Family Law

Chicago family law deals with a broad range of issues pertaining to family relations. Most people think Chicago family law just covers issue like divorce and child custody. It does, but family law is considerably broader than just divorce. While family law is quite diverse and covers many issues where children are involved, the governing principle in Illinois when it comes to children in family law is that courts will make decisions in the best interests of children.

At the Start of the Family Relationship

Well before divorce, there are legal issues to consider when a family is being created. Prenuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, and domestic partnerships are all governed by family law. They address legal issues like finances, property, and future support. When such contracts are drawn up, the most important legal consideration in testing their validity is whether the interests of both parties are protected by the contract.

Family law also includes any issue regarding bringing children into the family. This can mean adoption, fostering, or determining paternity. Challenging paternity can be particularly difficult as once a man’s name is listed on a birth certificate as the father, courts are reluctant to declare a child legally fatherless.

As people turn to options like surrogate mothers, in vitro fertilization, and other scientifically modern ways to have children, the potential for legal disputes also grows. Contracts that clarify the agreement of all involved regarding a child can settle some issues.

If Family Relationships Deteriorate

Illinois is one of the many states that allows for no-fault divorces. However, it also recognizes certain grounds for a fault divorce. Illinois residents can sue for divorce for such reasons as adultery, abandonment, cruelty, or habitual drunkenness, just to name a few.

Family law also governs how marital assets are divided, if there is ongoing spousal support, and child support. Illinois law provides for equitable distribution of marital assets. This is often confused to mean marital assets are distributed equally, split evenly down the middle. This isn’t always the case, however. Equitable distribution is based, in part, on each partner’s contribution to the asset over the course of the marriage. This doesn’t just apply to the actual purchase of the property. For example, if a husband provided the money to buy a house, but it was a wife who stayed at home and maintained the house, her contribution to the house’s value is certainly one of the many additional factors considered by the courts.

In addition to divorce or dissolution of a domestic partnership, family law also provides for minors to divorce their parents in certain circumstances. This is referred to as emancipation of a minor, which means that the minor is legally considered an adult and has the right and responsibility to manage their own welfare. The parents’ rights regarding the minor are terminated.

After the Family Relationship Has Been Dissolved

Regardless of how or why the family relationship has legally ended, there are usually legal issues that arise afterwards that must be resolved. Some examples of this include revisiting issues of child custody, spousal support, or modifying or enforcing a child support decree or restraining order.

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