dissipation, Illinois divorce attorneysWhen a marriage is ending, it is not uncommon for one spouse to behave in ways that are detrimental to his or her soon-to-be ex, especially if there is a potential new partner in the picture. One of the most common ways is through the dissipation of marital assets. In extreme cases, this can be a crime, but most of the time, dissipation results in the offending spouse receiving fewer assets. If you fear this is happening to you, you may have the ability to prove it and benefit appropriately.

Illinois Case Law

Throughout the years, Illinois courts have defined dissipation as the “use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage” during the time when the marriage is irretrievably breaking down. The key word is “irretrievably.” In In re Marriage of O’Neill, the court held that alleged dissipation can only be looked into for the period where the marriage was breaking down. Thus, if your spouse, for example, began to use marital money to buy gifts for a mistress from the beginning of your marriage, you likely will not be able to claim the value of those lost assets unless you can show that your marriage was breaking down from the very beginning.

Illinois courts have also held that it is possible to determine the point at which a marital breakdown becomes inevitable. It is at that point where one can begin to claim dissipation. The rationale is that without establishing a specific point, a court would have to sift through the couple’s entire marriage for every real and perceived wasteful expenditure—an undertaking which would be grossly inefficient. Illinois now statutorily limits the finding of the breakdown point to no earlier than 5 years before the filing of the divorce petition.

Specifics to Remember

While being accused of dissipation may trigger an understandable defensive reaction, it can be infinitely more productive to use the law to your advantage. There are a number of little details in case law that can be put to work for you. For example, the law holds that if you intend to claim dissipation, or your spouse does, a notice to that effect must be filed with the court no later than 60 days before trial or 30 days after the close of discovery, whichever is later. That is a finite window, and if you miss it (or your spouse does), there is no recourse.

Another important detail to remember is that the burden of proof in a dissipation claim is not on the party alleging dissipation, but on the party being accused. In other words, if your spouse claims you dissipated assets, you must prove that you have not engaged in dissipation. The standard of proof, however, is relatively low, as established by court precedents. You do not need to account for every single dollar to avoid a finding of dissipation. If your spending is within the pattern or habits you displayed during your marriage, or you can show that the money was spent for the benefit of the marriage—paying off a debt, for example—a finding of dissipation is unlikely.

Ask a Divorce Attorney

Sometimes, spouses have valid dissipation claims while in other cases, a spouse may bring a dissipation claim simply to cause trouble. Regardless of which you may be facing, a dedicated St. Charles divorce attorney can help. Call Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. at 630-377-7770 for a free, confidential consultation today.





Posted in Dissipation, Division of Property | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

child support, Kane County family lawyerPayments of child support are supposed to be used to improve the life of your child or children. But, what exactly does that mean? Is it permissible to use the money to buy things that are useful but that may not be an immediate necessity? There is some guidance in the law as to what child support should be used for, but very often, it ends up being a judgment call. Doing your research or consulting a legal professional is always a good idea.

Illinois Law

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, all parents in Illinois have the responsibility to support the “reasonable and necessary educational, physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child.” Parents who are allotted the majority of the parenting time following a divorce or separation fulfill this responsibility by providing a stable home and raising their children. Thus, the other parent, in most cases, is ordered to make child support payments. In theory, such payments are meant to assist with the costs of housing, clothing, and food, but obviously, every parent knows there will always be more. This is part of what gives rise to the ambiguity over child support in the first place, as it is not uncommon at all for parents to argue over what truly qualifies as a “need.”

In addition to this baseline duty, the court may order the parents to contribute to so-called “add-ons,” which are generally foreseen expenses, but the exact total may be unclear at the time of the order. For example, health care costs not covered by insurance are expenses that most parents are aware of but may be unsure of the exact dollar amount that may, in the future, be necessary. Another example is extracurricular activities, which may not be a basic need but are part and parcel of most young children’s lives. As such, they are generally held to be acceptable costs for parents to cover.

