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Evanston Families Blog

Understanding the best interests of the child

Any Illinois divorce that involves minor children will have several issues that depend on the court's determination of how to protect the "best interests of the child." On its face, the term "best interests of the child" is not very specific, but any judge who has served more than a few years is well-acquainted with how the term should be defined and applied. Because the crucial issues of child custody and support depend upon the court's interpretation of the best interests of the child, anyone contemplating a divorce should have a basic understanding of the term.

Illinois statutes require judges to consider the best interests of the child in awarding custody, setting the amount of child support and in allocating decision-making responsibility between the parents. The statute enumerates fifteen separate factors:

  • The wishes of the child, if the child is suitably mature to reliably express an preference;
  • The child's adjustment to his or her home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of the child and both parents
  • The ability of the parents to cooperate with respect to issues affecting the child
  • The amount of involvement by each parent in prior decision-making regarding the child
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The child's needs
  • The distance between the parent's residences
  • The willingness of each parent to encourage a close relationship with the other parent
  • The occurrence or threat of physical violence directed against the child
  • Whether one of the parents is a sex offender
  • Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant

Are you at a custody disadvantage because you're the father?

In the average divorce, custody of the children is usually one of the most pressing concerns for parents. Both parents will likely want to play a significant role in the lives of their children. In some situations, one parent may worry that the other has an advantage that will affect court proceedings.

It is still common for many men to assume that the courts have a custody bias that favors women or mothers. This can lead fathers to unnecessarily aggressive strategies or even destroy their motivation for seeking custody in the first place. Quite a few men fail to get custody because they never seek it, believing they don't have a chance to begin with.

What factors guide Illinois courts when awarding alimony?

When an Illinois resident decides to seek a divorce, one of the first questions to be asked is will the court require one spouse to pay alimony. Alimony is more commonly referred to as spousal support or maintenance, but the factors that govern its award and the amount of support are spelled out in the state's statutes.

Illinois courts have broad discretion when determining whether an award of spousal maintenance is appropriate. State law provides twelve factors to be considered and a thirteenth catch-all category. The first factor is the income and property of each party. The court must also consider the financial needs of each party and their present and future earning capacity. In making this judgment, the court must also consider whether either party's earning capacity has been impaired by decisions made on account of the marriage.

Modifying an order for child support in Illinois

Many people who get divorced in Illinois think that the entry of the final judgment is the end of the process. Unfortunately, life circumstances often change at unexpected times and in unexpected ways, especially if the couple had children while they were married. One of the changes that can be most disruptive is a change in the economic circumstances of one of the child's parents that necessitates a possible revision of the original order for child support.

All child support orders in Illinois are eligible for review every three years or when the income of the non-custodial parent changes. Also, either parent can request a review of the existing order. The party seeking the change must demonstrate a substantial change in the financial circumstances of the other party. A substantial change could involve the loss of a job or a significant promotion that might increase the income of the non-custodial parent. A severe health crisis might also constitute a substantial change.

Prenuptial agreements provide many important benefits

Prenuptial agreements have a variety of useful benefits and are not just for individuals considering marriage who have a significant number of assets. Premarital agreements are for anyone getting married to consider and have many important uses.

There are commonly misunderstandings associated with prenuptial agreements but they can help clarify concerns couples may have when entering marriage. Without a prenuptial agreement, state laws will determine how property is divided if the couple divorces. Additionally, there are rules associated with prenuptial agreements to ensure they are valid that couples considering marriage should be familiar with. Because the rules associated with prenuptial agreements can vary by state, it is important for couples to be familiar with requirements in their state to ensure their prenuptial agreement is valid.

Make sure you are ready for your summer child custody plans

Summer vacation is nearby or already here for children across Illinois. Most children are eager to sleep in, go swimming, spend time outdoors and in general enjoy the pleasant weather that summer brings as well as all the fun activities that go with it. However, if a child's parent is divorced, that parent may need to make summer child custody arrangements with their ex, in as cooperative manner as is possible.

First, when parents divorce, they will create a child custody schedule that will be included in their divorce decree. This schedule may differ in the summer months than it does the rest of the year. For example, the noncustodial parent may have an extended period of visitation in the summer in which they have the child in their care. This schedule should be reviewed each year by both parents. This way, parents can determine if any changes need to be made to the current child custody arrangements.

How does Illinois split up your assets in a divorce?

Getting a divorce will cause a ripple of consequences that can reach to every aspect of your life. Your divorce will affect your emotions, where you live and your social connections. Your divorce will also have an impact on your financial circumstances.

Depending on how you and your ex handle the divorce, that impact could prove devastating or overwhelming in some cases. Even if you hope to keep things simple, you will likely wonder how you can ensure a fair outcome when splitting your assets.

Can college expenses be part of an Illinois child support order?

Most parents who are going through a divorce understand that one of them may be required to pay child support to the other. This may make sense when the child is still a minor and is dependent on the care of their parents. However, here, the judge can include college expenses in a child support order, even if the child is no longer a minor.

There are several college expenses that can be included in a child support order. These expenses include: room and board; tuition and other fees; transportation fees; books; costs associated with applying and registering for college; medical expenses; and living expenses. Many children going to college need this financial support in to get by, so they can focus on earning their degree.

Important conversations to have when engaged

While finances may not be the most romantic topic in the world, it is an important thing for couples to discuss when getting married. Getting married typically involves merging two financial households into one. This can have major impacts on the goals of both soon-to-be spouses.

Among the money-related discussions it can be important for engaged couples to have are conversations about prenuptial agreements.

How to legally establish paternity as a father in Illinois

Becoming a father is one of the most exciting experiences a man can have. Unfortunately, interpersonal relationships are often very complicated and can make the joys of fatherhood seem unattainable. This is particularly true for fathers who are not married to the mother of their children.

A lack of familiarity with their legal rights combined with a desire to avoid conflict with the mother can impact how much time fathers spend with their children or even their legal right to visit. Don't let a lack of information or fear about interpersonal drama prevent you from spending time with your child.

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