Our Family Law Attorneys Answer Your Most Commonly Asked Questions

Though every family situation is unique, there are common threads among many family law cases. Here, our team provides answers to many of the most frequently asked questions. Find quick answers to help get you started resolving your family law issue and moving forward with your family.

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  • When Can I Change My Child Support?

    Happy childrenOnce a judgment of dissolution of marriage is entered and a child support obligation is established, those who are ordered to pay child support, and those who are entitled to receive it, often wonder when, and under what circumstances, they can change the child support obligation.  As the statute for determining the amount of child support is set to change on July 1, 2017, it is also a good time to talk about modifying the child support obligation. 

    The child support obligation is modifiable at any time upon the showing of a “substantial change in circumstances.” 

    The most common change in circumstances is a change in the salary of the person paying the child support, whether it is a raise in their salary, or they have lost their job.  If the Judge determines that, at some point after the entry of the original judgment of dissolution, there has been such a substantial change in circumstances, the child support can be modified.

    In order to change the child support obligation, one party must file a petition with the court seeking the change in the child support obligation and must provide notice of that petition to the other party.  The timing of this petition becomes important.  Illinois law provides that the child support obligation can only be modified as to installments which accrue after the petition to modify is filed, and notice is provided to the other party.  This means that if a person receiving child support learns that the paying party has received a large raise in salary, but does not file the petition to increase the support the obligation for say… one year, they have forfeited that one year of increased child support.  The sitting Judge will have no discretion to modify the child support retroactively. 

    The Judge can only modify the support as of the date the petition to modify is filed, and notice is provided to the other party.

    This rule cuts both ways.  If a party is paying child support, and loses their job or suffers a large decrease in salary, but waits for that same one-year period to file a petition to modify the child support obligation downward, the Judge will have no option in that situation either.  The established child support amount will have to be paid by the paying party for that entire year, despite the fact that they have had a greatly reduced income.

    If you are paying or receiving child support, and you believe there has been a substantial change in circumstances which can affect the payment of the support, you should talk to an experienced attorney right away to determine if a petition to modify is appropriate, and when it should be filed. 

    The failure to do so can have severe consequences on your financial situation.

    Call us today at 855-522-5291, fill out our contact form, or chat with us 24/7 by clicking the button on the bottom right of your screen. 

  • Is it illegal to leave my child alone in the car for a short period of time?

    A mother in Florida was arrested last week after a police officer spotted her sleeping child alone in her vehicle. The woman had left the car running and the doors unlocked while she ran a brief errand. Her reasoning did not keep her out of jail. So, what does the law in Illinois say about child safety in automobiles?

    A person who leaves a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes is in violation of the law. 

    Like most laws, the details are very important. Unattended means either: 

    • Not accompanied by a person 14 years of age or older; or

    • If accompanied by a person 14 years of age or older, out of sight of that person.

    A violation of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor which means up to one year in jail and up to a $2500 fine. In some cases, it may also lead to involvement of DCFS. A second violation is a Class 3 felony, meaning 2 to 5 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. A violation that causes the death of the child is a Class 3 felony for which a person, if sentenced to prison, shall be sentenced to a term of 2 years and up to 10 years.

    Even under the safest conditions, it is never a good idea to leave children unattended in a car. The minor inconvenience of having a grumpy toddler or a tired baby is surely better than being forced to answer to a judge and DCFS about your parenting choices.

  • Should I File a Petition to Change My Child’s Last Name or a Petition for Adoption?

    Parents in blended families frequently are confronted with a situation where a child wishes to change their last name so that their name will be the same as other members of the family. 

    Parents frequently ask whether they should file a petition for adoption, or whether they can simply petition the Court to change the child’s last name.  An adoption proceeding and a proceeding to change name are two very different procedures governed by two different statutes. 

    If a parent and a step-parent wish to adopt a child, they will have to file a Petition for Adoption.  If the biological parent approves of the adoption and the termination of his or her parental rights, he or she will have to sign an Irrevocable Consent to the adoption before a Judge in a courtroom.  Because the termination of one’s parental rights is seen as such a serious matter, it must be done in front of a Judge, to make sure the Consent is knowing and voluntary.  If the biological parent does not consent to the adoption, the adopting parents will have to prove the biological parent is “unfit,” by one of the means set forth in the Illinois Adoption Act. 

    If a Petition for Adoption is granted, any future child support obligation of the biological parent is terminated, although that parent will still owe any back child support that was owed prior to the date of adoption.  The adopting parents are then treated as if they were the biological parents, which means, should the adoptive parents divorce in the future, each parent has an equal footing in any future custody case, and both parents are equally responsible to support the child.

    If the parents simply wish to change the child’s last name, a Petition to Change Name of Minor can be filed with the Court.  If the biological parent will not agree to the name change, a hearing is held before a Judge, and the petitioning parents will have to prove it is in the best interests of the child to change names.  In deciding what is in the child’s best interests, the Judge must consider: the wishes of the child’s parents; the wishes of the child and his or her reasons for wishing to change names; the interaction the child has with the significant people in his or her life; and the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community.  Any child support obligation the biological parent has would remain in place, even if the Petition to Change Name is granted. 

    Under either proceeding, the biological parent is entitled to Notice of all proceedings and should be provided a copy of whatever petition is filed. If you have questions regarding a petition to change names or a petition for adoption, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney right away to help you chose the best path for your family. We provide free consultations with our compassionate attorneys. Call today at 855-522-5291.