Category Archives: Family Law

Things You Can Do To Help Your Kids Through Divorce

Divorce impacts the entire family, not just the adults. Extended family feels the effects of your split, and it goes without saying that your kids also have feeling about the case. It is hard enough on most adults to get divorced, so when talking to kids it is crucial to remember their maturity level and ability to process the information is much different. For very young children, it may be that they are not able to control their emotions and may “act out” in response to the news their parents are getting divorced. With a little help though, you can get your kids through divorce without a major upset. Doing so takes hard work and commitment, and sometimes a little help from a professional.

Before picking up the phone and calling a therapist though, try your hand at some one on one time. Some good tips to help you are:

● Make sure your kids know the divorce is an adult issue, and has nothing to do with them.
● Provide reassurance that the divorce is not your kids’ fault, and that they are loved equally by both parents.
● Remain flexible with your ex on holidays and visitation, and avoid fighting in front of the kids.

If your ex has a tendency to miss scheduled visitations, make sure you have a plan B so your child has an activity on the date of the visit. Remember that kids take note of your actions more so than your words, so behave in a way that you would want your kids to behave. Most importantly, if you need help, be sure to ask. Whether you seek the assistance of a trained professional or just talk it over with a friend or family member, remain open to help from people that care about you. Doing so will show your kids you care, and give them the reassurance they need to grow to confident, well-adjusted adults.

For answers to your questions about how to help your kids cope with divorce, call a qualified family law professional. Contact the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC. Call us today to schedule an appointment to discuss the specific facts of your case.

Can Parental Rights Be Terminated?

Becoming a parent is one of life’s greatest joys. It is also one of life’s most challenging jobs and requires a lot of patience and dedication to your children. For most people though, the effort is worth the reward. For others, unfortunately, children are left with one parent as the other decides not to take an active role in their kids’ life. This can leave the parent who is raising the child with questions about the rights of the absent parent. The most common question in this scenario is whether the parental rights of the absent parent can be terminated, and if so, how to accomplish that task?

In Illinois, termination of parental rights is not an independent action. To have rights terminated, an adoption is typically required. In instances where one of the parents is considered to have abandoned the child, the following factors are taken into consideration:

● Abandonment of a newborn, at birth.
● Failing to maintain a significant level of interest, contact, or involvement with the child.
● Failing to provide financial support for the child.
● A lack of visitation.

Because not every case is one for adoption, there is also the possibility of terminating parental rights in a Juvenile Court termination proceeding. The same factors are considered and weighed by the Court when making a determination as to whether the rights should be terminated. For help with an adoption or for answer to questions about parentage, call our office. We have helped others through this difficult process and can help you too.

Call an experienced family law attorney with experience in helping families with children today. Call the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC to schedule an appointment and learn more.

Establishing Paternity In Illinois

In today’s society more and more couples are making the decision to cohabitate rather than get married. This means the parties live together and undertake many of the same obligations and responsibilities as married people, in many instances this includes having children. Even though the parentage may be common knowledge to friends and family, in the eyes of the law it is not that straightforward. Establishing paternity is important, and provides many significant legal rights. A determination of fatherhood will also establish certain obligations between the parents.

The Illinois Parentage Act provides the framework within which suits for establishing paternity are handled. Here is what you need to know about how paternity is established in Illinois:

● An acknowledgment of paternity, by both parents. This is done through a signed and witnessed written form.
● An administrative paternity order, entered by the State Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
● A legal order of paternity, entered by a Judge.

Establishing paternity will give both parents access to the child, which provides the opportunity to build a father/child relationship. Along with the right to develop a bond with your child, a finding of paternity will impose the obligation of support on the father, both while the father is in an active relationship with the child’s mother and in the event that relationship ends. If the parents do go their separate ways, having an order of paternity in place will allow the father to seek visitation and/or custody rights. For more information about what it means to establish paternity, call our office.

If you have questions about parentage, and paternity in particular, consult a qualified legal professional. Call the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC to schedule an appointment.

Can I Visit My Stepchildren?

In today’s society there are many blended families. Subsequent marriages are common, and usually come with a his and hers sort of family. This is especially true for older couples, where the likelihood there are children from previous marriages is even greater. Marriages in these situations result in instant families, giving stepchildren to the newly married couple. In the event there is a divorce and stepchildren are involved the issue of visitation with a non-biological child might arise.

As with all things regarding children during divorce, the final result will be one that the Court considers in the best interest of the children. Visitation is determined using this standard, and it applies to biological kids as well as stepchildren. Here are some examples of how this issue might come about:

● One of the parties to the divorce seeks visitation with a non-biological child.
● The child has formed a strong bond with the stepparent.

