Tag Archive for: Parenting time

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

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

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

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

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

The Right to Change Your Mind at Any Time

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

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

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

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

The Right to Choose Your Post-Placement Relationship

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

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

Voluntary vs Involuntary Termination

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

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

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

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

Timing 

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

Visitation Rights

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

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

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

Free Counseling for Birth Parents

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

Revoking Consent

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

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

Can Adoptive Parents Cut Off Acces?  

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Back to School: 5 Tips for Co-Parenting

Back to school comes with a lot of nerves and excitement for children and families. For parents who are separated, in the middle of a divorce, or  already divorced, co-parenting with your ex can be a challenge.  At this time of year however, your children need you to put aside your animosity in order to make their school year a success.

After a divorce, working with your child’s other parent may be uncomfortable to say the least. But making the effort to cooperate with your co-parent and your child’s school set-up can make things easier for everyone. That’s especially true now, with emerging strains of COVID-19, and now Monkeypox concerns clouding parents’ vision of the 2022-2023 school year.

We know it can be hard to get on the same page with your ex. We also know that you want what’s best for your children—and that means being able to communicate effectively with each other in order to ensure they get the education they deserve.

Here’s what you should know about co-parenting this fall and a couple of tips to help you prepare for your child’s 2022-2023 school year.

Share Obligations for Back to School Shopping

As the school year approaches, it’s important to remember that back-to-school shopping is a shared responsibility. Shopping for materials and supplies can be costly, especially if you’re buying them for more than one child. While many parents are happy to help their children pick out new clothes and supplies, others may not be as excited about the process of buying “boring” mandatory necessities. Make a clear plan of who is buying what, and when, to ensure your child doesn’t miss out on those soccer boots or rucksack (plus you’ll avoid duplication of expenses).

Keep a Predictable Parenting Time Schedule

Stay ahead of any anticipated disputes by designing, implementing, and complying with a detailed Parenting Time plan. Creating a parenting time schedule can be an emotional law topic and should have been set during your divorce proceedings. If this is not the case, it’s important for parent-child relationships to have consistency in their schedule, and therefore you need to set one immediately.

For parents, it helps both people keep track of the child’s activities. For children, it helps give them a sense of routine, security, and certainty that is an important part of healthy child development.

Inform Your Child’s School of Your Co-Parenting Arrangements

When your kids start a new school year, it’s important to make sure that the school knows who they should talk to in case of emergencies. And even more importantly, who they should release your children to after school.

At the start of each school year, provide the principal at your children’s school with a copy of your child custody and parenting time order. This is especially true if your custody/parenting time order has been modified over the past year, or if your kids have changed schools. This includes children who are graduating from elementary to middle or from middle to high school. This will put the school on notice about who they should talk to in case of emergencies, and who to release your children to after school to avoid conflict.

Coordinate Events with Your Co-Parent 

It can be difficult to attend school functions when you’re divorced. Your co-parent may not want you to go, or they might want you to attend but won’t be there themselves. If this is the case, make sure your child knows who will be attending without making it seem like the non-attending parent didn’t want to go.

Sporting events, class plays and class graduations are all important to your child and their development. They will ultimately suffer if you end up clashing at these important milestones. For their sake, try to cooperate with one another to attend school events together as a show of unity and support. If that isn’t a possibility, make sure your child knows who will be attending so they’re not on the lookout for ultimate disappointment.

Set Expectations and Remember Your Priorities

The first few weeks of school can be a bit chaotic. It’s important to remember that it’s not just your child who is adjusting to new teachers, new classrooms, and new classmates—you are too!

When you and your co-parent are starting back-to-school planning, make sure you’re both on the same page. Back-to-school time opens a door for conflict, but conflict results in the child/children suffering.

You and your co-parent need to know what is expected of each other. Who is going to help with homework? Who will take your child to football practice? Maybe mom helps one child and dad is responsible for helping the other. Maybe you take it in weekly or biweekly turns. There is no right answer, but whatever arrangement you and your co-parent decide upon should be detailed in your parenting plan to eliminate confusion in the future.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

If you STILL cannot come to a civil agreement on parenting time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities is an actionable step to set a new plan in place.

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

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

Sole allocation of parental responsibilities is the term that describes the arrangement that gives one parent the responsibility for deciding everything related to the child’s welfare. It does not mean that the other parent is out of the picture.

