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Il family lawyerThere is a mass incarceration crisis in America. Our country has a higher percentage of people in jail or prison than any other country in the world. Fully one out of five incarcerated individuals in the world is in an American correctional facility. Many of these inmates are parents. Having legal problems does not make someone a bad or harmful parent. Often, it remains in the best interests of the child to have the incarcerated parent be part of their life as much as possible. However, there is a limit to how much parenting time one can have while they are locked up. In Illinois, courts are beginning to recognize the value of helping children maintain a relationship with an incarcerated parent during child custody cases. A lawyer can help you understand how incarceration could affect your custody case.

What You Need to Know About the Impact of Incarceration on Child Custody

While a parent who is in jail or prison cannot have primary physical custody, visitation is a possibility. Courts consider a variety of factors before making a custody decision in any case. When one parent is incarcerated or anticipates being incarcerated, the court has a bit more to consider. Some facts you should know about the impact of incarceration on child custody issues include:

  • Guardian ad Litem - It is very likely that a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to help the court better understand what the best course of action for the child might be. This individual’s role is simply to talk with your child and assess what is in their best interest.
  • Visitation - Getting parenting time during incarceration is not impossible - many judges will still award an incarcerated parent some parenting time. While your child’s other parent will have primary custody, it can be arranged to have your child visit. Depending on the circumstances, like whether there is a divorce involved and when it is finalized, it may be relatively easy or rather difficult to arrange visitation for an incarcerated parent.
  • Child support - Being locked up does not automatically relieve a parent of their obligation to support their child. However, the court will consider your lack of income and ability to pay when making a determination.
  • Circumstances matter - A parent who is serving time for child abuse is much less likely to retain any rights to see their child than a parent who was convicted of a crime that does not directly affect or endanger the child, like theft or minor drug possession.

If you have concerns about how being incarcerated could affect your continuing legal and personal relationship with your child, speaking with an attorney is the best place to start.

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IL family laywerBeing a single parent can be extremely difficult. Your child’s needs do not decrease just because they only have one parent to care for them and provide for them. In Illinois, children have the right to be supported financially by both of their parents. This typically takes the form of child support payments. One problem that many single mothers face is that the father of their child refuses to acknowledge that he is indeed the child’s other parent. This can create a roadblock, but with the help of a skilled attorney, it is often a very surmountable roadblock.

Even if the father refuses to acknowledge paternity voluntarily, Illinois state law provides a mechanism for establishing paternity involuntarily. If you are faced with this difficult situation, you should strongly consider speaking to an attorney about your options.

How Can Paternity be Established if My Child’s Father Will Not Cooperate?

Even if your child’s father refuses to accept or admit that he is the father, there are still ways to establish paternity. In many cases, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services will intervene and try to resolve the situation before involving the court. They may be able to conduct a paternity test or create a legal presumption of parentage if the father fails to show up.

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IL custody lawyerIllinois law presumes that both a child’s parents are safe and capable of caring for their children. However, there are situations in which a parent’s rights may be limited or even eliminated. If there are concerns about a child’s safety with a parent, the court has the authority to impose certain restrictions on parenting time. If you are an unmarried or divorced parent, it is important to understand how and when parenting time restrictions are implemented.

Illinois Courts Impose Parenting Time Restrictions on a Case-by-Case Basis

Illinois law describes parenting duties in terms of “parental responsibilities,” meaning decision-making authority and “parenting time,” which used to be called visitation. The court assumes that it is best for a child to spend time with both of his or her parents unless there is ample evidence to the contrary. Consequently, the burden of proof is on the party requesting a parenting time restriction.

If a parent is worried about his or her child’s safety with the other parent, the parent may file a motion to limit parenting time or parental responsibilities. Many different issues may lead a parent to file a motion for restricted parenting time, including:

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IL family lawyerDomestic violence can happen to anyone. Domestic abuse reflects negatively only on the abuser, never the victim. You might feel trapped in your marriage or relationship because you share children with the abuser, or you are married to them, or even because they have taken steps to unlawfully restrict your liberty. Others feel they have to stay because they are financially dependent on the abuser. Whatever is keeping you trapped in your dangerous relationship, there is a way out. If you are one of the millions of people who will experience violence at home this year, there are steps a lawyer can take to help you get out safely. Whether you need a divorce or are concerned about the safety of your children, there are likely ways that a family law attorney can help.

How Does Illinois Family Law Protect Family Violence Victims?

When you are ready to safely exit your abusive relationship, here are some protections that may be available to you:

  • Protection orders - A lot of people are afraid to exit their relationships because they have nowhere else to go. A protective order can force the abuser to immediately leave your home, no matter whose name it is in. These orders also prevent the abuser from interfering with your housing or utilities or contacting you. It can also give you temporary emergency custody of your children and order the abuser to pay child support.
  • Domestic violence affects custody - If you have children in common with your abuser, you should know that a family law court will consider domestic violence when deciding on child custody concerns. Courts put the safety and wellbeing of the children first and foremost and will be reluctant to allow someone with a history of violence to spend unsupervised time with children.
  • Public resources - There are community resources available to those who are fleeing domestic violence. A family law attorney can help connect you to these resources so that you and your children’s needs can be met in the abuser’s absence.
  • Defining domestic violence - The legal definition of domestic violence in Illinois is not limited to simple physical abuse, although that is certainly included in the definition. If your partner threatens or harasses you, or interferes with your personal freedom - like by preventing you from leaving or blocking you from exiting the home - courts will look at these behaviors as a form of domestic violence.

Keep in mind that domestic violence almost never gets better - it only escalates. The sooner you are out, the better.

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IL divorce lawyerThere are a variety of financial issues that will need to be addressed during a divorce, including determining how to divide the property a couple owns between the two spouses. However, during the property division process, a couple will also need to consider the debts they owe. Just like the assets a couple owns, the amounts that are owed to creditors will need to be allocated between the spouses. However, it is important to understand how different types of debts may be handled, as well as the factors that may complicate things during or after a divorce.

Division of Secured and Unsecured Debts

It is important to remember that assets and debts do not need to be divided exactly equally. Illinois law requires a “fair and equitable” distribution of marital property. Depending on the decisions made about certain types of assets, each spouse’s overall financial situation, and other factors, the final decisions on how to divide debts may vary. While they work to reach agreements on these issues, a couple will need to consider how different types of debts may be handled.

Balances on credit cards are some of the most common debts that couples will have. Any balances on a joint credit card will typically be considered marital debts, although even if a card was only in one spouse’s name, purchases made using this card while a couple was married will also usually need to be considered during the property division process. Credit card purchases that may not count as marital debts include those that may be considered asset dissipation, meaning that they were made by a spouse for their own sole benefit after the point at which their marriage had broken down beyond repair. Charges that occurred after a couple’s legal separation but before their divorce will also be considered separate property.

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