In current times, more individuals have children without first establishing a legal relationship with each other. An action to establish parentage (also referred to as paternity) can be initiated irrespective of the legal relationship between two parents. Additionally, an individual can pursue an action to declare the non-existence of a parent-child relationship. Pursuant to a parentage action, the courts can allocate parental responsibilities (custody and parenting time) and determine child support obligations, discussed below.
Custody and Parenting Time (Parental Responsibilities)
Custody (now known as significant decision-making responsibilities) refers to the major decision-making responsibilities of a parent including important decisions affecting your child’s education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities. Following a divorce or separation, parents will either share in one or more of these decision-making responsibilities or one parent will be allocated the authority to make these important decisions. Parenting time (also known as visitation) refers to the time each parent spends with the child. Our statutes and the courts encourage the parties to reach an agreement regarding parental responsibilities to serve the best interests of the minor children. However, the courts are prepared to make determinations of parental responsibilities following a trial in the event no agreement can be reached.
At Clark & Steiner, we are sensitive to the unique and personal nature of the issues parents and children face when a marriage dissolves or parents separate. Often times, parents have two different parenting styles which become increasingly apparent following separation. It is imperative that any agreement take into consideration the unique circumstances of each family and parenting styles in order for the agreement and the parents to be successful in the future. We work closely with our clients to negotiate appropriate settlement agreements to achieve our clients’ desired results in accordance with the best interests of the children. Additionally, we work closely with our clients if they attend mediation regarding child-related issues. In the event settlement cannot be reached, Clark & Steiner’s attorneys fiercely advocate on our clients' behalves to achieve the best interests of the minor children.
Child support refers to a parent’s obligation to provide financial support to a minor child, including a parent’s contribution to educational expenses, health-related expenses, childcare, and extracurricular activities. Often, parents are not in a similar financial position to offer the same amount of financial support and each child’s financial needs may differ. Illinois utilizes guidelines to determine if a parent owes an obligation to pay child support to the other parent and the amount of child support to be paid. The specific circumstances of the parties and/or minor children may justify a deviation from Illinois’ child support guidelines. Clark & Steiner’s attorneys carefully review each client’s circumstances which impact child support to determine the appropriate framework for the payment of child support.
Modifications, Relocation and Enforcement
During a child’s minority, both the child and parents experience numerous changes. In certain circumstances, the change experienced by either or both the child and/or parents will justify a modification to the major decision-making responsibilities or parenting time. Circumstances may also arise in which one parent intends to relocate a substantial distance away or outside of Illinois. Additionally, a situation may arise which requires court involvement to resolve but does not require permanent modification, or a parent may need to enforce the court’s prior order or judgment. Clark & Steiner will review your circumstances with you to determine if and how to modify a prior court order or judgment relating to parental responsibilities, including relocation, or to seek the enforcement of the court’s prior order or judgment on your behalf.
In the event of a substantial change in circumstances, the payor or recipient of child support may be entitled to a modification of the initial child support award. Clark & Steiner will assist you in determining if a modification is appropriate and the best approach to obtain the modification. Additionally, Clark & Steiner can assist you with the enforcement of a prior order or judgment of the court relating to child support or the payment of child-related expenses.
Post-High School Education
Illinois provides the courts with the authority to require one or both parents to contribute to a child’s post-high school educational expenses, including a variety of expenses relating to college, vocational or professional training. Courts have broad discretion to consider all relevant factors in allocating these expenses and can consider a parent’s financial resources beyond income. Clark & Steiner’s attorneys have significant experience negotiating and litigating issues involving post-high school educational expenses.
Clark & Steiner, Ltd.
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