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

How Masters Law Group Can Help

Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. Attorney Erin E. Masters is a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Attorney Anthony G. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

We offer a variety of services to help parents, children, and families through difficult times like Divorce, Parenting Time and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. If you are in need of legal assistance, contact a member of our team today. Our attorneys will work with you to develop an action plan that is fair and fits your unique needs and goals. 

We will work diligently on your behalf and provide regular updates throughout the process. You can count on us when it matters most—and we hope that means now! Contact us today to speak to a qualified Chicago family law attorney to set up a free consultation with us.

 

Child Visitation Rights for Same Sex Couples

Happy LGBTQ Month! To celebrate Pride month, Masters Law Group dives into everything you need to know about Child Visitation (Parenting Time) Rights for Same Sex Couples in our great state of Illinois.

It’s been eight years since Illinois legalized same-sex marriage in the state. If you are a spouse in a same-sex marriage, you may be unfamiliar with Illinois’ visitation rights laws. Though the same statutory provisions apply regardless of same or opposite sex parents, the laws can be complex.

Masters Law Group understands how difficult divorce is for parents who want nothing but the best for their children. Rest assured, our attorneys have in-depth knowledge of same-sex child custody and vistation laws in order to help you. Here’s a look at Parenting Time in Illinois for Same Sex Couples.

What are Child Visitation Rights?

Child Visitation Rights is the in-person time spent between a child and the child’s parent, or guardian which can fall under a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, step-parent, or any person designated under subsection (d) of Section 602.7.

The amount of time that a parent or guardian is allowed to visit their child depends on many things. A court won’t restrict visitation in either a joint custody arrangement or a sole custody situation except when it’s necessary to protect a child’s welfare. Under Illinois law, the restriction of parenting time refers to any limit or condition on parenting time, including supervision.

Courts in Illinois don’t typically place restrictions on parenting time, unless necessary to prevent serious endangerment to a child. In Illinois, courts can create restrictions if they feel it necessary in order to protect the child, here are a couple examples of the following:

  • Supervision at visits
  • Mandate locations for visits
  • Deny visits when the parent is under the influence of drugs/alcohol or has used them within a designated period preceding the visit; and
  • Deny overnight visits

It’s important to note that only parents have a legal right to parenting time. However, there are circumstances where guardians may ask for a visitation order from the court when they have been denied reasonable visitation.

Same-Sex Parents Have the Same Parenting Time Rights

In 2015, the Overgefell v. Hodges case went to the US Supreme Court which handed a decision that put same-sex couples on equal footing with all other spouses in domestic relations matters.  People of the same-sex can marry, divorce, and address all of the key issues that come up when dissolving their marriage. The basis of this ruling is the 14th Amendment which prohibits the government from denying a person of certain rights without due process.

States were violating this constitutional concept by forbidding same-sex marriage so the Justices made it legal across the board. As such, same-sex couples can – and must – address child custody, visitation, and child support in any divorce case involving minor children.

Illinois Law on Child Visitation/Parenting Time For Same-Sex Couples

Illinois divorce law uses the terms “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time to refer to the various issues involved with raising a child. Here are the following provisions:

  • Parenting Time: This concept goes hand in hand with the idea of traditional visitation, where the parent enjoying the time with the child is responsible for the care of the child and making non-significant decisions about the child.
  • Parenting Plan: When a couple divorces, they must submit a Parenting Plan to the court outlining agreements on decision-making and parenting time. Parents who cannot agree may file a separate Parenting Plan and the court will make a decision based upon the child’s best interests.

Illinois Parenting Time Guidelines

Illinois prefers shared parenting time whenever it’s in the child’s best interests. In shared parenting time, the child spends periods with both parents.

A judge must approve all parenting time schedules, even when parents come to an agreement in a settlement. If parents can’t agree, each submits a proposal, and the court decides.

Keep in mind that schedules should align with your child’s needs and can affect your child support payments.

The schedule is a part of your parenting plan, meaning it becomes a legally-binding court order with a judge’s approval. It is important to follow the schedule as written, though parents can agree on small tweaks or ask the court to modify the order.

Hiring an Experienced Attorney

By hiring a knowledgeable family law attorney – who is highly experienced in same-sex family law issues  – you will only help put you and your family at ease. 

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.

Throughout her career, attorney Erin E. Masters has focused her practice on all areas related to family law, including divorce, child custody and support, paternity issues, visitation and parenting time, pre- and postnuptial agreements, prosecuting and defending Orders of Protection, and many other areas involving domestic relations and dissolution of marriage.

Furthermore, attorney Anthony G. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. So you can rest assured you are in the best possible hands.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

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.

