In society today, how we define what makes up a family is extremely diverse. Many children today are born and raised in unmarried or single-parent households. Often, extended family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and adult siblings, raise and even adopt children. Courts previously made rulings and upheld laws in family cases based on what a “traditional” family looked like and to protect children who grew up in families outside that perceived norm.

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However, in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that what was once considered a “traditional” family was outdated and inaccurate. In the 2000 case of Troxel v. Granville, Justice O’Connor noted, “The composition of families varies greatly from household to household. While many children may have two married parents and grandparents who visit regularly, many other children are raised in single-parent households.”

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Trials can be complicated. There are often a variety of factual issues that will require extensive evidence in the form of documents and testimony.  What if there was a way to narrow the facts and, in turn, simplify the issues for the judge and all parties’ sake?  Behold, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 216 and your request for admissions of fact.

 

Of course, you know the facts better than anyone. The question is how much time and money do you have to spend to prove those facts to the judge.  In many cases, there may be some facts which both sides agree upon.  They may still draw different conclusions from those facts, or argue that certain facts are more important than others.  The ultimate outcome will still be determined by the court.  But both parties may benefit from the clarity that can be provided by the proper use of Rule 216.

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Some may rejoice, and some may cringe at the notion that parents might be required to metaphorically “split the baby” under Illinois House Bill 4113, which is currently sitting in committee.   Effectively, if passed, House Bill 4113 would represent a dramatic change in how parenting time is allocated among parents.

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The applicable statute currently in place, 750 ILCS 5/602.7, requires parenting time to be allocated according to the best interests of the child. As set forth in the current statute, there are numerous factors that are considered in determining what the best interests of the child are. The courts consider facts and evidence relevant to the best interests to shape a parenting time schedule for the parents to follow.

 

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The best interest of the child, as defined by Section 602.7 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, governs parenting time in divorce or parentage proceedings. In some cases, if it has been proven that a parent has abused alcohol or other substances, it is not uncommon for the court to impose certain restrictions to ensure that a parent’s substance abuse issues will not endanger the children. For example, if a father has problems with alcohol abuse, the court may order him to take a breathalyzer test before parenting time to ensure that the children are not being placed in a bad situation.  When a parent’s substance abuse involves illegal drugs, the court’s concerns are even greater, as there is a strong legal presumption that children should not be present while crimes are being committed.

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However, Illinois’ legalization of medical marijuana has complicated the issue. While legal in Illinois, medical marijuana is still not condoned by the federal government. As such, medical marijuana use presents new questions, particularly if the non-using parent alleges that the other parent’s medical marijuana usage endangers the children.

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In Illinois, divorced and never-married parents may have an obligation to contribute to post-high school expenses for their children once they emancipate, or “age out” of being a minor child under the law.  This typically happens when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last. At that point, many children will go on to attend college, trade schools, and various other types of career training.  Section 513(a) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is the relevant statute on this issue, and it provides:

 

“The court may award sums of money out of the property and income of either or both parties or the estate of a deceased parent, as equity may require, for the educational expenses of any child of the parties.”

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When two people get divorced, the court allocates marital property among the parties. Previously, family pets were considered “property” and were allocated as such.

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The seminal case in Illinois to address issues with family pets was Marriage of Enders, which was decided in 2015.  In this case, the parties agreed to “joint custody” of the two family dogs. Thereafter, the wife in this case denied the husband “visitation” of the two dogs. As a result, the husband filed a petition requesting visitation with the two pets. The trial court determined that the husband had no visitation rights, and the appellate court affirmed.

 

Subsequently, the Illinois legislature amended the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.  Now, Section 503(n) provides:

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You have just received shocking news that the mother or father of your child has passed away. Suddenly, you are in the position to take a more prominent role in your child’s life by having your child live with you, possibly indefinitely. Who is stopping you from asserting this role? Are the child’s grandparents holding you back? Is a step-parent preventing you, or are you yourself hesitant to change your own lifestyle in this situation?  This post explores Illinois law on the subject.  Please note that many of the cases on the topic use terms like “custody,” “custodial parent,” and “non-custodial parent.”  The 2016 statutory amendments replaced those terms with “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.”

 

To begin the legal analysis, the courts will imply constructive parenting time and parental responsibility in favor of the surviving parent, because it is legally presumed that the surviving parent’s right or interest in the care, custody, and control of the child is superior to that of any third person who may otherwise attempt to assert their rights to the child.  Marriage of Archibald.

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In Illinois, there are very specific laws related to enforcing and collecting money judgments.  There are even more specific laws as well as unsettled caselaw related to if and how those collection laws apply to child support in domestic relations cases.  Are there time limits to within which a parent must enforce and collect on past-due child support or child support judgments?  Do any special rules apply?  The answer is, as it often is, “it depends.”

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Imagine the following scenario:  A husband and wife were divorced on January 1, 1970.  The divorce decree entered on that date provided that the husband would pay the sum of $100.00 for child support for the parties’ minor child, who was three years old at the time the divorce was finalized.  The Husband paid no child support whatsoever.  The child emancipated in 1985 and wife never took the husband back to court for payment of child support.  In 2017, the wife found out that the previously unemployed husband had won $500,000 playing the Illinois lottery, and so she decided to collect on the past-due child support that was due and owing from 1970 through 1985.  However, more than 32 years have elapsed since the child emancipated, and more than 37 years have elapsed since the first unpaid child support came due.  Is that too long?

 

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Congratulations! Your dream of retiring is about to become a reality. You’ve worked hard your whole life. Sure, the divorce set you back financially, but it was years ago.  You have prudently saved and invested your money.  It wasn’t easy to do, especially having to write that maintenance (alimony) check to the ex each month.  Wouldn’t it be nice to finally cash out and spend that money traveling the world or vacationing? The bags are packed, and the tickets have already been paid for. You’ll want to send a postcard to your loved ones from where ever you are.  Before you take flight, however, you may want to re-read your judgment for dissolution of marriage.

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Upon reading it, you snap out of your dream and you realize that your support obligation remains in full force and effect. Your maintenance obligation doesn’t automatically terminate upon your retirement. Sweat begins to form at your brow, nervousness comes over you, and panic sets in. However, you can rest easy, because Illinois law affords you some relief.

 

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Everyone has someone in their immediate or extended family who, because of advanced age or other physical or mental health troubles, requires more day-to-day intensive care.  This can be health care, assistance with performing daily tasks, help running errands, among many other things.  When a family member is the one that ends up providing this care, rather than hiring a sometimes costly third-party care provider, this commitment can take a toll on them as well.  The questions many people may have is what, if any, compensation or financial assistance is the caretaker entitled to for their services and sacrifice.

 

In situations such as this, the Illinois Probate Act provides that any spouse, parent, brother, sister, or child of a person with a disability who dedicates himself or herself to the care of the person with a disability by living with and personally caring for the person with a disability for at least 3 years is entitled to a claim against the estate upon the death of the disabled person. Continue reading