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Naperville family law attorneysYou have probably heard of a prenuptial agreement before. Although they are often misunderstood, prenuptial agreements can be a valuable tool for spouses who take their property and financial rights seriously. Prenuptial agreements protect both spouses’ property rights in the event of a divorce and also provide an effective way for engaged couples to ensure that they are on the same page regarding property and finances before getting married. When a couple decides to address property and debt after they have already gotten married, they may choose to draft a postnuptial agreement.

Issues That Can Be Addressed by a Postnuptial Agreement

Postnuptial agreements are generally used to establish arrangements for how a married couple’s assets and debts should be handled if the marriage ends in divorce. In a postnuptial agreement, a spouse may specify that a certain asset is exempt from asset division during divorce so that they will not risk losing the property.

Spouses may choose to address issues of spousal maintenance in their postnuptial agreement as well. Sometimes called alimony or spousal support, spousal maintenance refers to the payments that a lesser earning spouse makes to the higher-earning spouse in order to mitigate the negative financial effects of divorce on the recipient spouse. Some spouses include a spousal maintenance payment arrangement that would go into effect if the marriage ends in divorce. Other spouses use their postnuptial agreement to waive their right to spousal maintenance entirely. Information about how retirement accounts and the marital home will be managed in the event of divorce are also commonly included in postnuptial agreements.

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Naperville family law attorneyAccording to recent studies, nearly 40 percent of all marriages are remarriages for at least one of the partners. While, to many, numbers such as these represent a renewed hope in the institution of marriages—which may be an accurate perspective—these estimates also indicate that more and more individuals are bringing more with them into marriage. Children from previous relationships are an increasing part of marriages, and especially affect those marrying for the second or third time. Of course, there is not a “perfect” way to approach a stepchild situation, as the dynamics of each family will depend upon countless factors. However, for some stepparents, legally adopting their stepchildren may provide a level of needed security and legal parental responsibility.

Related Adoptions

Foster care adoptions, along with domestic and international infant adoptions are certainly important for the well-being of children in need, but represent just part of the adoption story in the United States. The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reports that adopting a stepchild is the most common form of adoption in the country today. Stepparent adoption is a type of related adoption in which a family member of the child looks to become the child’s legal parent. Compared to other forms, related adoptions are generally much simpler and no agency involvement in most cases.

Consent of Both Parents

Under Illinois law, “a reputable person of legal age” may initiate the proceedings for the adoption of a child. In a vast majority of stepparent adoption cases, the requirement of a home evaluation and other steps in the “normal” vetting process are waived due to the familiarity between the stepparent and the child. The successful adoption of a stepchild, however, will most often depend entirely upon the willingness of the child’s other parent to grant consent to the adoption. By virtue of your marriage, your spouse’s consent will not be in question, but the other parent must agree or the adoption will not take place. If the other parent cannot be found to either offer or deny consent, the court may allow the adoption to proceed at its discretion.

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DuPage County family law attorneysIf you are a parent, you should always want what is best for your child, even it means making certain sacrifices. The law also provides you with particular rights and responsibilities in regard to your child. In the wake of a divorce, exercising your parental rights may be especially difficult if the other parent is given the majority of the parenting time and most of the authority for decision-making. When your ex-spouse gets remarried, the challenges may become even greater, particularly if his or her new spouse expresses the desire to legally adopt your child.

A Stepparent Adoption Usually Requires Your Approval

In most situations, your ex’s new husband or wife cannot adopt your child unless you voluntarily consent to the adoption. If you agree to the adoption, you also agree have your parental rights and responsibilities regarding your child terminated. According to Illinois law, a person may have only two legal parents. As such, an adoption by a stepparent is more than a formality; it creates a legal parent-child relationship between the stepparent and your child, giving the stepparent all of the authority and responsibilities that were once yours.

It is up to you to decide whether to give your consent when a stepparent is looking to adopt your child. If you approve the proposed adoption, you relinquish your standing to ask for visitation or to make decisions about your child’s life. Depending upon the situation, your former partner and his or her new spouse may allow you to continue your relationship with your child, but once the adoption is finalized, they are under no legal obligation to do so. As far the court is concerned, you are no longer the child’s parent, regardless of what a DNA test would show.

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Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyWhen a married couple reaches a point where they do not know if they wish to continue being married, they have several options. One of these options is a legal separation instead of a divorce. There are several reasons why a couple may choose to be separated. A legal separation is a court order that protects each spouse’s rights and responsibilities when they are living apart. The major difference between legal separation and divorce is that separated individuals are still married, versus a divorce where the marriage is ended. Legal separations are not as common as divorce, but there are certain circumstances where a couple’s best option may be a legal separation.

Separation Maintenance and Child Support

Most people associate spousal maintenance, or alimony, with divorce. However, when a couple legally separates, it is possible to obtain maintenance during the separation. Separate maintenance is comparable to alimony or spousal support, but it's not called alimony because the couple is still legally married. Many of the factors used to determine if separate maintenance is necessary are the same as the factors which are used when determining maintenance after a divorce. The amount and duration of the payments will depend on the length of the marriage, spouses' incomes, earning abilities, ages, and physical and mental wellbeing. The court can also determine how child custody will be shared, allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time, and order one parent to pay child support.

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Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyAs the caretaker of a child, parents have some basic rights and responsibilities. Parents of a child have the right to raise their child in the manner that they believe is appropriate and have the responsibility to keep the child safe and provide for him or her. A court can take these rights away from a parent if he or she violates the law repeatedly or in a particularly heinous way. In certain situations, a parent can also voluntarily terminate his or her rights, which ends the legal parent-child relationship and absolves the parent of many responsibilities.

Involuntary Termination

In Illinois, one parent cannot simply petition the court for the termination of another parent’s rights. A parent’s rights can only be terminated in conjunction with the Adoption Act or in a juvenile case. Family courts start with the assumption that it is best for children to have two parents in their lives, except in cases where this is not in the best interest of the child or a parent is found to be unfit. In Illinois, a parent can be found unfit to be a parent if they:

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