Am I Accountable?

Depending on the nature of your divorce, the issue of child support spending may become a contested issue. Currently, Illinois does not require recipient parents to provide an accounting or other proof that child support money is being spent directly for the child’s needs. If, however, there is a reason to believe that the money is not being spent appropriately and the child is suffering as a result, the court could make adjustments to the existing parenting plan. Such cases, however, are rare as it may be impossible for one parent to prove how the other parent is spending money. Without clear and convincing evidence of neglect or abuse, the court is not likely to act.

Seek Skilled Legal Assistance

Parents want the best for their children, but arguing over child support can cause significant problems for everyone in the family. Fiscal responsibility regarding support payments can make the process much easier for everyone involved. To learn more about child support orders in Illinois, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.




Posted in Child Support | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

parental rightsA good parent wants the best for their children, and sometimes, that may include allowing someone else to take care of them. Illinois courts, however, are generally not disposed to allow a person to surrender their parental rights voluntarily unless there is another person ready and willing to step into the role. Illinois public policy places a high value on a child having two parents if at all possible. This means that unless your child’s other parent has a new partner willing to assume a parental role, you cannot renounce your parental obligations.

The “Best Interest of the Child”

Research has long supported the idea that children tend to fare better with two active parents in their lives, regardless of the relationship between the adults. As a result, Illinois courts nearly always hold that having two parents is in the best interests of the child involved—even in cases where a parent has committed a crime. When making determinations regarding parental responsibilities and parenting time, the courts consider an extensive list of factors in order to determine the outcome that serves the best interests of the child. These factors include the ability of the parents to work together, the level of participation by both parents in making parenting decisions in the past, and whether or not any abuse has occurred.

Under Illinois law, a child also has the right to receive support from both parents. If a parent were allowed to unilaterally terminate his or her parental rights and responsibilities—including support obligations—the child would be deprived of necessary support through no fault of their own. Such a scenario is decidedly not in a child’s best interest.

Being Replaced

With two-parent situations being the preferred scenario, the only way for you to voluntarily give up your parental responsibilities is under the Illinois Adoption Act, if and when your ex’s new partner is willing to assume your role. During a stepparent adoption, you will be asked to terminate your rights regarding your child, and if you agree, the process can happen fairly easily. It is important, however, to participate in the proceedings even if you wish to give up your status as the child’s legal parent.

Contact a Knowledgeable Lawyer

In some cases, it may be in a child’s best interest for a parent to recognize that he or she cannot provide what the child needs and deserves. If you find yourself in this difficult situation, an experienced Kane County family law attorney can help you understand your options under the law. Contact our office by calling 630-377-7770 to schedule your free, confidential consultation today. The team at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. is committed to helping you protect your child’s future.




Posted in Adoption, Parental Responsibilities | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

foreign national, St. Charles family lawyerIn a perfect world, true love would have no borders, but we do not live in a perfect world. If you wish to marry someone who is a national of another country, you may do so, but there are numerous immigration hurdles to overcome first. Additionally, if the marriage fails and divorce becomes a reality, you should be aware of the potential red tape that may arise for both you and your spouse.

Getting to the United States

There are multiple ways in which a foreign spouse-to-be can come into the United States, but for family law purposes, one is the most prevalent. Fiancé(e) visas are the most common way for foreign spouses to enter the U.S., and they essentially allow for entry so that your marriage can happen within 90 days. By themselves, however, fiancé(e) visas do not confer legal status beyond that one permissible entry. Once you are married, your spouse does not immediately acquire citizenship or even permanent resident status. He or she must still apply separately for those, and it is impossible to predict how long they can take. Many fiancé(e) visa holders are granted conditional permanent residence, which is reevaluated upon the couple reaching two years of marriage, but such consideration is not guaranteed.