While the Court will not voluntarily order visitation with a stepchild, if you make the request for visitation rights the Court will review that request using the best interests standard. Some of the things you will need to show the Court in your attempt to get visitation are that the relationship you have formed with the child is solid. It can also be helpful for the child to express a desire to continue building a relationship with you. This would come into play in the case of older children, who have the maturity to understand the significance of continuing a relationship with a stepparent. We understand the unique needs of mixed families and work hard to reach results that are healthy for your family. Call a knowledgeable divorce attorney today to learn more.

If you have questions about your rights as a stepparent, consult a qualified legal professional. Call the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC to schedule an appointment today. We take an individualized approach and help you reach results that are satisfactory.

Divorce From A Child’s Perspective

Kids are resilient, and can bounce back from adversity quicker and will fewer lasting effects than adults. But when talking about divorce, special care is needed to ensure your child does not feel ashamed, blamed, or inadequate as a result. The best scenario is one where your children learn valuable lessons from the divorce and grow into well-adjusted adults. Getting there can be difficult, but does not have to be impossible.

Divorce from a child’s perspective is much different than divorce from an adult’s perspective. To better understand what your child is going through, keep in mind the following:

● Your child goes to school, not work. This is significantly different because school, for most kids, is not a choice. Even when your kids have a lot of friends at school, the schoolhouse is a place where kids go as a requirement and not as a voluntary choice. On the other hand, the workplace is a chosen job or profession, the choice of which is made after careful consideration and available options.
● The emotional maturity level of a child is not as developed as that of an adult. This makes it hard for children to process stress in a healthy way.
● Outside of school, the activities most children engage in are for fun. When their friends are going home to a two parent household and taking vacations it is a hard adjustment to make for your child to split their time between two homes and miss out on family activities.

Children look to adults to set the tone for acceptable behavior. When kids perceive their parents as “fighting” the expected consequence is to be “in trouble”, not divorce. The best approach to making sure your kids take something positive out of the divorce is to reassure them it is not their fault and to talk to them in ways that make sense for their age. If possible, maintain a friendship with your ex so the kids see that not all disagreements end in unhealthy emotions. We believe in the creation of an emotionally stable post-divorce family, and help you reach the goals of your case while also creating a healthy environment for your children.

For more information about how divorce impacts children, call our office. Our attorneys are qualified to assist you with all the issues that are important to you. Contact the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC today to schedule an appointment.

Do You Have The Will?

Most married couples, especially those with minor children, have a need for an estate plan. This typically involves the need to draft and execute a last will, setting forth your final wishes for distribution of your estate at your death. When you get divorced, though, it is imperative that you make changes to your will so that you don’t run the risk of leaving important decisions in the hands of your ex.

Important tips for parents who are getting divorced, include:

● Designate who will be charged with the custody and care of your children should you die.

● Change your beneficiary from your spouse to your children. Most insurances and other benefits policies contain a designation of your spouse as the beneficiary. When you get divorced, you should change that to your kids.

● Make provisions for visitation with your family members should you die. This will help ensure that grandparents and other extended family remain an integral part of your kids’ lives.

Failure to update your will and other estate planning documents could mean that your kids are left unprotected. Making sure your final wishes are honored is just as important at divorce as it was when you and your ex originally drafted your will. Because you have more important issues on your mind when you get divorced, such as custody and property distribution, it is easy to overlook the need to update your estate plan. Consult a skilled family law attorney to make sure you don’t miss out on important issues when getting divorced.

If you have questions about estate planning after your divorce is final, consult a qualified legal professional. Call the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC to schedule an appointment.

A Recap Of Same Sex Marriage Issues

Last fall the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal regarding legitimacy of same sex marriages. That would seem to be the final word on the issue, but this legal hot topic has a long and storied history that is not likely to go away any time soon. A quick replay of some of the most reported stories helps keep the issue at the forefront of the legal landscape, and is summarized below.

The Huffington Post has compiled some of the local headlines about same sex marriage. These archives provide a brief history and some highlights of the struggle to legalize same sex marriage, and are worth a read:

●       Can a same sex couple get married on a college campus?

●       A local politician made a huge sacrifice by leaving her ailing child’s bedside in order to cast her vote on same sex marriage.

