Tag Archive for: Chicago paternity lawyer

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. 

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.

How to Request a Modification of Child Support in Illinois

Divorces and separations can be emotionally overwhelming. Especially when a child is involved. In Illinois, it is always possible to ask the court to change a custody order, but getting a judge to agree to make a change isn’t always a straightforward process.

There are several ways that a child custody arrangement (also known as Parenting Time) can come about in Illinois. The parents of a child can develop their own agreement and then have it approved by a court. Or, the court can order custody based on the state’s laws.

Either way, there could come a time when one or both parents wish to change the arrangement in place. Here’s a look at what constitutes a “substantial change in circumstances” that would allow an agreement to be modified.

Modifications to Child Support Orders

In Illinois, a temporary child support order that has been entered while a child support proceeding is pending may be modified any time before the entry of a final judgment. Child support that has been established by a final judgment may be modified at any time from the entry of the order until the termination of the obligor parent’s obligation to pay child support under the order.  

Although child support may be modified at any time, a “substantial change in circumstances” must be demonstrated in order for the child support obligation to be modified. If you file a petition to modify a child support order based on “substantial change in circumstances” the child support obligation in question can be modified retroactively to the filing date of the petition, but can not have an earlier effective date.

Illinois child support obligations can only be modified by filing a petition for increase or decrease in child support with the court that has jurisdiction over your case.  The petition should state the basis for the request for modification explaining the change in child support obligation that you are requesting from the court.

Because you are seeking modification of an existing order, you do not need to serve the petition by the sheriff.  You can serve notice of the petition by mail at the responding party’s last known address. Note: if the petition seeks other action by the court other than the modification of child support, such as a change in the allocation of parental time and responsibility, the petition must be served by certified mail 30 days prior to the date of the hearing.

If you are seeking child support modification after a final judgment has been entered in your case, the notice must be delivered to the responding party, as opposed to his or her attorney, because the attorney’s representation is deemed to have ended at the entry of the final order.  

You should note that you cannot use self help to modify child support in Illinois.  If the other party fails to comply with visitation rights, you are not entitled to suspend your child support payments without obtaining an order from the court. 

Child Support Payments & Appeals

If you are appealing the final order in your child support case, you are still required to pay child support according to the terms of that order while the appeal is pending. However, you can request the court that entered the order to modify your child support obligations during the appeal process based on a showing of “substantial change in circumstances.

Reasons for Modification of Child Support in Illinois

The court has discretion to modify child support obligations based on either a substantial change of circumstances, upon a showing that the modification is necessary to provide for the healthcare needs of the child, or upon a showing of a substantial deviation between the child support obligation and the guidelines set forth by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“the IMDMA”). 

Child support modifications can be modified without a showing of a substantial change in circumstances if the petitioner can show that the obligor’s child support obligations differ from the guidelines set forth in the IMDMA by more than 20%, but no less than $10.00 per month, unless the court that entered the existing order intentionally deviated from the amounts shown in the guidelines.  

However, this option is only available to individuals who are receiving child support enforcement services from the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services and whose child support order was entered more than 36 months prior to seeking modification.

Those who may request a review include: 

  • Non-Custodial Parent: the parent who does not live with the child(ren),
  • Custodial Parent/Caretaker: the parent/caretaker who lives with the child(ren),
  • Healthcare and Family Services, or
  • Another state’s child support agency.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that all existing orders will remain in effect until a court or an administrative agency modifies the order. Your support order may be modified (increased or decreased) based on the income of the non-custodial parent and state law. 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 Support modifications and  Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. If you need to request modification of parenting time in Illinois, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

 

What Does a Family Law Attorney Cover?

Most people will use the terms “Family Law” and “Divorce Lawyer” interchangeably with each other.  The truth, however, is that Divorce Law is only one aspect of Family Law. 

What is family law and what do family lawyers do? Family law is a legal practice area that focuses on issues involving family relationships, such as adoption, divorce, and child custody, among others. Therefore, family law attorneys are legal professionals that specialize in these specific matters. Family lawyers can also act as mediators when family disagreements develop and represent litigants in family conflicts that end up in courts.