Regardless of what visa your foreign spouse receives, you will likely be called upon to act as their sponsor for the application. Most sponsors, at least for immigrant petitions, are family members, and it essentially means that you guarantee that the person will not become a public charge or otherwise cost the U.S. government money. It is a legally enforceable contract that creates a legally enforceable debt, and it can become a serious point of contention in divorce proceedings.

During Divorce

If you decide to get a divorce from your foreign spouse before the two-year period of conditional permanent residency is up, your spouse will have to apply for what U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) calls a waiver of termination, or they will be immediately subject to deportation proceedings. The waiver essentially asserts that the marriage was not one of convenience—in other words, that it was not entered into for the sole purpose of gaining citizenship. If you have had children, or if you have owned property together or opened joint accounts, these can all be evidence of a legitimate marriage.

The issue of sponsorship can also come up in the divorce process, especially when it comes to asset distribution. The U.S. government can and does call in debts if the foreign national requires governmental assistance, and in many cases, the payment of the debt can greatly reduce the assets available for distribution to both parties. A prenuptial agreement may need to be renegotiated or set aside, or other modifications to a distribution plan may have to be made so that the debt can be paid.

Ask an Experienced Attorney

While an immigration attorney can help with getting the right visa, a divorce attorney can guide you on issues related to asset distribution, support obligations, and other considerations. Contact an experienced Kane County divorce attorney to begin the process. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.




Posted in Divorce, Family Law | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

guardian ad litem, Kane County family law attorneyWhen it comes to making decisions regarding child custody—now called the allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois—a family court judge is an unenviable position. He or she is tasked with making arrangements that will affect the lives of not only the child or children in question but also the both parents and extended families on both sides. In any child-related legal matter, the law in Illinois requires the court to keep the child’s best interest as its highest priority. To ensure that the child’s well-being is fully protected, the court may appoint a duly trained lawyer to serve as a guardian ad litem during the proceedings.

What Is the GAL’s Role

A guardian ad litem, or GAL, is an attorney who has participated in a county-specific training and certification program so that he or she may serve the court in such a capacity. When appointed, the GAL does not represent the child or serve as counsel to any party; rather, he or she operates as an extension of the court itself and is expected to testify as an independent expert witness.

The GAL begins by investigating the circumstances of the case and of all parties involved. This generally includes interviews with each parent, the child, and any other relevant individuals, as well as home visits, and an in-depth review of financial records, court documents and more. Based on the outcome of his or her investigation, the GAL will prepare and present a recommendation regarding the best possible outcome for the child. The report is entered as testimony as is subject to cross-examination by both parties. In most case, the court holds the GAL’s recommendations in high regard and may choose to implement them in their its entirety.

Requesting a GAL

Illinois law allows the court to appoint a guardian ad litem based on its own accord or as the result of a motion by either party. This means that you have the right to ask for a GAL to be appointed for your case. A GAL may be necessary if you and the other parent—or other party, depending on the nature of your case—are unwilling or unable to compromise and reach an agreement. If you can agree on larger issues, such as major decision-making authority, but are having trouble deciding, for example, where the child will spend Christmas each year, a guardian ad litem may not truly be necessary

Call a St. Charles Lawyer

Every case is unique, which means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to child-related legal matters. If you would like to discuss your situation with an experienced Kane County family law attorney, contact Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C.  Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free, confidential consultation today.




Posted in Child Custody, Guardian ad Litem | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

adoption, St. Charles family law attorneyAdoption can be a wonderful, happy event for everyone involved. However, there are times when the process becomes quite complex, especially when an adoption involves a parent who still ostensibly can assert parental rights, yet is nowhere to be found. There is a very specific process to go through before a child with an absentee parent—or both absentee parent—may be adopted into a family where he or she will receive the kind of attention he or she deserves.