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. 

 

Preparation for a Family Court Trial

Your divorce and/or custody has been set for trial. With so much at stake, being well-prepared can help you feel more confident and calm. Here are some useful steps that can help you to prepare your case effectively in family court.

When parents divorce in the state of Illinois, their divorce settlement must outline a plan for different issues regarding their children. This plan should include child support, custody and visitation. Some parents are able to utilize mediation or work together to determine where their children will live and how much time will be spent with each parent.

There are some cases in which parents are unable to resolve custody disputes without legal intervention. In that situation, it is best to get a family lawyer to advise parents to prepare themselves for a potential child custody evaluation. Here’s some ways to prepare for a family court trial.

Preparing For Trial

Attorneys will guide you through the preparation process and help you gather evidence. Your job is to provide everything your attorney asks for and be 100% honest so they can prepare for arguments the other party may be compiling. 

If you plan on representing yourself, most legal experts would recommend consulting with an attorney to ensure you’re ready for court. This is different from hiring a lawyer to represent you since they will provide you with advice during meetings.

You’ll need to present evidence to support your case, which includes exhibits and witnesses. It’s always important to review the Illinois Rules of Evidence, and remember that witnesses cannot testify to hearsay.

Examples of Evidence You Can Provide

  • Bills and medical reports 
  • Photos/Videos of you and your child
  • Phone logs and visits with your child
  • A calendar showing when you care for your child
  • Anything that proves you to be fit as a parent and meets evidence requirements

It’s important to be prepared and have the judge know your stance on what is best for your child. You can do this by providing a parenting plan and parenting time schedule to trial. Along with all documents, bring a copy for the court, one for the other parent and one for yourself.

Witnesses can be anyone with knowledge relevant to the case. Parents almost always testify as witnesses. A child is more likely to do an interview with the judge outside of the courtroom, since the probability of them testifying is low. Expert witnesses provide professional opinions and are appointed by the court or hired by a party. Examples of expert witnesses are child custody evaluators or psychologists. Lay witnesses do not offer expert opinions, but they testify about their personal knowledge of a situation. These witnesses include family members, friends, and teachers.

Trial Scheduling

Trials usually take place several months after the initial filing. If the case is not progressing 18 months after filing, the judge may decide to issue a ruling at that time. Trials typically tend to be a few hours and will often be done in one sitting. 

Longer trials may be broken up into sessions spread out over days, weeks or, in some complicated cases, months. Be aware that the court may delay your trial date due to requests for more time from the other parent.

Trial Procedures

The parent who requested parental responsibilities, also known as the petitioner, may give an opening statement to explain how they see the case. The other parent, also known as the respondent, can then follow. 

If you are represented by an attorney, they will speak on your behalf. The petitioner calls witnesses and presents exhibits first. Any number of witnesses can be called to testify, as long as they were on the list that was filed with the court and provided to the other parent. 

Following Procedures:

  • Next, the respondent calls their witnesses and presents their exhibits.
  • Later, each side can submit additional evidence (called rebuttal evidence) to disprove the other side’s claims.

Finally, both parties give closing arguments to summarize their points. Judges announce rulings immediately following closing arguments, but they can take several days or weeks to decide. The final judgment replaces temporary orders previously put in place. Your options for changing a final judgment include appealing to a higher court or applying for a modification.

Final Thoughts

Masters Law Group understands that preparation for a family court trial can be a stressful situation. Our firm makes sure they are with you every step of the way. We currently handle family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties and concentrate in the 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 and have a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to set up a consultation today.

What Should You Include in Your Illinois Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a document that says who will make decisions for a child and how those decisions will be made. This often happens in a parental responsibilities case. These plans outline how you and the other parent will continue to care and provide for your children after you separate. 

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.

What to include in your plan:

  • Where the child lives
  • Time the child spends with each parent
  • How each parent gets information and records about the child
  • How the child is to be transported for parenting time

When filing one plan, both parents must sign the plan indicating they agree on all the terms of the document. If parents do not agree, they must file separate plans. The court will look at each detail of both plans to determine what’s in the best interest of the child or children. 

Important things to know about Parenting Plans:

  • Each parent must file a parenting plan within 120 days of asking the court for parental responsibilities;
  • If the parents agree on parental responsibilities, including parenting time, they can file one parenting plan (signed by both parents) within the 120 days. If the parents don’t agree, they must each file their own parenting plans;
  • If neither parent files a parenting plan, the court will hold a hearing to determine the child’s best interests; and
  • The court will look at the parenting plans when it decides who gets parental responsibilities.

