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joliet-child-custody-lawyer.jpgSibling relationships can be incredibly important for children. Siblings are often a child’s first and best friends. Even in blended families, step and half siblings may share a bond. When parents are splitting up, siblings may rely on each other for a sense of stability at a time when major changes are occurring. Illinois courts are often reluctant to separate siblings who enjoy a close relationship. However, this type of bonding does not occur for all children with acting parents in common. In some cases, sibling relationships are difficult or even abusive. In that case, the court may find that separating siblings is in the children’s best interest. If you are involved in child custody proceedings and have concerns about helping your children maintain meaningful relationships with their full, half, or even step siblings, an attorney can help you decide how to proceed. 

What do Illinois Courts Consider When it Comes to Sibling Relationships?

During any child custody proceeding, whether it involves a divorce or not, the deciding factor is always the best interest of the children. In determining what kind of custody arrangement would be right, courts will investigate what the children need and want. The court will consider the children’s emotional needs just as it will consider their physical needs. In many cases, a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to help the judge understand what kind of living situation would be best for the children. Close sibling relationships are certainly something that can be considered. When possible, siblings will be given plenty of time together.

What if My Child Needs Protection from a Step or Half Sibling?

On the flipside, a harmful sibling relationship can also come into play. It is not uncommon for young children to face bullying or abuse from a much older sibling, especially in blended families. Courts will not purposely allow a child to be placed in a dangerous situation. If you are afraid that one of your children will be harmed by a sibling, this is definitely something that your attorney can make sure the court is aware of. Provisions can be made to ensure that your child is safe from a harmful sibling. 

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IL family lawyerOn average, it takes victims of domestic violence or spousal abuse seven attempts to leave the abuser before they finally succeed. The reasons that so many women - and sometimes men - stay in abusive and dangerous relationships are complex. Abusers often isolate their victims from others who could help them and create a situation where the victim is financially dependent on the abuser. Others stay because the abuser has threatened to harm them or their children should they leave. If this is the situation you are in, you should know that there is a way out. If you are ready to seek a divorce and a safe exit from your abusive marriage, there are steps an attorney can take to help protect you. The Foray Firm is committed to helping people who are facing spousal abuse stay safe during and after the divorce process.

What if I am Financially Dependent on My Abusive Spouse?

In Illinois, as soon as you file for divorce, your attorney can seek a temporary spousal maintenance order. In situations where a financially dependent spouse is seeking to leave an abusive marriage, these orders are typically granted. Your spouse can be ordered to continue supporting you financially as you leave.

Staying Safe When Leaving an Abusive Spouse

No one deserves to be trapped in an abusive marriage. Domestic violence is always the offender's fault and never the victim's. Leaving an abusive marriage can be very scary. When you are ready to take this brave step towards building a new life for yourself, there are some steps you and your attorney can take to keep you safe. Ways to stay safer include:

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IL custody lawyerSupervised visitation arrangements are often used in lieu of sole custody when one parent is unfit to be left alone with their children. The goal of supervised visitation is to allow children to maintain a relationship with both parents while also keeping them safe from any harm one parent could potentially cause. Supervised visitation involves having a trusted, responsible adult present while the unfit parent spends time with their children to ensure the children’s safety and wellbeing. Often, in cases where one parent initially asked for sole custody, supervised visitation works as a good compromise. If you are a parent in a situation where your children’s other parent could be a threat to them in any way, you should speak with a lawyer about the possibility of using supervised visitation. The children’s interests always come first in any Illinois child custody case.

How Does Supervised Visitation Work in Illinois?

Supervised visitation can take several forms. It can mean that the other parent will be able to have normal visitation in their home, but a designated adult the court trusts must be present at all times. Overnight visits are very rarely permitted when supervision is needed. In some cases, the parent requiring supervision will not be permitted to have the children in their home but can spend time with them in a public location like a park or a restaurant. This is often used when the main problem is that the parent cannot provide a suitable living environment for the children.

Designated visitation centers are another option. This is the most restrictive form of supervised visitation. The parent who must be supervised will only be allowed to spend time with their children in a facility specifically designed for supervised visitation. These centers are staffed by trained individuals and have stringent rules parents must follow, such as “no cursing.”

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IL family lawyerIn Illinois, the presumption is that it is in the child’s best interest to have some type of relationship with both parents. In general, courts want to keep both parents involved in their children’s lives. In the vast majority of child custody cases, both parents will be granted some parenting time and some share of the parental responsibilities. However, there are outlier cases where one parent is so harmful or dangerous to their children that allowing them to spend any time at all together is simply not in the children's best interests. In these cases, it may be possible for one parent to be given exclusive access to their children. If you are in the type of situation where you feel that getting sole custody is necessary to protect your children, you will need to get in contact with a well-qualified child custody attorney as soon as possible. Obtaining sole custody in Illinois is not easy.

Under What Circumstances Could Sole Custody be Possible?

Courts will often resort to using supervised visitation before they will sever the relationship between a child and one of their parents. While you may not like it, supervised visitation is generally safe, as there will be a responsible and trusted adult present to keep an eye on things. That said, there are some circumstances under which courts will consider giving one parent exclusive custody, such as:

  • Abuse - If your co-parent has a history of abusing your children, spending any time with the abuser could be harmful to the children. Your children may be fearful of the abuser to the point where having to visit them would be upsetting or even traumatic. Even with supervision, children may experience intense emotional disturbances if forced to spend time with the parent who abused them. Courts may refuse visitation to a parent who has been abusive.
  • Criminal activity - Simply having a criminal record is not enough to show that the other parent is unfit for shared custody. Quite a few people with some criminal history manage to turn their lives around and parent responsibly. However, if your children’s other parent is still engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct - for example, if they are a drug dealer or in a gang - then the court may not want them to have any access to their children.
  • Mental illness or substance abuse - A lot of excellent parents are in substance abuse recovery or are managing mental health issues. However, if your co-parent’s ongoing substance abuse or unmanaged mental illness is so severe that they cannot be trusted around vulnerable children, the court may consider sole custody.

Even if you are given sole custody, there is a chance that the order could change later. If the other parent makes substantial changes to their lifestyle, like going to rehab and staying clean, the custody issue could be revisited in the future.

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Il divorce lawyerIt is often said that around 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The actual statistics are unknown, but even if the divorce rate is not that high, the fact remains that a significant percentage of marriages do not last. For those who are planning to get married or who are in a happy relationship, divorce may not seem to be likely. However, it can be a good idea to consider the possibility that a relationship will end, and by making decisions ahead of time through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, a couple can help avoid conflict and uncertainty in the future.

Prenups Vs. Postnups

A prenuptial agreement (prenup) will be signed by a couple before their wedding, while a postnuptial agreement (postnup) can be created at any time after spouses become legally married. Both types of agreements can address the same issues, including detailing how certain issues may be handled during a couple’s marriage and making decisions about what will happen if their marriage ends through divorce, legal separation, or the death of either spouse.

Generally, prenups and postnups will be limited to addressing matters related to a couple’s property and finances. An agreement may specify that certain assets owned by the spouses will remain separate property rather than marital property, or it may decide on how different assets and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce. A prenup or postnup may also include details about spousal maintenance, including specifying whether one spouse will pay support to the other or deciding on the amount that will be paid and the duration that payments will last. However, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements generally cannot make decisions about child custody, and they cannot reduce the amount of child support that a parent would be required to pay by law.

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