Abandonment and Desertion

In most situations, a child is presumed to have two parents, but this is not necessarily true in every case. Illinois provides four ways for paternity be legally established following the birth of a child, including:

  • The mother and father are married either at a child’s conception, birth, or both;
  • Both parents complete and sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form;
  • An Administrative Paternity Order is entered by Child Support Services; or
  • A family court judge enters an order on his or her own authority.

If none of these are done around the time of the child’s birth, the father may not legally be listed on the birth certificate. Some fathers are omitted through honest mistakes and may take steps to remedy the situation. However, others willfully refuse to take responsibility for a child.

Mere refusal to acknowledge paternity does not constitute abandonment, but it can be one brick in the proverbial wall. Illinois law describes child abandonment or desertion as any conduct that demonstrates an uncompromising willingness to surrender all parental rights. In an adoption proceeding, it is the responsibility of the potential adoptive parent to prove the birth parent or parents’ abandonment of the child.

The Process

In order to adopt a child from absentee parents, the potential parent must file a petition for adoption that alleges the birth parent or parents are unfit—not necessarily due to abandonment, but it is one of the most common reasons for such a petition. The birth parents, regardless of any evidence of unfit parenting, must be served a copy of the adoption petition and be given a chance to refute the allegations. If the parents cannot be physically located, service may be attempted via publication, which entails placing the announcement in a newspaper or newspapers near the birth parents’ last known address. The objective is to give the birth parents the best possible chance of seeing the petition announcement. Illinois, along with most other states, afford quite a bit of protection to parental rights, as a matter of public policy. Most of the time, the prevailing mindset is that a child belongs with his or her parents, and it takes considerable evidence to change that view.

For the adoption to proceed, the court must find clear and convincing evidence of the birth parent or parents’ unfitness. The adoptive parent must be able to show that remaining with the birth parents would not be in the child’s best interest. The grounds to establish unfitness are laid out in Illinois statutory law, and if one or more grounds may be proved, the chance that the adoption will succeed is high.

Contact an Adoption Attorney

If you are interested in adopting a child whose parents have abandoned or deserted him or her, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney for help. Our knowledgeable team will work hard on your behalf and help you take the steps necessary to protect the child’s well-being. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation today.





Posted in Adoption | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

parenting time, Kane County family law attorneyIt is not easy to be a parent. When you are unmarried, divorced, or separated, and the other parent has been awarded the majority of the parenting time, you may face serious difficulties in being the parent you wish to be. In an ideal situation, you have the right to reasonable parenting time—formerly called visitation—with your child, but reality is often far from ideal. You may be dealing with certain struggles of your own, and, as a result, the court may have placed restrictions on the time you have with your child. While parenting time restrictions may be challenging, they are not necessarily permanent, and you have the ability to work toward the restoration of your visitation rights.

Recognize and Accept the Reasons

Under Illinois law, the court cannot arbitrarily restrict your parenting time rights without proper justification, and proper justification requires more than just the word of the other parent. The court will only place restrictions on your time with your child if the court is convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that you engage in conduct which places your child in serious physical, mental, emotional, or moral danger. As such, the court must specify its findings and identify the behaviors it finds objectionable, including drug or alcohol abuse, physical or psychological abusive actions, or your relationships with certain individuals who may pose a threat to your child. Once you know what the problems are, you can begin working toward resolving them.

Comply With the Restrictions

While you take the necessary steps to improve your situation, you must remain in full compliance with the restrictions that have been placed on your parenting time. If you still have any time with your child, take advantage of it and foster the relationship with your child as much as possible. Demonstrate your dedication to being a better person and more reliable parent. Do not try to get around the court’s restrictions, however. Even if you believe you have made improvements, violating the restrictions before they are formally lifted could lead to you losing your parental rights completely.

Keep Track of Your Progress

When you petition the court to have your restrictions lifted, you will need to show proof that you no longer present a danger to your child. Written documentation of your efforts can be valuable in showing your improvement. For example, if your parenting time was restricted because of alcohol use and abusive behavior, you could keep track of your participation in rehabilitation programs, outpatient visits, and anger management courses. If you attend a 12-step program or a support group, document those meetings as well.