Below are some of the things that an experienced and reputable family law attorney can do for you.

Child Custody/Child Support agreements

In the hardest of times when a couple separates, one of the most challenging problems to solve is children.

Court orders and settlement agreements involving both custody and support usually are included in the larger divorce case, but may be revisited as conditions change. For instance, child support may be altered after the non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes.

A child support order is determined by what is reasonable and necessary for the support of the child or children. It is presumed that the guideline support amounts represent the amount of support that is reasonable and necessary, unless it can be demonstrated to the court that circumstances exist that would make the guideline amount inappropriate.

Divorce and Divorce Mediation

Undergoing a divorce is probably one of the most draining experiences that a family can face, and divorce cases involving substantial assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge. A good divorce attorney is skilled at dividing marital property, calculating spousal support, and proposing a plan for child custody, visitation, and support (if applicable).

Attorneys can also cover divorce mediation. Divorce Mediators work with a couples involved in family break-ups to make arrangements, either to plan for a separation or divorce, or after the split has taken place, without the need for court intervention.

Domestic Violence Protection

Domestic violence is described as abusive behavior when a family or household member uses physical or mental maltreatment toward another family or household member. The IDVA uses the following terms as abuse:

1. Physical abuse
2. Harassment
3. Intimidation of a dependent
4. Interference with personal liberty
5. Willful deprivation
6. Exploitation
7. Stalking

An Order of Protection is a court order made in writing which prohibits, by law, further abusive behavior.

Who are persons considered to be family or household members?
The IDVA defines members to include:

1. A spouse
2. Ex-spouse
3. Girlfriend/boyfriend who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship
4. Parents
5. Children
6. Stepchildren
7. Significant other/partner
8. Persons who share or allege to have a blood relationship through a child
9. Persons who live together or formerly lived together
10. Persons with disabilities and their personal assistants

International Child Abduction (Hague Convention)

Although not a common practice for most family lawyers, some specific attorneys have the knowledge, experience and skills in Hague Convention cases to take on international parental child abduction cases. 

The Hague Convention is a treaty that many countries, including the United States, have joined. Its purpose is to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction by a parent. Proving claims in international child abduction cases under the Hague Abduction Convention requires analysis and careful development of all evidence and testimony that may support or defeat defenses to claims of wrongful abduction or retention. Therefore, choosing an attorney who has extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes is vital.

Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

Now that you know what a family law attorney is, you’re probably wondering how hiring legal representation in your family law case would benefit you. Here are the major benefits that come with hiring a family lawyer.

Legal Protection

How realistic are the claims coming from the other party? Can the other party actually receive what they’re stating they’ll receive? A family law attorney knows the law, as well as the outcomes of past verdicts, and can use that knowledge to help you receive the best possible outcome.

Legal Knowledge

There’s a lot of red tape and substantial paperwork when it comes to family law proceedings. And that’s before it goes to trial. By hiring a family law attorney, you can rest assured the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. Consequently, you will not have to sweat about your case being thrown out as early as possible.

Court Experience

If a case goes to court, experienced attorneys can make sure that their client is prepared for everything that is going to happen when they enter the courtroom room, and will know exactly how to handle any particular situation that arises during the pendency of a family law case. This will keep the judge happy and the proceedings running smoothly and efficiently.

Peace of Mind

Ultimately, one of the best benefits of hiring a family law attorney to represent your interests in a case is the fact that you will be able to trust your legal issues are being duly dealt with. Whenever you have an issue or a family matter that requires legal representation, it’s essential to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced professional.

Last Words

There are areas of Family Law that involve people who are involved in Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships, and same-sex relationships.  As a Chicago-based Family Law practice, we can ensure that the appropriate contracts and agreements are in place to help to avoid any issues in the future.

If you are facing a family law issue, contact the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and related family matters.

We offer a wide range of services tailored to our clients’ unique legal needs. Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to view our practice areas. And click here to set up a consultation today.

