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Family Law

Kane County Adoption LawyerAdopting a child can be a joyous occasion for many. When you choose to adopt a child in Kane County, there are a few things you should know and prepare for. The process of adoption can vary depending on the circumstances–a family adoption may look quite a bit different than an adoption through an agency or a foster child adoption. At times, the process may seem frustrating, redundant, or confusing. Having an attorney who is experienced with adoption can help simplify the process for you. 

What Should I Expect When I am Planning to Adopt?

The more you know about the Illinois adoption process in advance, the better you can prepare. While some parts of the screening or court proceedings might seem intimidating, keep in mind that you are not expected to be perfect. The state is mainly interested in making sure that you will be able to provide a safe environment for the child. Some things you should be aware of going in include: 

  • Screening - Kane County courts require all prospective adoptive parents to submit to a screening process. This is likely not as frightening or invasive as you might fear–again, you are not expected to be perfect. The screening includes a background check to make sure that nothing in your record suggests that you would endanger a child. It also may include a home visit to make sure that your home environment is safe and appropriate for a child. 

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Kane County Parenting Time LawyerLegal matters involving children are of special importance in the eyes of the court. Children are often in a very vulnerable position during a divorce, child custody dispute, adoption, or other legal matter. The court cannot call a small child to the stand and examine him or her the way the court may examine an adult. Furthermore, children may be manipulated by the adults in the case or afraid to tell the truth. Guardians Ad Litem are specially qualified professionals, often attorneys, who advocate on behalf of children during legal proceedings.

The Guardian Ad Litem Advocates for the Child’s Best Interests

Some people think that a Guardian Ad Litem works for one of the parties in a divorce or other legal matter. Others assume that the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is the child’s own attorney. In reality, a GAL does not represent any one person. The GAL’s job is to evaluate the facts of the case and determine what he or she thinks is in the child’s best interests.

The Guardian Ad Litem May Conduct Interviews and Investigations

Before the GAL can form an opinion about the case, he or she must fully understand the facts of the case. The GAL often acts as the eyes and ears of the court. It is not practical for the judge presiding over a case to visit the parents’ homes and see first-hand what is going on. Instead, the court assigns a trusted GAL to investigate the parties’ homes, conduct interviews, and gather information.

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Kane County Parenting Time LawyerYou are probably familiar with terms like “custody” and “visitation.” Terms like these have been used across the country for a long time. You do not need to have a legal background to know that “physical custody” has to do with who the child is physically with. Illinois uses updated terminology for a number of reasons. Some of the old terms no longer reflect the current reality of Illinois families. Others were changed because they carried unintended implications. This changing terminology came as part of a broader overhaul in divorce law and other types of family law related to children. While you may still hear the old terms used in less formal settings, it is helpful to understand the terms you will hear in the courtroom. 

What Child-Related Family Law Terms Should I Know?

It can be easy to get a little confused in court or during mediation if you have not been made aware of the updated terminology. Here are a few terms specific to Illinois that you should know:

  • Allocation of Parental Responsibilities - The term “child custody” is no longer used at all in Illinois courts. Instead, the process of determining who a child will spend time with and when, as well as who will have decision-making power is called the “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.” This reflects the idea that both parents still have and share responsibility for their children. 

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Geneva Family Law AttorneyOrders of protection can be excellent tools to help victims of domestic abuse stay safe. Unfortunately, they can also be used abusively in high-conflict divorce cases. These orders typically prevent the alleged abuser from contacting the alleged victim and returning to the marital home. The requisite abuse need not be physical or violent in nature. Courts will grant restraining orders if they believe that harassment, restrictions of personal liberty, or other forms of abusive behaviors are taking place. In some cases, children may also be named as protected parties. If you are served with one, it can put you in a very difficult position. Your best bet is to immediately contact a qualified attorney and follow their instructions. 

My Spouse Obtained an Order of Protection Against Me. Now What?

The first and most important thing you must do is to obey the order exactly as it is written. Should you violate it, you could be arrested and charged with a crime. Even if the protection order came from the divorce court rather than any criminal court, it is illegal to violate it. You do not want to be battling a criminal case and your divorce case at the same time, and a protection order violation will do you no favors in divorce court. Here are some steps you can take if your spouse has you served with an order of protection during your high-conflict divorce: 

  • No contact - The order of protection will almost certainly prohibit you from having any contact with your spouse. This is not limited to in-person contact. Do not call your spouse, send them a letter, ask a mutual friend to pass along a message, or write an ambiguously-addressed social media post. 

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Who Can Adopt in Illinois?

Posted on in Family Law

IL family lawyerAdoption can be a beautiful way to grow your family. However, the adoption process can be complicated, and sometimes take years depending on the circumstances. Not everyone is qualified to adopt a child in Illinois. There are certain requirements that the state sets out limiting who will be permitted to become an adoptive parent. These rules are in place to protect the safety of children who are eligible for adoption. The state has a strong interest in making sure that adopted children are placed in safe homes with capable and caring parents. While many adults will have no trouble qualifying, others may have difficulties for any number of reasons. An attorney can offer assistance if you anticipate any trouble.

What Are the Requirements to Adopt in Illinois?

The requirements to adopt a child may vary depending on the circumstances. If the child to be adopted is already related to the prospective adoptive parents, some requirements can be waivable. Many adoption petitions are very much decided on a case-by-case basis. However, typical requirements to become an adoptive parent include:

  • Age - In Illinois, adoptive parents must typically be 18 years old. Exceptions are only made for good cause. For example, the court may allow an older teenager to adopt her siblings after the loss of their parents if doing so is in everyone’s best interests.
  • Spousal participation - If a married person is seeking to adopt, their spouse must also be a party to the adoption and meet all requirements. Unmarried people can adopt without restriction. However, this may not be necessary for spouses who are separated and have been living apart for at least a year.
  • Residency - Adoptive parents must have resided in Illinois for six months. For those who are in the military, 90 days of residency is sufficient. This requirement may be waived in related adoption or for other appropriate reasons.
  • Reputation - Illinois law states that “reputable” adults can adopt. This requirement may seem a bit strange and is heavily case-specific.
  • Criminal background - Adoptive parents must submit to a criminal background check. Merely having a record will not necessarily prevent you from adopting. A non-violent misdemeanor that is at least a couple of years old is unlikely to get your adoption petition denied. However, more serious convictions or any record involving crimes against children may be a bar to adoption. Courts will not place a child with a person who has a history of harming children, nor will they want to risk exposing children to drug crime or violence. If you have an offense of this nature on your record you will need an attorney.

Many adults have some type of concern about being approved to adopt. Speaking to a qualified attorney may help set your mind at ease, or at least give you a realistic idea of what to expect.

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