Once both plans have been created and shared with the court to examine each parent’s responsibilities, the court can accept the plan and it becomes a Joint Parenting Order. After the Joint Parenting Order is in place, changes cannot be made to it for two years. 

If either parent does not follow the order, they are breaking the law and can be taken to court. The purpose of a court order for parental responsibilities is to protect both parents’ rights when it comes to the care and decision-making responsibilities of the child.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

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

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

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

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

Parenting planning of your child can be a very emotional law topic. It can 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 parental planning issues.

Hiring 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.

 

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.

Child Custody During COVID-19 and The Holidays

Dealing with child custody issues is stressful enough. Dealing with child custody issues during the COVID holidays poses an entirely complicated dilemma. Here’s how keep the magic alive for your children and ensure that the 2020 holidays are your best yet.

Shared custody is raising COVID-19 concerns as kids travel between households for the holidays this year. Millions of children split their time between parents every week and even more so during the holidays, but concerns over pandemic safety can make that time even more stressful.

Parents are facing unforeseen issues this year such as:

  • The child having to travel to another part of the state, or another state altogether, to visit their parent
  • One parent living in a COVID-19 hotspot
  • One parent had COVID-19 or is currently experiencing symptoms
  • One parent is not being careful about COVID-19 and could be putting the child in danger
  • One parent does not feel the virus is a true health threat
  • One parent is immunocompromised and in isolation
  • There may be a second wave and more shelter-in-place orders

These new and complex issues may be even more difficult if the courts backed up with cases because of the nationwide lockdowns this past year.

If you’re concerned about COVID-19 and your child’s holiday visitation schedule, then there are steps you can take to work it out with your co-parent, and then go directly to the court to ensure it is legally binding.

Parenting Time COVID Rules

Unless your specific court order prevents out-of-state travel or has other restrictions, then generally speaking, each parent may choose to travel during the holidays even during the pandemic, whether or not the other parent agrees. However, violating state travel laws, CDC and state quarantine guidelines and court-ordered visitation arrangements can potentially affect a custody case. Furthermore, personal issues may also arise when one parent feels safe with airline travel or interstate travel and the other parent prefers to stay at home and self-isolate.

First and foremost, if you chose to travel with your children during the holidays, check in advance for any quarantine restrictions. Following state-imposed guidelines while traveling and attending events during the holidays will help minimize or reduce any potential impact to your custody arrangement.

In Illinois, the Department of Public Health (IDPH) is offering recommendations on how to celebrate safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.  During a time when social distancing and limiting the number of people at gatherings is important, special considerations should be taken.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “While the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually, we know, for many, the holidays are all about family and friends, so we want to provide some tips on how to celebrate safer.”

The guidelines also say if you are hosting a holiday gathering, limit the number of guests and try to have as many activities outside as weather permits.

What this Means for Separated Parents

This is going to be a long winter for our country, businesses, schools, and families — no doubt. It will take a child-focused, selfless perspective by countless co-parents this holiday season in how to best approach visitation and traditions with families and children.

First and foremost, you must remember that child custody agreements in Illinois, and in every other state, are legally binding. As long as a parent is following these state guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions, most judges will not alter custody orders to prevent one parent from traveling with the children.

While it’s tempting to want to ask that you have your children for the entire holiday season, you should not be angry or upset with your ex-partner if you are denied this due to the schedule set by the court. This year, it is highly suggested that people who live together celebrate together, rather than mixing households. Consider hosting a virtual holiday get together or check in with your kids and mailing your gifts instead. We know it hurts to not be able to visit your children for the holidays, but if it means risking your own life to do so, it’s worthwhile to heavily consider the alternatives.

If you believe a holiday visitation or celebration could place your child and your family at a heightened risk for COVID-19, you should communicate this fact to the other parent and/or your attorney. Offer some safer options and attempt to be as flexible and compassionate as possible. Always try to set emotion aside and as parents, choose what is best for your children and your family as a whole.

Final Thoughts

This is going to be a long winter for our country, businesses, schools, and families — no doubt. It will take a child-focused, selfless perspective by countless co-parents this holiday season in how to best approach visitation and traditions with families and children. Most of all, keep in mind who the holidays are the most special for: your children.

If you need legal assistance to modify a child custody or parenting time agreement to reflect new choices that better keep your family safe, contact the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group. We represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule.