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Despite the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, disabled people continue to face discrimination in many, if not all, walks of normal life. One area that often surprises the average person is in the realm of child custody, or the allocation of parental responsibilities as it is now called in Illinois. It is sadly not uncommon for disabled parents to lose their children once their disability is known to the state. The law in Illinois has improved over time, but there are still some potential hurdles in place that a disabled parent may struggle to overcome.
Cultural Bias Is Strong
It has been said that disabled parents are the only group that must commonly fight to retain (or even gain) custody of their own children. Data from the National Council on Disability show approximately 15 percent of parents who are physically disabled report unwanted interference or discriminatory treatment in custody cases, while the removal rate for children of those with developmental disability or mental illness is as high as 80 percent in some states. In approximately two-thirds of U.S. states, the mere existence of a parental disability is grounds for removal of a child from the home.
It seems like the subject of infidelity is everywhere. Most of us know someone who has been affected by unfaithfulness in their relationship, or we have been the victim of infidelity ourselves. Recently, musician Jay-Z admitted to cheating on his wife, pop sensation Beyoncé. He spoke of the emotional toll that cheating has on a person saying, “The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone’s face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself.” Unfaithfulness in a marriage is fairly common. In fact, surveys show that in a third of marriages one or both spouses admit to cheating. Approximately 22 percent of men surveyed admitted to cheating at some point in their lives, while about 14 percent of women admit to it. As any couple who has dealt with cheating knows, it can be devastating to a marriage.
Social Media and Smart Phones Have Changed Affairs
Couples therapist and noted author Esther Perel has spent much of her career helping couples navigate their marriage post-affair. She says that the popularity of social media and smart phones has changed the way affairs unfold. "It's never been easier to cheat — and it's never been more difficult to keep a secret," she says. "The majority of affairs would normally have died a natural death. Today they are discovered primarily through the phone or through social media or through the computer."
Following their divorce, many parents struggle to work with their former partners in raising their children. They often have trouble putting their differences aside and focusing on the needs of the child. Many others, however, find that cooperating with an ex-spouse is not only possible but represents a more efficient approach to post-divorce parenting. Cooperative divorced parents—frequently referred to as co-parents—take the necessary time to negotiate and develop a parenting plan, which may need to be tweaked and modified as time goes on and the needs of the family change.
Setting the Ground Rules
Illinois law places an expectation on divorcing parents to develop a proposed parenting plan regarding the care of their child. Each parent may submit one to the court or the two parties may work together on a plan that reflects both parents’ responsibilities and rights. If each parent submits a separate plan, the court must then decide how to allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time. If only one is submitted and agreed upon by both parties, the court will ensure that it is reasonable and protects the child before approving it.
A few weeks ago, a previous post looked at different scenarios that may impact a party’s obligation to continuing paying spousal maintenance. As discussed, one of the ways in which a spousal maintenance obligation could be terminated is the remarriage of the party receiving support. While the statutory guideline certainly makes sense for maintenance, you may be wondering if a subsequent marriage would have a similar impact on a child support order. The answer, however, is not really as simple as yes or no.
Primary Support Considerations
Under Illinois law, child support orders are primarily based upon the net income of the parent required to pay support and the number of children to be supported. Many other factors may be taken into account by the court, but are considered in a more subjective manner. Considerations such as the medical and educational needs of the child, each parent’s resources and needs, and others can allow the court to deviate from the standard calculation formula. This is a where the remarriage of either parent could potentially affect an order for child support.
When Johns Hopkins University sociologist Kathryn Edin decided to research the subject of child support among lower income families, she was ready to focus primarily on single mothers who struggle to raise their children in some the country’s toughest neighborhoods. She knew the reputation of poor, absent fathers who provide next to nothing in documented financial support, men who are commonly labeled “deadbeat dads.” Then, she met one. Then, another. Before long, she was putting together a project that followed more than 360 fathers of various races, looking at how they tried to provide for their children despite their own dire circumstances. Her findings were published earlier this summer in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
In the U.S., about one in four children are due some level of child support, but, on average, only about 60 percent get the full owed amount. A previous study found that less than one third of fathers at or below the poverty line pay formal support through the court system, a finding which was reaffirmed by Edin’s research. Of her subjects, 23 percent made formal payments through the child support system, averaging about $38 per month.