in order to receive the advanced monthly CTC payments in the future. The Treasury Department and the IRS say they will continue efforts to make more families aware of their eligibility.

Conclusion

If you have children or other dependents under the age of 17, you likely qualify for the Child Tax Credit that hits bank accounts July 17. When you address the issue of claiming children on taxes, it’s important to research your rights and make your claim correctly. 

If you need further assistance with a parenting plan or child support, you can contact Masters Law Group to schedule a consultation. We represent individuals in the Chicagoland area in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule, child support orders and allocation of parental responsibilities.

 

Helpful Actions for Children While Going Through a Divorce

Each year, thousands of US children face the extreme stress associated with divorce. Parents should provide their children with understanding and support with patience, reassurance, and a listening ear as your children learn to cope with unfamiliar circumstances.

Going through the process of divorce is a challenging life transition for both parents and children. Many times the initial reaction is one of shock, sadness, frustration, anger, or worry. But kids also can come out of it better able to cope with stress, and many become more flexible, tolerant young adults. While you can’t make your child’s hurt go away, you can help them cope with the various disappointments divorce brings. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind.

Breaking the News

When it comes to telling your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up. Of course how you tell your children is a very personal choice, but try to make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing what you’re going to say before you sit down to talk.

Because children often assume that they are somehow to blame, begin by letting them know what happened is definitely not their fault and they are loved by both parents – and that will never change. If possible, try to break the news together with your ex partner. By demonstrating solidarity and maturity, you will help paint a picture of a drama-free future as their minds race to “what now?”.

The discussion should fit the child’s age, maturity, and temperament; with younger children try to keep things simple, older teens will be more in tune with what you, as parents, have been going through, so more details will be beneficial.

Avoid the Blame Game

It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. Confining negativity and blame to private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside the home will help children feel less “torn” between parents, therefore creating less stress on them.

If you and your ex can’t agree on matters like parenting time or allocation of parental responsibilities, save this information for your family law attorney as you navigate these new waters. Your message to the kids should be united, reassuring, and free of bickering and blame.

Expect the Unexpected

While many children will be confused, hurt, saddened and shocked, many also don’t react right away when faced with the news their parents are splitting. Sometimes it’s simply because they are overwhelmed and don’t know how to process the information, while others don’t want to upset their parents by acting as if everything is fine, or try to avoid any difficult feelings by denying that they feel any anger or sadness at the news. Let them know that that is OK, too and that they can talk when they are ready.

Whether your kids express fear, worry, or relief about your separation and divorce, they’ll want to know how their own day-to-day lives might change.

Be prepared to answer these possible questions:

  • Who will I live with?
  • Will I go to the same school?
  • Where will each parent live?
  • Where will we spend holidays?
  • Will I still get to see my friends?
  • Can I still do my favorite activities?

Being honest is not always easy when you don’t have all the answers or when children are feeling scared. But telling them what they need to know at that moment is always the right thing to do.

Helping Children Cope

Like any big life change, many children experience grief when parents are divorcing. Mourning for the family unit they once had is normal, but over time, you and your children need to work through the grieving process and accept and adapt to the new situation.

Here are some ways to help kids cope with the upset of a divorce, according to KidsHealth.org:

  • Encourage honesty. Kids need to know that their feelings are important to their parents and that they’ll be taken seriously.
  • Help them put their feelings into words. Kids’ behavior can often clue you in to their feelings of sadness or anger. You might say: “It seems as if you’re feeling sad right now. Do you know what’s making you feel so sad?” Be a good listener, even if it’s difficult for you to hear what they have to say.
  • Legitimize their feelings. Saying “I know you feel sad now” or “I know it feels lonely without dad here” lets kids know that their feelings are valid. It’s important to encourage kids to get it all out before you start offering ways to make it better. Let kids know it’s also OK to feel happy or relieved or excited about the future.
  • Offer support. Ask, “What do you think will help you feel better?” They might not be able to name something, but you can suggest a few ideas — maybe just to sit together, take a walk, or hold a favorite stuffed animal. Younger kids might especially appreciate an offer to call daddy on the phone or to make a picture to give to mommy when she comes at the end of the day.
  • Keep yourself healthy. For adults, separation and divorce is highly stressful. That pressure may be amplified by custody, property, and financial issues, which can bring out the worst in people. Finding ways to manage your own stress is essential for you and your entire family. Keeping yourself as physically and emotionally healthy as possible can help combat the effects of stress, and by making sure you’re taking care of your own needs, you can ensure that you’ll be in the best possible shape to take care of your kids.
  • Keep the details in check. Take care to ensure privacy when discussing the details of the divorce with friends, family, or your lawyer. Try to keep your interactions with your ex as civil as possible, especially when you’re interacting in front of the kids. Take the high road — don’t resort to blaming or name-calling within earshot of your kids, no matter what the circumstances of the separation. This is especially important in an “at fault” divorce where there have been especially hurtful events, like infidelity. Take care to keep letters, e-mails, and text messages in a secure location as kids will be naturally curious if there is a high-conflict situation going on at home.
  • Get help. This is not the time to go it alone. Find a support group, talk to others who have gone through this, use online resources, or ask your doctor or religious leaders to refer you to other resources. Getting help yourself sets a good example for your kids on how to make a healthy adjustment to this major change.

The process of explaining the issue and giving suggestions to your children will help them see divorce in a better perspective.

Adjusting to a New Life

While it’s good for kids to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new circumstances at once can be very difficult. Help your kids adjust to change by providing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives.

It’s crucial that you and your ex create a schedule that lessens the likelihood that your child will experience divided loyalties because they may feel like they have to choose sides. When both parents work together to determine schools, activities, social calendars and all the other aspects of the child’s life, it fosters a cohesive daily experience for the child, no matter whose house they are at on a given day.

At the end of the day, children are the most important assets a married couple can own. When children are confident of the love of both of their parents, they have an easier time adjusting to co-parenting after divorce.

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Masters Law Group – Experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

Divorce certainly has the potential to change the lives of parents and children, and while it is a difficult process, help and support is available.

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation for everyone involved. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients assurance and well being in mind. Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

Divorce cases involving children require specialized knowledge.  The attorneys at Masters Law Group are highly experienced in the following legal areas associated with separating parents:

Don’t go it alone. Schedule a Consultation with us here today to speak about your family law case.