●   Former President Bill Clinton supports Illinois’ proposal to legitimize same sex marriages.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to refuse an appeal has many wondering the current status of gay marriage, and how certain issues will be resolved. For example, if a marriage is valid in one state, what happens if the couple moves to state where their marriage is not recognized? Another common concern is how to dissolve a same sex marriage. Many couples wonder if they will have to comply with the divorce laws, or if some other method can be used to end their union. The domestic laws in place for divorce do apply in cases where a same sex marriage is considered legal. What this means is that the couple must decide issues of support, property distribution, and child custody and visitation. We keep our ear to the legal ground of these important issues, so we can remain ready to assist you with your case when the need arises.

If you have questions same sex marriage, consult a qualified legal professional. Call the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC to schedule an appointment.

What Are My Options?

Knowing your options when getting divorced is important. This is especially true when you are trying to resolve issues regarding your children. Amicable resolutions are preferable, but not always possible. When conflicts arise you can negotiate for satisfactory results, allow the Judge to make decisions, or agree to mediate. Mediation is a beneficial tool whereby a neutral third party listens to the interests of each party and helps facilitate a resolution. It is critical to have your attorney present at mediation, so your interests are clearly presented and in a way that protects your rights.

Mediation in Cook County is governed by local court rules. In some instances, mediation is required, those include:

● Parents involved in conflict over child custody.

● Parents involved in conflict over child visitation schedules.

● Cases where removal of a child is in dispute.

Recently, another method of conflict resolution has arisen in divorce cases. It is called collaborative divorce. It is easy to confuse this process with mediation, and while the two are similar they are not the same. Knowing how to proceed and feeling confident in your choices will help you reach results that work. Our staff of skilled family law attorneys is here to help make sure your case moves at a reasonable pace and that the end result is satisfactory. Call our office or follow us on social media to stay on top of the latest trends.

If you have questions about mediation and when it is required in a divorce with children, consult a qualified legal professional. Call the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC to schedule an appointment.

I’m Calling Grandma!

One of the most difficult issues to resolve in a divorce case is where the kids will live. Even when a final decision is reached, there are still other issues surrounding the children that must be addressed. Issues of child support and visitation must be finalized and in some cases this includes figuring out what rights grandparents have.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act contains a provision for determining what rights grandparents have regarding their grandchildren when the parents get divorced. These include:

● The requirement that a petition be filed, in the county where the child lives.

● That the child be at least one year old.

● That visitation has been denied by at least one parent.

The denial of visitation has to be unreasonable, and establishing what constitutes an unreasonable denial requires the presentation of evidence. This is true in a divorce as well as in instances where a parent has abandoned the family and marital home. When making this important determination the Courts will consider several factors. You can expect that the Court will consider the nature of the relationship between the child and grandparent, as well as the physical ability of the grandparent to exercise visitation. In cases where the children are old enough to express a preference, the Court will also consider what the kids have to say. It is up to the party seeking grandparent visitation to prove they are entitled to the visitation, which makes it critical to enlist the assistance of a qualified family law attorney. We have been appointed as child advocates in local matters, and have a unique insight into how to show what is in the best interests of your children.

If you have questions about custody, consult a qualified legal professional. Call the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC to schedule an appointment today.

Will Bankruptcy Eliminate Support Obligations?

If you are paying child support and considering filing bankruptcy, there are important legal rules you need to know about how your bankruptcy filing impacts your obligation to pay child support. Likewise, if you are receiving child support payments and your ex-spouse has sought the protection of bankruptcy, you will want to know if the obligation to pay survives the bankruptcy filing.

Bankruptcy laws were put in place to give a fresh financial start to those that are unable to meet their monthly financial obligations. Many types of debts can be eliminated by filing bankruptcy, but there are exceptions to this rule. One such exception is in regard to child support payments. Bankruptcy law does not allow a child support debt to be erased within the bankruptcy case. That said, it is critical to have a basic understanding of how bankruptcy affects issues already decided in your divorce case:

● Child support payments cannot be avoided by filing bankruptcy.

● Spousal maintenance (formerly referred to as alimony) is not avoidable by seeking the protection of bankruptcy.

When the question of what type of payment is being made, it is easy to determine if the payments are in the nature of child support. It is less clear determining what constitutes spousal maintenance (alimony). A carefully worded decree is required to avoid any confusion over how support payments are intended. This is important because if not clearly defined as maintenance, the bankruptcy court may allow certain payments to be discharged (not owed). To avoid confusion, choose a trained family law attorney to protect your rights in divorce.

If you have questions about support payments and how bankruptcy impacts the obligation to pay, call us for answers. Contact the Chicago Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, LLC to schedule an appointment today.

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