Although most people automatically think of divorce when they hear the words “family law,” the reality is that this area of the law encompasses a wide range of issues, including the drafting of prenuptial agreements, dividing marital property during a divorce, and coming up with child custody arrangements. Family law matters tend to be both complex and emotional, so if you or a loved one have questions about divorce, child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, or orders of protection, it is critical to speak with an experienced Oak Park family law attorney who can explain your legal options.
Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, which means that Illinois residents who wish to obtain a divorce do not need to prove that one of the parties was at fault for the marriage’s failure. Instead, divorcing couples only need to assert that their marriage has become irretrievably broken as a result of irreconcilable differences. The parties must also claim that efforts at reconciliation have failed, or that attempting such a reconciliation would be impractical or detrimental to the family’s well-being. Providing evidence that two spouses have lived separate and apart for at least six months is deemed sufficient to create an irrebuttable presumption that this burden has been met, which in turn means that the parties can proceed with the divorce.
Prior to 2016, Illinois family law courts who were tasked with determining where a child will live after divorce, or when a child’s parents were not married, were directed to create child custody arrangements. Since that time, state lawmakers have asked family law courts to instead use the terms parenting time and parental decision making responsibilities when referring to child custody matters. The former refers to the actual time that a child is physically in each parent’s presence, while the latter refers to how responsibility for making child-related decisions is divided between two parents.
Although most courts presume that giving both parents equal access to and responsibility for their children is in the children’s best interests, especially when both parents request such an arrangement, judges do have the discretion to come up with an alternate parenting plan. For instance, when there is concern about one parent’s ability to care for a child, whether due to physical or mental disability, substance abuse, or a history of domestic violence, courts may only grant significant decision-making responsibilities about a child’s education, religion, medical care, and extracurricular activities to one parent, who will also receive a greater share of time with the child.
Aside from grappling with child support, parenting time issues, and divorce, family law courts are also tasked with resolving domestic violence-related matters, which include everything from allegations of physical violence and sexual abuse to threats and deprivation of liberty. Victims who are suffering from this type of abuse can request an Order of Protection from their local family law court, which if granted, would prohibit the abusive party from coming into contact with the petitioner. However, it is important to note that these orders are only valid for 10 days, after which, the court will hold a hearing on whether the order should be extended.
If you have questions about whether your legal matter falls under the umbrella of family law, please contact one of the dedicated Oak Park family law attorneys at The Law Offices of George M. Sanders P.C. today.