Family law is an area of legal practice that focuses on issues involved in family relationships. Among others, these matters include divorce, child custody, adoption, and paternity. A family law attorney represents clients in family court proceedings and related negotiations, in addition to drafting legal documents, such as court petitions and property settlement agreements.
When do you need a family law lawyer in Chicago or North Shore?
Reasons to hire a family law attorney are many and varied, as family law is a broad practice area. It is essential to have a trusted legal professional by your side when dealing with important family matters. The following are some of the most common reasons to hire a family law lawyer.
Dissolving a marriage involves critical financial matters, such as division of assets, spousal maintenance, child support, and who can claim children as dependents for tax purposes. It also involves highly personal, sensitive matters, such as child custody and visitation. A family law attorney skilled in dealing with these issues can assist you through the process and help protect your interests and those of your children.
Child custody and support
Divorce is more complicated when children are involved, and it can also be more contentious. An experienced family law lawyer can help you reach an agreement with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse on matters such as child custody, visitation, and child support, or fight for your rights in trial if necessary. Your family law attorney can also assist in matters that may arise post-divorce. For example, there may be changes in child support orders due to changes in the financial situation of the non-custodial parent, or the custodial parent may want to move out of town with the child.
Adoption or foster care
Both adopting a child and becoming a foster parent are complex processes in Illinois. To adopt or foster a child through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Illinois, you must undergo a criminal background check, a home inspection, and a physical examination and attend 39 hours of training. The process can take three to six months to complete. Legal guidance from an experienced family law attorney can be invaluable.
Guardianship may be necessary for individuals with mental, physical, or developmental disabilities who are unable to make and communicate decisions about their finances or personal care. Guardianship is established by court order. The court determines the extent to which an appointed guardian is allowed to make decisions through a report and clinical evaluation. If you are seeking guardianship of a loved one, a family law attorney can draft the petition filed with the court, represent you in the guardianship hearing, and assist you with annual reports to the court and other related matters.
Many paternity cases are filed by the mother to secure child support payments from the father. However, some are filed by fathers who want a relationship with their children. Executing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) when the child is born does not give a father custodial or visitation rights but only serves as a basis for child support. Typically, paternity is determined through DNA testing, after which an order is entered with the court declaring the existence of a biological relationship. A family law lawyer can assist either the mother or the father in a paternity case.
Prenuptial agreements (or “prenups”) are established between marital partners before the marriage. They serve as legal contracts that delineate how certain matters will be handled during the marriage or in the event the marriage ends through divorce or the death of one of the spouses. These agreements are designed to address obligations from a prior marriage, protect the financial independence of the parties, and minimize conflict in case of divorce. Like all legal contracts, prenups should be drafted and/or reviewed by an experienced lawyer.
Children are automatically emancipated at 18 years of age. Minors between the ages of 16 and 18 who wish to live independently from their parents and have greater control over their lives can petition the court for a special emancipation order. Once a minor is emancipated, the parents no longer have the right to decide where their child will live, work, or go to school, or discipline the minor. However, they are also not required to provide any financial support unless the emancipation order specifies that they must.
Family law attorneys can help minors seeking emancipation prove to the court that:
- They have already lived partially or completely independently from their parents; and
- They are capable of managing their own affairs.
Beermann LLP in Chicago and North Shore is the law firm other attorneys go to for divorce. From negotiated settlements, to complex litigation, to appeals, our talented family law attorneys have years of experience and an excellent reputation in the courts.