Family Law: An Overview
Family law addresses the laws that define relationships between different family members, including those who are biologically related, those who are connected by marriage, and parents who share children. Family law defines the way society views interactions among family members and demonstrates the value society places in familial relationships. The advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney is invaluable if you are faced with making legal decisions about family members and family relationships.
Family law attorneys can assist clients with forming and ending family relationships. An experienced family law attorney at Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC can also assist with issues such as paternity, child support, custody issues, and adoption proceedings.
It may not seem romantic, but many couples find it wise to consult with a family law attorney before they get married. Marriage is a contract, and as with other types of contracts, it can be helpful to define the terms of the agreement before the parties enter into a legal partnership. An experienced family law attorney can advise you regarding the benefits of a prenuptial or premarital agreement, including resolving financial issues and other matters before a conflict arises.
Divorce is the legal mechanism used to end a marriage between two individuals. The divorce process can resolve many issues, such as dividing marital property and debts, determining parental responsibilities and child support issues, and determining whether maintenance or alimony payments will be paid by one spouse to the other. A divorce can be granted on no-fault grounds only. No-fault means that the person seeking the divorce does not have to prove that the other party did anything to cause the breakdown of the marriage. Fault requires that the person seeking the divorce prove that the other party did something specific to cause the marriage to fail. Prior to 2016, a divorce could also be granted on fault grounds, including adultery, mental cruelty, or abandonment. However, fault-based divorce has been eliminated as an available option going forward, and Illinois only recognizes "irreconcilable differences" as a grounds for divorce.
Usually, there are a limited number of issues that will need to be resolved in order to legally dissolve a marriage. Couples who can agree on these issues can usually finalize their divorce quickly, and they may use methods such as mediation or collaborative law to reach agreements. However, there are some cases where issues may be contested. Involving an experienced family law attorney early in the process is usually advantageous in resolving any issues in dispute between the spouses.
Parental Responsibilities (Child Custody) and Parenting Time/Visitation
The care and custody of children is often a contentious issue among divorcing spouses, and it can be an ongoing source of conflict even after a divorce has been finalized. Parents will be required to address both physical custody of minor children and legal custody. Physical custody deals primarily with the daily care and control of children, while legal custody addresses issues concerning decisions in areas such as education, religion, and healthcare. Since 2016, Illinois law has defined legal custody as the "allocation of parental responsibilities" and physical custody as "parenting time." Each parent will be allocated specific duties, obligations, and rights toward their children, and in most cases, both parents will have the right to regular, ongoing parenting time.
If parents cannot agree on parental responsibility and visitation issues, the court will enter an order deciding the issues for the parents. As a general rule, courts encourage and expect parents to share joint custody of children and work together to provide for their children's needs. In most cases, it is in the best interest of the children to have both parents involved in the children's lives. The court will make decisions on custody and visitation issues based on what is in the best interests of the child. It is helpful to involve an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to ensure that a parent can advocate for their parental rights and demonstrate that they can provide for the best interests of their children.
Parents are legally obligated to support their children financially, and courts rarely allow parents to enter into agreements absolving one party of their financial responsibilities toward their children. The legal obligation to support children usually terminates when the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in Illinois. A child support order will be based on the number of children born to the parties, the income earned by both parents, custody arrangements, and other issues that may affect parents' financial resources and their ability to pay for child-related expenses. An unmarried parent can also be ordered to pay child support once paternity or parentage is legally established. If a parent fails to pay child support as ordered, state law generally allows for a number of penalties meant to enforce these obligations, including the suspension of driving privileges, loss of business or professional licenses, garnishment of wages or other finances such as tax refunds, or even jailing the non-paying parent. An experienced family law attorney can assist either parent with child support issues, even if those issues arise after a divorce has been finalized.
In an adoption case, a person who is not a child's biological parent will seek to be named as the legal parent of the child. This will establish a permanent legal relationship that will require the adoptive parent to provide the child with care and support, and it will also ensure that the child will have certain rights, such as the ability to inherit property or receive benefits through their adoptive parent. However, before a child can be legally adopted, a family court will need to ensure that the adoptive parent meets all requirements, including the ability to provide for the child's needs and ensure that they can live in a safe and healthy environment. In these cases, a parent who plans to adopt a child can work with a family law attorney to meet all of their requirements, follow the proper legal procedures, and ensure that they will have the tools they need to provide for the child in the years to come.
Contact Our DuPage County Family Law Attorneys
If you need assistance with any legal issues that affect your family, Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC can advise you of your rights, help you understand the legal procedures you will need to follow, assist in resolving disputes, and provide you with representation in court when necessary. Please contact us at 630-665-7300 to arrange a consultation with one of your experienced attorneys.