Work With a Skilled Attorney

If your rights to parenting time have been limited or restricted, restoring them will be difficult, but it can be done. Contact an experienced family law attorney in St. Charles to discuss your case. Our compassionate team will work with you in fulfilling the requirements set by the court and can help you file the necessary paperwork to restore your parental rights. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation today, and start becoming the better parent your child deserves.




Posted in Children, Visitation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

fault, Kane County divorce lawyerIt should go without saying, but if you and your spouse are getting divorced, it is not your child’s fault. Just so there is no misunderstanding, it can be said another way: your child is not to blame for your divorce, and he or she should not be treated as if it is his or her fault. This concept may seem fairly simple, but as a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that you do not make your child feel responsible for the failure of your marriage. Ignoring this reality could lead to long-term emotional and psychological issues for your child and could damage your relationship with him or her forever.

Contributing Factors

Throughout the last several decades, many studies have looked at the reasons that couples pursue a divorce and the life events that can lead to disagreements and problems in a marriage. It is true that the birth of a child can create new stresses for some couples, possibly pushing the spouses apart over time. Even in cases such as these, an eventual divorce is not the child’s fault. The responsibility still lies with the parents to only have a child if they are ready, willing, and able to change their lives accordingly.

Continuous Reinforcement

Once you and your spouse have decided that a divorce is inevitable, you will need to tell your child about your upcoming life changes. It is imperative to be very clear that your decision was in no way affected by anything your child has ever said or done—or not said or not done, as the case may be. Using your words is only the first step, however, as you can say that it is not his or her fault, but if you act angry or resentful toward your child, your actions may be telling him or her the opposite.

It is also important to be aware that your own emotional reactions to the situation could have unintended consequences. That is not to say that you do not have the right to be sad, angry, or to cry at times, but children have the tendency to believe that the world essentially revolves around them. If your child sees you crying or being sad, he or she is likely to think that he or she is the cause of your sadness—indirectly blaming himself or herself for your divorce. While it may not seem fair for you to have to put on a happy face in front of your children, allowing your child to feel guilty for something he or she has control over is much worse.

The Other Parent

Unless your soon-to-be ex-spouse has a history of abusing your child, your child must be allowed to interact with his or her other parent and to maintain a healthy relationship. The two of you may not have worked as a couple, but keeping your child from the other parent out of anger or spite is equivalent to punishing your child. If your child feels as if he or she is being punished, he or she might start to look for things he or she may have done wrong, potentially leading to taking the unspoken blame for your divorce.

We Can Help

At Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., we understand that divorce is a complicated process that could affect children for many years to come. If you are considering a divorce, one of our experienced St. Charles family law attorneys can help you make all of the necessary considerations. Contact our office today and schedule your free initial consultation. Call 630-377-7770 and let us assist you in protecting your rights as well as those of your children.





Posted in Children, Divorce | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

stonewalling, Kane County divorce attorneysHave you ever been engaged in a conversation with another person and it feels like you are talking to a proverbial brick wall? Your conversation partner might turn away from you, refuse to make eye contact, cross their arms, or even sigh in exasperation. He or she might stop responding to questions and withdraw from the conversation completely. This type of behavior is known as “stonewalling,” and when it occurs on a regular basis in a marriage, serious trouble may lie ahead. Breakdowns in communication are among the most common factors in a divorce, so it is important to recognize when you are being stonewalled by your partner.

Why Do People Stonewall?

Individuals who exhibit this behavior do not usually shut down for no reason. There are many things that could trigger stonewalling behavior. Clinical psychologist Mary Spease, PsyD says that a person stonewalls when they feel too overwhelmed to continue interacting in the conversation. The individual may be experiencing too many thoughts and emotions to make sense of them, so they mentally retreat. In cases like these, the stonewaller just wants she wants the uncomfortable conversation to end and to avoid escalating the situation further.

