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Wakenight & Associates, P.C.

1100 Lake Street, Suite 120, Oak Park, IL 60301

Oak Park | 708-848-3159

DuPage County | 630-852-9700   Mokena | 815-727-6144

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Oak Park Legal Separation LawyerWhen a marriage reaches a breaking point, many people turn immediately to divorce. For others, that is not the outcome they want to pursue, so they may instead choose legal separation. Reasons for separation as opposed to divorce may include religious beliefs, health insurance, or any number of other personal issues. Legally, the agreements that spouses must make are very similar whether they have opted for divorce or legal separation, although there are a few differences.

What is Legal Separation?

While some couples may choose to separate temporarily and see if they can still work things out, a legal document does not need to be signed for that. Legal separation is a more permanent decision. One must file for it in court, just like a divorce. The spouses must draft a written agreement similar to a divorce settlement, addressing child custody and support, alimony, property division, and other relevant matters. The legal separation agreement must be signed and approved in court.

In a legal separation, however, the parties are still legally married. One of the benefits is that either spouse can remain on the health insurance of the other indefinitely. This can be invaluable if one spouse would otherwise have trouble getting affordable health insurance.

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Cook County fathers' rights lawyerIn Illinois, the Putative Father Registry (PFR) is designed to help protect fathers’ rights and ensure that a child cannot be adopted without the father’s consent. Within 30 days after a child’s birth, the father should sign up with the PFR. For fathers who were not married to their child’s mother at the time of giving birth, it will also be necessary to establish paternity, which will need to be done by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or by going through the Circuit Court Clerk or through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The legal process to establish paternity must be started within 30 days of registering with the PFR. A family law attorney can help you with all of this.

What Does “Putative Father” Mean?

A putative father is a man who is the father of a child born to a mother when he was not married to her. He may even have been married to her before the birth. Regardless of the situation, he will need to follow the proper procedures to ensure that he proves his paternity and protects his rights as a father. Signing up with the Illinois Putative Father Registry is one action that will help keep his child from being put up for adoption without his consent. 

A putative father may sign up for the PFR before or after the birth of the child, even if his name is not on the child’s birth certificate, or even if paternity has not yet been legally established. Fathers under the age of 18 may also register with the PFR. If the child’s mother ever tries to put the child up for adoption, the father must be notified and may have the opportunity to stop the adoption process. 

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Oak Park adoption attorneyAdoption is, by far, the most pleasant and wonderful area of family law for everyone, including the judge and us lawyers. Everyone is happy, especially the child.

Most of the adoptions handled over the many years by Wakenight & Associates, P.C. have been related adoptions. The most common related adoption occurs when the mother or father is the natural parent of the child, and the child is being adopted by the step-parent. Even in these pleasant circumstances where the child and step-parent have an established relationship, it is necessary to appreciate the legal consequences of the adoption.

When you adopt a child, that child is then your child, just as if you were their biological parent. All the laws that apply to a biological child now apply to this child. As a result, if you later end up in divorce court, the laws regarding primary residence, parenting time, decision making, child support, insurance, day care, contribution to college, etc. all apply to your adopted child. All the school laws also apply, as does the Family Expense Act, insurance law, criminal laws, etc.

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Skokie child custody modification attorneyAlthough countless studies have shown that children are happier and mentally healthier when they have a relationship with both parents, there are times when a parent may be causing them harm. If you are trying to protect your child from an abusive or neglectful parent, there are steps you can take to modify custody and visitation agreements following your divorce. You will bear the burden of proving that your child is in danger when with their mother or father, but sometimes, it is in the best interests of the child to be removed from a harmful situation. 

What Situations Are Considered Abusive or Neglectful?

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, there are many situations in which child custody may be modified due to an inappropriate or dangerous environment a parent’s home. The following are some examples of abuse which can come from a parent or any other family member, especially those responsible for caring for the child or living in the home with the child:

  • Causing a child physical injury or allowing it to happen
  • Torturing or allowing a child to be tortured
  • Punishing a child excessively
  • Sexually abusing a child or allowing others to do so
  • Selling or giving a child a controlled substance or alcohol
  • Causing physical or emotional trauma to a child

Examples of neglect at the hands of a caregiver include:

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Skokie paternity lawyerFor decades now, paternity has been most often determined by a father being married to the child’s mother at the time of birth. Under Illinois law, if the biological father of a child is not married to the child’s mother, he cannot be listed on the child’s birth certificate until parentage is legally established. This is true even in cases in which the parents live together in a civil union, and even when the parents are engaged to be married.

How Is Paternity Established for Unmarried Couples?

If there is no disagreement between parents about the paternity, the simplest way to establish parentage is through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form. This form must be signed by both parents and filed with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). This can be done in the hospital at the time of the child’s birth. If it is not completed then, a form can be obtained from the HFS website, a child support office, a county clerk’s office, a state/local registrar’s office, or a Department of Human Services office.

If there is some doubt or controversy about the child’s paternity, then the VAP should not be signed, as it can be difficult to reverse. If paternity is not voluntarily acknowledged, there are two other ways to establish paternity. The first is through an Administrative Paternity Order, entered by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services Child Support Services. The second is through an Order of Paternity entered in court. Genetic testing may be done to compare the child’s DNA to the father’s and determine whether there is a match. A paternity case can be pursued until a child reaches the age of 20. 

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