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IL family lawyerThere are a variety of situations where parents may become involved in child custody disputes. When married parents get divorced, there is usually no question as to the identity of a child’s parents. However, when parents are unmarried, the child’s presumed father may not necessarily have legal parental rights toward the child. Matters involving child custody may become more complicated in these situations, and to ensure that parents’ and children’s rights will be protected, it may be necessary to establish paternity.

When Will Paternity Need to Be Established?

If a mother was married at the time of her child’s birth, or if she was in a marriage that ended within 300 days before the child was born, her spouse or former spouse is presumed to be the child’s legal parent. However, if a mother is unmarried when a child is born, the other biological parent will not be considered the child’s legal parent until paternity is established.

The easiest and most straightforward way to establish paternity is for the parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form. This can be done if both parents are in agreement about the identity of the child’s father, and a VAP can be completed at any time after the child is born.

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wheaton child support lawyerIndividuals who were never married but share a child often face unique challenges and circumstances. Challenges such as child support are often dealt with as an element of the divorce process. In cases that involve non-married parents, it is likely that the establishment of paternity will be required. If this step is delayed, it may be possible for the custodial parent to seek retroactive child support for the expenses incurred prior to the custody support order taking effect.

The Parentage Act

Before child support or parenting time can be court-ordered, parentage must be determined. Parentage refers to the legal relationship between a parent and child. The Parentage Act in Illinois, originally established in 1984, entitles every child the right to their parents’ support, including physical, emotional, and financial support. The Parentage Act was specifically put in place to address the legal rights and responsibilities of unmarried parents. This includes divorced parents and parents who were never married. 

Ultimately, when determining the allotment of child support, it is important to maintain the same lifestyle the child is accustomed to or would have been accustomed to if their parents had remained united. 

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IL family lawyerDuring a case regarding child custody, a child may be appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL). GALs are court-appointed volunteer attorneys with legal or specially trained medical health experience. While some judges assign GALs to every case involving a child, other judges reserve this resource until requested by one of the involved parties. Certain circumstances that may benefit from a GAL include child custody, adoptions, child support, and the emancipation of a minor.

The main goal of GALs is to represent a minor’s best interests. The best interest of the child is the standard that must be used by both the GAL and the courts to make decisions regarding the child’s future living arrangements and parent relationships. This standard includes elements such as the child’s age, current relationship with their parents, and the stability of each parent’s living arrangements.

Each jurisdiction has its own requirements that determine when a GAL can and should be appointed as well as the GAL’s minimum qualifications and payment. The effectiveness and quality of a GAL depend on the jurisdiction’s available funding and regulations.

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IL family lawyerWhile annulment and divorce are often categorized together, both processes have their own distinct criteria and need to be considered separately. Divorce is the end of a valid marriage, whereas annulment ends the marriage due to its lack of validity. Contrary to popular belief, annulments are not easily acquired and require specific criteria to obtain. A DuPage County family law attorney can make this process much smoother and represent your annulment case.

Annulment is a challenging process with strict deadlines, however, it will help spouses avoid difficult proceedings such as property division and shared marital debt. Additionally, the judgment leans toward returning to the lives of both parties prior to marriage.

Grounds for Annulment in Illinois

In the state of Illinois, the annulment process is referred to as a judgment of invalidity. There are four ways in which you can be granted this type of judgment in Illinois.

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IL family lawyerWhen it comes to children, the court’s job is to make sure that the children’s best interests are protected at all times. In some cases, this may mean that a parent loses custody of his or her children for a while, but in some cases, a person may lose their parental rights altogether. A parent can only lose their rights to their child if they are considered to be an “unfit” parent by the court’s standards. Unfortunately, this can be the outcome of many situations when custody is contested or when couples get divorced.

What Makes a Parent “Unfit?”

Unlike years ago, most people believe that a child grows up happiest and healthiest when they have a relationship with both their mother and father. In most cases, the goal of the court is to make sure that the child has a relationship with both parents by any means necessary. If a parent’s actions are of concern to the court, they may choose to restrict the amount of time that they spend with the child or restrict some of the decision-making responsibilities that they have.

In some cases, the court may determine that the best course of action is to cut ties between the parent and the child completely. In these cases, they must be able to come to a determination that the person is unfit to be a parent. A person can be considered unfit if they have:

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