To an outside observer—or even to the person speaking—this retreating behavior looks like the stonewaller simply stopped participating in the conversation. If it happens often enough, the person being stonewalled could easily assume that his or her partner does not care about the topic or about him or her as a person. In most cases, stonewalling prevents conflict resolution and often escalates the tension and frustration of both people. The person who has shut down is no longer working to resolve the issues at hand. The individual being stonewalled may become dejected and angry. He or she may feel like his or her feelings are not valid or reasonable and start to lose interest in continuing the relationship.  hopeless.

There Is a Better Way

Relationship experts and couples therapists have some advice for those tackling tough conversation topics. If you find yourself stonewalling your partner, there are steps you can take to get back on track. The first step is recognizing how you are feeling. Your muscles may be clenched; you may grind your teeth or exhibit protective body language. At this point, it may be beneficial to take a break from the conversation. Take a walk or a shower to cool off, and when you feel more in control, you can continue the conversation in a more productive manner. Be sure to communicate what is going on inside your mind and body to your partner. He or she may not realize how you are feeling just based on your outward appearance.

When Stonewalling Kills a Marriage

Over time, stonewalling can be a destructive force in any relationship, especially if it goes unaddressed. If your marriage has broken down due to a lack of effective communication, an experienced Kane County divorce attorney can help you explore your available options. Call 630-377-7770 for free confidential consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.





Posted in Divorce, Family Law | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

adoption, St. Charles family law attorneyBlended families are becoming more and more common in the United States as the divorce rate continues to remain high. While the ideal situation, in most cases, has both parents playing active roles in the lives of their children, this is not always what happens. If one parent ceases to be a factor in their children’s lives, for whatever reason, a stepparent may be able to legally step into that role by adopting the children.

When Is Stepparent Adoption Permissible?

There are several points that any stepparent must consider if they want to adopt their partner’s child legally. First, they must be legally married to the child’s legal mother or father. Second, the law does not permit a child to have any more than two legal parents. In other words, the other parent must either be deceased, vanished, or otherwise have agreed to sign away their parental rights in order for you to be able to adopt the children. If the child is over the age of 14, he or she must also give their consent, and this is taken seriously; without it, the adoption will not go forward.

While an ex-spouse must be out of the proverbial picture before you can adopt your new spouse’s child, there is one way that this can be accomplished even if the other parent refuses to terminate his or rights voluntarily. A stepparent adoption may proceed if the other parent is deemed unfit. There are multiple different grounds on which parental unfitness may be proven, including child abandonment, lack of interest in the child’s life, failure to pay child support, or evidence of physical abuse.

When the Other Parent Cannot Be Located

Under Illinois law, the child’s other parent must be given the opportunity to contest the adoption. However, if he or she cannot be located by conventional means, notice must be served by publication, as well as serving a copy at their last known place of residence. Service by publication occurs when a notice is published in the relevant newspapers and other media outlets in the county where the ex-spouse was last seen for a set period of time—usually one to three months. If the person is not heard from by then, the court treats the matter as if the other parent is deceased.

One situation in which a biological parent may be hard to locate is if the child has no father listed on his or her birth certificate. While a stepparent may adopt the child if they have no listed legal father, it is not uncommon for the biological father to appear at a later date and attempt to seek custody or visitation. Illinois maintains a registry of purported fathers, and checking the registry is advisable before proceeding with the adoption.

Seek Experienced Legal Assistance

Adoptions can be very complex or relatively easy, and a knowledgeable lawyer may be the difference. Contact a skilled Kane County stepparent adoption attorney at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today. Call 630-377-7770 for a free, no-obligation consultation in our St. Charles office. We have the knowledge and tools to help you make the best decisions for the future of your family.




Posted in Adoption, Family Law | Leave a comment