Parentage Rights for Same-Sex Couples

Fortunately for married same-sex couples in Illinois who have children, the Illinois Parentage Act provides the same protections that were once afforded to fathers in a heterosexual marriage. Here’s what you need to know. 

Parents are legally recognized in three ways: through marriage, adoption, and DNA. While same-sex couples may now legally marry throughout the United States, not all states have provided an equal opportunity for gay parents to obtain parental rights, whether through biology, legally recognized partnership, adoption, or other means.

What is Parentage?

In parentage cases, also called “paternity cases,” the court makes orders that say who the child’s legal parents are.

If parents are married when a child is born, there is usually no question about parentage. 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, parentage of their children needs to be established legally.  If there is not an agreement on paternity of a child, the Court can order a DNA test to determine the father.  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.

Presumption of Parentage under the Illinois Parentage Act

What is a presumption of paternity under Illinois law, and how does it establish the rights and responsibilities of a parent? Generally speaking, a presumption of paternity refers to situations in which the law says that a person is the child’s presumed parent—typically the father. Matters of paternity—and the presumption of paternity—are governed by the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 (750 ILCS 46/). That statute defines a “presumed parent” as “an individual who . . . is recognized as the parent of a child until that status is rebutted or confirmed in a judicial or administrative proceeding.”

A presumption of paternity typically happens in cases where there is no direct evidence that the parent is the child’s biological parent, but there are other ways in which that person is presumed to be the parent (and therefore responsible for providing care and support to the child). Situations in which there is a presumption of paternity may include:

  • Individual (presumed parent) married the child’s biological mother or otherwise started a relationship with the child’s biological mother, and the child was born during the relationship;
  • Individual and the child’s biological mother got married, and the child was born within 300 days of the end of the marriage;
  • Individual and the child’s biological mother got married, but the marriage was determined to be invalid, and the child was born within 300 days of the declaration of invalidity of the marriage; or
  • Individual married the child’s biological mother or otherwise started a relationship with the child’s biological mother after the child was born, but the individual is listed (by choice) as the parent on the child’s birth certificate.

Since a presumption means only that parentage is presumed, there are ways either to provide evidence of paternity or to dispute paternity. Presumptions of paternity can be disputed, for example, with DNA evidence and other forms of documentation.

How the Presumption of Paternity Extends to Same-Sex Couples

The Illinois Parentage Act also extends to same-sex couples, including when it comes to the presumption of parentage. Same-sex parents are now also permitted to have both their names on a birth certificate, and there is a presumption that the parents listed on a birth certificate are the child’s parents.

This legal presumption is important when it comes to parenting time issues in a divorce or legal separation. Without this presumption, a parent who wants child custody would have to prove a legal relationship with the child in order to have standing to seek custody. A person who does not have standing cannot prevail in a legal challenge seeking rights to custody or even visitation.

Once parentage has established under any of the criteria set forth in the statute, the parent can be allocated parental responsibility, parenting time, and even be required to pay child support. Like heterosexual couples, the court determines the issues of time-sharing and parental responsibility by considering the best interests of the child. However, if the child is born as part of a surrogacy agreement, there are laws that govern how that situation would be handled.

Lastly, men in a same-sex marriage may still be at a disadvantage even under the revised law because the law does not create a presumption for either man having a child with a woman outside the marriage. Both men would have to adopt the child to gain legal rights.

Contact Masters Law Group

As you can see, same-sex parents can face legal hurdles when determining their parental rights. Illinois parental laws do not discriminate between same-sex and opposite-sex parents; However, some judges may have limited experience with LGBTQ relationships. The attorneys at Masters Law Group use their years of experience and relationships with the local courts to prevent issues and focus on solving problems and achieving the best possible result for our clients.

Each year in the Illinois, thousands of families seek answers to questions regarding divorce, separation, allocation of parental responsibilities, support and other matters of family law. If you have questions about how the Illinois Parentage Act applies to you, contact the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group here today. 

What is Paternity Fraud and Should I be Concerned?

Paternity fraud occurs when a man is incorrectly identified as the biological father of a child by the mother. In this blog, we discuss the cause of action for paternity fraud in Illinois. Read more