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DuPage County family law attorneysAs a parent, you will always want what is best for your child. By law, you also have a number of rights and responsibilities related to his or her upbringing and support. Exercising your parental rights can be challenging in the wake of divorce, especially if your ex-spouse has been allocated a majority of the parenting time and decision-making authority. When your ex-spouse gets remarried, your situation can become even more challenging, especially if his or her new partner expresses interest in legally adopting your child. If you are concerned about your parental rights being threatened, there are some steps that you can take to protect yourself.

Stepparent Adoption Requires Consent

In order for your ex’s new spouse to adopt your child, in most situations, you must grant voluntary consent. This means that you willingly terminate your parental rights and responsibilities for your child, as the law permits a person to have only two legal parents. A stepparent adoption is not a mere formality; it expressly transfers full parental authority and creates a legal parent-child relationship between your son or daughter and the stepparent.

It is your choice whether to grant your consent to a stepparent adoption. If you agree to it, you will no longer have any legal standing to request visitation or to make decisions regarding your child. Your ex-spouse and his or her new spouse may allow you to remain a part of the child’s life, but the court cannot force them to do so. If you refuse to consent, the case is all but closed. Your refusal can only be overridden by a finding that you are an unfit parent, and the involuntary termination of your parental rights.

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DuPage County family law attorneyThe rights a parent has to spend time with their child and raise him or her as well as the responsibility a parent has to protect and care for his child are collectively called “parental rights.” A parent is responsible for providing the basics like food, water, and shelter, but also immaterial necessities like education, affection, appropriate discipline, and medical care. Courts do have the authority to terminate parental rights, but this only happens if it is in the child’s best interest to end contact with a parent. This most often happens in cases of abuse or neglect. Parental rights are also terminated when a parent gives a child up for adoption. In situations where unmarried parents have a child together or married parents get divorced, the courts clarify parental rights and responsibilities through child custody orders.

Parental Rights When a Child is Conceived Through Rape

Studies approximate that between 17,000 and 32,000 pregnancies resulting from rape occur in the United States each year. Most would assume that if a person is found guilty of rape that they would not have parental rights to the child which was conceived; however, this is not the case across the country. The Maryland Senate just recently voted on this deeply important, but semi-controversial issue.

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DuPage County family law attorneysIf you are a divorced parent, you may find it very tough to pursue your own personal interests and hobbies. Between work and providing for your children, it might be nearly impossible to find time to travel, meet with friends, or participate in fun activities. It is important to develop an identity apart from being a parent as doing so is crucial to your psychological and emotional health. One of the biggest challenges that you are likely to face as a divorced parent is finding a sitter to care for your child when you need it. Depending on your situation, however, your parenting plan may require you to call your child’s other parent first.

What is the Right of First Refusal?

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a divorced or unmarried couple’s parenting plan may grant what is known as the “right of first refusal” to one or both parents. The right of first refusal essentially gives a parent “first dibs” on the opportunity to care for the child if the other parent needs alternative childcare during his or her normal parenting time. This may seem rather complicated, but it is actually quite simple in practice.

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DuPage County family law attorneysIf you are a divorced parent, it can be challenging at times to maintain a healthy close relationship with your child when you have limited parenting time and relatively few parental responsibilities. Your bond with your child can be even further strained if your former spouse decides to remarry. Many parents are willing to endure the new challenges because the child may experience a renewed sense of security and stability as a result of the remarriage.  But, what if the other parent’s new spouse expresses interest in legally adopting your child? Do you know what your rights would be in such a situation?

Divorcing Parents

According to the law in Illinois, a child can have only two legal parents. When a child is born to a married couple, each spouse is presumed to be the child’s legal parent unless there a reason to believe otherwise—a paternity action filed by a third party, for example. A divorce does not alter either spouse’s status as the child’s legal parent. When a divorced parent remarries, his or her new spouse is not automatically afforded any parental rights or responsibilities under the law. He or she may be the de facto head of the household and act as a parental figure, but those are practical concerns and not legal considerations.

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DuPage County family law attorneyAllegations of child abuse, both real and imagined, are sadly common in many divorce cases, as emotions run high and dirty laundry may be aired. If you lodge accusations of child abuse or domestic abuse as a part of your divorce proceeding, you must be able to back them up with evidence and be ready to take on the parental responsibilities that may come your way.

Interacting With DCFS

In Illinois, the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) is required by law to investigate any accusation of child abuse, regardless of its source. Even if you know at the outset that the accusation is spurious, DCFS has a legal mandate to investigate, and the law must be followed. While it is understandable that you might be offended or angry at the insinuation that you would act in a negative manner toward your children, DCFS officers might take such behavior as defensiveness. This is not to say that DCFS personnel will never make unreasonable requests. If you feel that a request or order is unrealistic or inappropriate, it is generally best to consult with your attorney.

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From our law office in Wheaton, IL the family law and civil litigation law attorneys of Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick and Mirabella, represent businesses and individual clients throughout the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois including Wheaton, Naperville, Oak Brook, Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream, Lombard, Downers Grove, Burr Ridge, Lisle, Elmhurst, Oakbrook Terrace, Winfield, Woodridge, Warrenville and throughout DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties.

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In honor of the passing of our founder, Joseph F. Mirabella, Jr., our offices are closed Friday, January 31, 2020.I Agree