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guardian ad litem, Kane County family law attorneyDisagreements over parental responsibilities, parenting time, and any other concerns regarding children can quickly reach a stalemate. Each parent may truly want what is best for their child but have vastly different opinions about how to achieve “what is best.” According to the law, when parents cannot reach an agreement, it is up to the court to create a solution that meets the child’s needs and protects his or her well-being. When two parents are presenting conflicting opinions, though, it can be difficult for the court to determine what would constitute the best outcome. For this reason, the court may appoint an individual called a guardian ad litem to provide assistance.

Qualifications of a Guardian ad Litem

In the context of child-related legal issues, Illinois law requires a guardian ad litem to be an attorney who has undergone specific training and certification processes. A guardian ad litem, therefore, not only understands the laws related to the allocation of parental responsibilities—formerly called child custody—and parenting time, but also investigative techniques and how to evaluate a child’s family circumstances. The court, when needed, selects a guardian ad litem from a regularly-updated list of attorneys available for appointment within the appropriate county.

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parenting time, St. Charles Family Law AttorneyOver the last few months, courts across Illinois have been adjusting to the sweeping family law amendments that were passed last summer and took effect on January 1, 2016. While some of the changes were essentially procedural, others were aimed at improving the way in which parents and the courts approach divorce and child-related concerns. One area that was significantly affected was that regarding responsibilities for a child of divorced, separated, or unmarried parents, once known under the law as child custody. Now referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities, the amended law addresses the rights of each parent regarding decision-making for their child and how parenting time decisions are to be made.

Two Parts to Parental Responsibilities

The newly revamped Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act has essentially eliminated the phrase “child custody,” as well as the concepts of sole custody and joint custody of a child. These ideas have been replaced by a more personalized approach that determines each parent’s rights and responsibilities based on their own unique circumstances. Parental responsibilities, under the new law, are divided into two primary considerations: significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time.

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order of protection, Kane County family law attorneyAn order of protection is a court-issued directive intended to keep the petitioner and his or her children safe from domestic violence. When utilized properly, such orders serve a very important and valuable purpose. Unfortunately, in some cases, an order of protection may be used as a strategy to gain an unfair advantage in a divorce or child-related legal proceedings. Under Illinois law, a pattern of abuse or domestic violence is to be considered when allocating parental responsibilities and parenting time. Therefore, a parent or spouse can use an order of protection—even one issued under arguably questionable pretenses—as an attempt to influence the outcome of his or her case.

Emergency Order of Protection

When dealing with the possibility of domestic violence or abuse, Illinois courts tend to err on the side of caution. With that in mind, the law permits a judge to issue an emergency order of protection based solely on the sworn testimony of the person who filed the petition. Sometimes known as a restraining order, an emergency order of protection can require the subject, or respondent, to avoid contact with the petitioner, to stay away from the marital home, and may temporarily suspend or restrict parenting time rights. There are also many other actions or limitations that may be contained in an emergency order or protection, and the court is expected to include those which are needed to keep the petitioner and his or her children safe.

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college, Kane County family law attorneysIn two previous posts on this blog—which can be found here and here—we talked about how Illinois law permits a court to order either or both parents to contribute toward their child’s college expenses, even if the child has already reached age 18. The child, as discussed, does not have the right to petition the court asking for such help; rather, it is considered to be a matter between the parents. The child's actions, as more fully described below, can have a direct effect upon a parent’s ordered obligation to contribute toward college expenses and may even cause the order to be modified or terminated.

Intended Outcome

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act describes eligible college expenses as those related to the post-high school education of a child who has not yet reached his or her 23rd birthday. With good cause shown, the limit may be extended to his or her 25th birthday, but never beyond that. The law also provides that parents can only be required to contribute until the child receives a bachelor’s degree. Since this type of support is not limited to children attending four-year colleges or universities, ending support for a child obtaining an associate’s degree, or completing a trade school or certificate program would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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jurisdiction, Kane County family law attorneysThe application and enforcement of the law can be very complex in many situations. This can be especially true in cases related to allocated parental responsibilities—formerly child custody—and parenting time, or visitation. One of the fundamental principles of law is the concept of jurisdiction, which refers to the authority that a particular county, state or federal court system maintains over the parties and the subject matter of the case in question. Only a court with appropriate jurisdiction can make decisions and enter orders in accordance with applicable statutes.

In some situations, jurisdiction may be fairly straightforward. For example, if you live in Kane County, and were injured in an accident near your home caused by another resident of Kane County, you probably realize that the Kane County circuit court has jurisdiction over your case, and your claim should be made there. In other cases, however, jurisdiction may not seem quite so clear, at least to the average citizen. One such example can be found in the area of family law. If your parenting plan and parental responsibilities order were entered in Illinois, and you decide to move out of state, which state has continuing jurisdiction over your family’s case?  Fortunately, there are laws in place to address this exact scenario.

Relocation and Substantial Change in Circumstances

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