Articles Posted in Parentage

Divorce litigation affects children, especially if they are living in a contentious atmosphere.  In an effort to minimize the impact of the legal process on children, counties in Illinois have implemented programs and procedures to keep children out of the courtroom, and facilitate resolution of parenting issues in domestic relations cases.  A handful of these programs are summarized here.

 

Mediation

 

Counties in Illinois are required to offer mediation programs for divorcing parents.  If parents are unable to reach an agreement regarding parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilities, and so long as there are no extenuating circumstances (such as domestic violence), the court will send parents to mediation to try to resolve these issues outside the courtroom.  Judges will often remind parties in a divorce that parents know their family situations and needs best.  As parents, they should take advantage of the opportunity to reach a resolution that is in the best interests of the family, rather than delegating that decision a third party outsider.

 

The mediator does not represent either party and does not give legal advice.  Rather, the mediator’s job is to facilitate conversation between the parties, and hopefully aid them in resolving the matters related to their children.  The mediator will the issue a report stating whether the parties reached a full resolution, partial agreement, or were unable to reach an agreement.


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For over thirty years, child-related issues of unmarried parents had been governed by the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984.  However, on July 21, 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Parentage Act of 2015 (the “Act”) into law, which revamped the old version by updating outdated terminology and concepts.  These changes mirror the changes in families and culture over the course of the last three decades.

 

As a brief summary of some of these changes reflected in developments in Illinois law, on June 1, 2011, Illinois established civil unions that allowed same-sex, as well as opposite-sex couples to form unions that were recognized by the state.  Then on June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the United States Constitution allowed for same-sex couples to marry.  The Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples, was unconstitutional in that it defined marriage as between one man and one woman.  See United States vs. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013).

 

On June 1, 2014 a law took effect that allowed for same-sex marriage in Illinois, and Illinois became one of thirty-seven other states and the District of Columbia to legalize same-sex marriage.  The Illinois General Assembly had proposed same-sex marriage legislation every session from 2007 to 2013, however it was not until November 2013 that the law was passed.  Between November 2013 and the effective date, a court ruled that same-sex couples in Cook County could marry immediately and need not wait for June, which was later extended to other counties.  Parties that had previously entered into a civil union were also able to convert their civil unions in to marriages without a new ceremony or paying a separate fee within the first year. If the union was converted in that time period, the date of the marriage would be retroactive to the date of the civil union.  Now, both same-sex civil unions and marriage are legal in Illinois.

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