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Wheaton family law attorney for termination of parental rightsIllinois courts presume that it is in a child’s best interests to have both parents involved in their life. However, it takes a great deal of responsibility and attention to adequately care for a child. If a parent cannot satisfactorily provide for a child’s needs, or if spending time with the parent may put the child in danger, the parent may be considered “unfit.” When a parent is declared unfit, the courts no longer presume that it is in the child’s best interests to spend time with that parent. When addressing family law issues, the parties involved will want to understand how parental fitness laws may affect the outcome of their case.

Illinois Law Regarding Parental Fitness

The issue of parental fitness is often explored during adoption. Typically, consent from both biological parents is required for an adoption to occur. However, if a parent is found to be unfit by “clear and convincing evidence,” the parent’s parental rights may be terminated. The adoption may then be permitted even without that parent’s consent. An unfit parent is typically defined as a parent who does not have the child’s best interests at heart. In Illinois, parental rights can only be terminated through a juvenile case initiated by the state or in conjunction with the Adoption Act. During a parental fitness hearing, the burden of proof is on the party claiming that the parent is unfit.

The following issues are often used as grounds to establish that a parent is unfit in Illinois:

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Wheaton divorce lawyer co-parenting bird nesting
If you are a parent who is planning to divorce, you probably have concerns about how the end of your marriage will affect your children. Fortunately, research shows that children with divorced parents can lead lives that are just as happy and healthy as children with married parents. In some cases, children are actually happier after their parents’ divorce, because they no longer see their parents arguing all the time or otherwise being miserable. Nevertheless, adjusting to a two-household family after divorce can be challenging for many children. One solution that more and more divorced parents are utilizing is “bird nesting.”

How Does Bird Nesting Work?

In the majority of divorce cases involving parents who share parenting time, the parents live in separate homes, and the children are transported between the two homes. While this scenario works for many divorced families, it can also sometimes lead to confusion and complication. For example, children may struggle to keep track of school supplies and special projects when they must move these items back and forth between the houses.

In a bird nesting situation, the children stay in one home, while the parents take turns living in the home during their assigned parenting time. This arrangement may provide many benefits, including increased stability for the children. However, bird nesting is not preferable or even possible in every shared parenting situation. If the parents are remarried or have children from another relationship, it may not be possible to share a home with their ex in this way. Bird nesting also requires both parents to be respectful of each other and work together. For example, if one parent is responsible for all of the cleaning while the other parent lets the children trash the house, this can lead to serious conflict, which will only add stress to the children’s lives.

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Wheaton divorce attorney for parenting time violationsParents who get divorced in Illinois will need to create a parenting plan or parenting agreement as part of their divorce settlement. If parents cannot agree on a plan, the court will make decisions about child custody and issue a parenting plan. In either case, a parenting plan will specify how major decisions about the child will be handled and when each parent will enjoy visitation, technically called “parenting time,” with their child. Understandably, many parents struggle to make the adjustment from spending every day with their child to sharing parenting time with their ex-spouse. However, if a parent purposefully violates the parenting agreement or withholds parenting time from the other parent, he or she can face serious consequences.

Penalties for Violating Your Illinois Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is an official court order, and both parents are required by law to follow the directions contained in the plan. Refusing to allow the other parent his or her allotted parenting time can result in civil and criminal consequences, including but not limited to:

  • A $500 fine

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Wheaton divorce attorney for child custody and property divisionThere is no doubt that social media can have a huge impact on divorce proceedings and family law matters. Although you may not realize it, the things you post on social media can be admissible as evidence in court. If you are getting divorced, you should know that the messages, photographs, and other information you are sharing online may be scrutinized and potentially used against you.

Proceed With Caution When Using Social Media During Child Custody Disputes

If you and your spouse disagree about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, you should be especially cautious about what you post on social media. When Illinois courts are considering what type of parenting arrangement is in a child’s best interests, they will consider a wide range of factors listed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, including the child’s relationship with his or her parents, the parents’ physical and mental health, and more. One factor that often gets overlooked is “the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.” If you make disparaging comments about your spouse, it could be construed as an unwillingness to encourage a good relationship between your child and his or her other parent.

Social Media May Provide Clues About Financial Fraud

Courts can only make appropriate decisions about spousal maintenance, child support, and asset distribution when both parties are honest about their financial circumstances. If you suspect that your spouse may be lying about finances in order to manipulate the divorce settlement in his or her favor, social media may contain clues about this deception. For example, if you are pursuing spousal maintenance, your spouse may underreport his or her income in an attempt to avoid paying his or her fair share of alimony. However, if he or she posts pictures of expensive purchases and luxury vacations on Facebook, the court may have reason to look more closely into his or her true financial circumstances. If you have reason to suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, contact an experienced divorce attorney right away.

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Wheaton, IL divorce attorney GALAlthough any divorce can be difficult, parents who choose to end their marriage may face a variety of challenges. Children with divorcing parents may experience a great deal of stress and anxiety as they struggle to understand why their parents are splitting up and how to cope with the changes. They may worry that the end of their parents’ marriage was somehow their fault or feel like they have to choose sides. In some divorce cases involving children, a special attorney called a guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed to help address child-related issues. If you are planning to divorce, a guardian ad litem may be essential in making sure that the terms of your divorce are in your child’s best interests.

When Is a Guardian Ad Litem Appointed in a Divorce Case?

When a person involved in a legal proceeding such as a divorce cannot represent themselves, a guardian ad litem may be appointed to look out for his or her well-being. Most often, a GAL is appointed to help determine the best possible situation for a child whose parents are divorcing. Guardians ad litem are often appointed in divorce cases involving domestic abuse, child custody disputes regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, and disagreements regarding child support

In Illinois, a GAL may be requested by a parent undergoing a divorce or family law dispute, or a GAL can be appointed by a judge. Asking for a GAL may be beneficial when parents disagree about certain aspects of their child’s welfare, such as who the child should live with. Court litigation in front of a judge can be stressful and expensive. If parents can agree to accept the GAL’s advice, this may help them avoid unnecessary court hearings.

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