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Columbia Divorce and Family Law Blog

Immigration issues spur changes in child custody laws

Illinois, like many other states across the country, is home to a diverse population of immigrants. As a result, immigration law and deportation are important considerations for families that may face immigration status challenges. Such issues can also lead to disputes regarding child custody in the event that a parent is scheduled for deportation.

A new study produced by Generations United has shown an increase in children of immigrants living with aunts, uncles and grandparents. According to the study, one in five children being raised by extended family members lives in an immigrant household.

Jolie and Pitt start child custody evaluations

12016760_S (2).jpgIllinois residents may know that the breakup of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt began over two years ago. However, the pair is just now focusing on creating a child custody agreement for their six children, who range in age from 10 to 16 years old. Custody evaluations were court ordered, and the doctor assigned to the task moved forward with starting the evaluation process on Oct. 12.

Jolie has reported on several occasions that she is "focused" on helping her children recover from the breakup that has been so often aired in the public spotlight. She is supportive of the children rebuilding healthy relationships with their father. However, because Pitt has not significantly supported his children financially since the separation started, Jolie is working with her new divorce attorney to petition the court to set up a formal child support order.

Joint custody, child support and parental cooperation

Illinois parents who have decided to divorce will be faced with figuring out how to best raise their children post-split. For some, that might mean adopting the traditional arrangement of one becoming the custodial parent and the other exercising visitation rights. This agreement also usually includes the non-custodial parent paying child support. However, many parents now choose to share parenting responsibilities through shared legal and physical custody. In those cases, the question arises about who pays support and how much.

Research has shown that most families benefit from shared custody. Joint custody, split 50-50, means that one parent does not bear the brunt of the parental responsibility. In other words, both parents get to be fully present in their children's lives. Once the parents agree to legal custody, which revolves around medical, educational and even religious decisions, they also need to establish physical custody, which revolves around where the children live.

Child custody for single mothers and fathers

28802371_S.jpgSome Illinois single mothers may be confused about how child custody laws assigning parental responsibilities and parenting time relate to their experiences. This is especially true when the father is unknown, is not listed on the birth certificate or does not want to play an active role in the child's life. Forty percent of all children across the country are born to parents who are not married, up from 18 percent in 2007. Of course, many unmarried parents are in committed relationships or both involved in their children's lives.

However, if the father of a child is not in the picture, a single mother may not know if she has to file for custody and officially seek the assignment of parental responsibilities. Some may worry that by filing for child custody to be established in their names, a formerly absent father may suddenly reappear, even if he has previously shown no interest in the child. When the parents of the child were never married and the father never established legal paternity, there is no presumption of paternity. However, if the father of the child comes forward, proves paternity and seeks parenting time or shared parental responsibilities, he has a right to make his case to the court.

How domestic violence can affect parenting time

51560547_S.jpgDomestic violence can have a deep impact not only on the victim but also on those who witness the abuse, particularly when they are children. This might be a concern facing Illinois parents who are negotiating parental responsibilities and have been victims of domestic violence. They might also worry about how the court will handle allegations of domestic violence or even distant-past instances of such as abuse when it comes to parenting time.

Courts will always consider the best interests of the child, so even though the goal of the court is usually to have the child continue their relationship with both parents as much as possible, if there are abuse allegations, the court will take them very seriously. When it comes to family law matters, a parent might lose parenting time if the court finds evidence of domestic violence or enough concern with the allegations to believe that parent could pose a danger to the child or their other parent. During the investigation, the court will consider what impact, if any, the domestic violence had on the child, if the abuse is continuing, if there is a criminal case pending against the abuser, how severe the abuse has been, any photographic evidence gathered and any police reports.

Know the signs of parental alienation

93773502_S.jpgDivorced mothers and fathers in Illinois may find themselves dealing with the troubling problem of parental alienation. This happens when a child is encouraged to turn away from one of his or her parents in an extreme or radical way. While this type of alienation can happen between parents who are still together, it is far more common in divorced families. Either parent, whether or not he or she has the majority of parental responsibilities, could be responsible for interfering with the child's bond with the other parent.

When Illinois judges deal with child custody issues, they assign "parental responsibilities" to emphasize both parents' roles. However, where the child lives is not the key factor in parental alienation. Furthermore, the effects go beyond what is common for normal life transitions like puberty. A child may begin to exclude his or her parents from life events or request that one parent no longer attend parent/teacher conferences, school events and school meetings. In fact, that parent could be removed as a contact with the school administration.

Dealing with the unique challenges of a gray divorce

37230859_S.jpgOver the past few decades, divorce rates among older adults have doubled. For most older couples ending a marriage in Illinois, circumstances are typically different than what's associated with divorces among younger partners. For instance, child support and custody often aren't part of the equation since children are usually grown. In many cases, the major issue for older soon-to-be ex-spouses is the division of retirement funds and other assets.

Even if a partner is fairly generous with property division arrangements, there are certain rules that apply when 401(k)s and IRAs need to be divided. With annuities, assets may need to be traded off to maintain values. If 401(k) contributions came from mutual income, both partners may be entitled to part of those assets. This sometimes comes as a surprise to older adults, especially those close to retirement.

Child support when both parents have custody

37314715_S (2).jpgParents in Illinois and throughout the country may be required to pay child support even if they have shared custody of their children. Most states have formulas to determine how much a parent must pay. This formula uses variables such as how much an individual makes and how many other children he or she must support.

It is possible that a divorced couple with children will create their own support plan. This will allow them to provide financially for the children without the need for a court order. However, if an order is granted, it will generally be in effect even when a child is with the noncustodial parent. The ruling will stay in effect because it may still be necessary to pay medical, housing or other recurring costs regardless of where the child is at any given time.

Fathers struggle with child support payments

58217498_S.jpgMany fathers in Illinois are struggling with issues related to child support, especially when they infrequently have the opportunity to spend time with their children. Indeed, some men feel that they were treated unfairly in family court, especially in terms of the amount of child support they are required to pay each month. However, engaging actively in the process can help fathers to secure an outcome that is more just and fair and recognizes their role in their children's lives.

When parents decide to divorce, child support can be part of the original divorce decree. The issue can be brought up again later as well, especially if changes occur that affect a father's ability to pay. It is important for fathers to protect their rights during the divorce negotiations in terms of property division and alimony as well as child support, because the financial damages inflicted by divorce can also injure a father's ability to provide child support. This includes providing accurate, correct information about income during the divorce and to state agencies. By doing so, fathers can prevent the assignment of an imputed income which can be far greater than their actual paychecks.

How parents can prepare for their child support hearing

18914952_S.jpgWhen Illinois parents get divorced or decide to separate, one parent is often required to pay a certain amount in child support. Judges use financial information provided by both parents to make determinations about how much these payments will be. Because judges generally do not know the families, parents should prepare for the hearing.

Parents should read all of their mail to ensure that they do not miss any piece of information that may come from their attorney, the other parent or the court. If the parents are required to take action, they should do so in a timely manner. If the parents are required to go to court for a child support hearing, they should ensure that they arrive on time. If possible, arriving early can allow parents to reduce their nervousness before the case begins.

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