Family Law Articles

Family Law Articles

CHILDREN';S BANK ACCOUNTS

You have two choices when you establish a bank account for a minor. You can retain ownership of the money, or you can pass ownership to the child. When you have an account upon which you are the designated “custodian” of the money, you have transferred ownership to the child. The money is actually property that was transferred under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act and is owned by the minor. The account is identified by the child's Social Security number.

Until the child is 21, the custodian holds, manages, and invests the money. The custodian can also use the money for the child's reasonable needs. However, when the minor turns 21, the custodian must deliver the money, plus accumulated interest and profit to the individual.

If you establish an account “in trust” for a minor, the money in the account is not owned by the minor. The trust account belongs to the trustee during the trustee's lifetime. It is usually paid to the minor upon death.

REMOVING A CHILD FROM ILLINOIS

The Illinois Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that liberalized the rules for a divorced parent's removal of a child from Illinois. With this ruling, Illinois joins the national trend to liberalize removal laws.

Five factors are considered in a removal case: the likelihood that the move will enhance the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and the children, the motives of the custodial parent seeking to move, the motives of the non-custodial parent in resisting the removal, the best interests of the child to have a healthy and close relationship with both parents, and whether a realistic and reasonable visitation schedule can be reached if the move is allowed.

ANIMAL ABUSE IS A STRONG PREDICTOR OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

If your husband has ever used your pet to threaten or intimidate you or your children or tortured your cat or dog, it is a strong predictor of domestic violence. It is important that you give this information to your attorney. Today, healthcare professionals, the police, the courts, and animal rights advocates are making the connection between animal cruelty and human violence. Around the country, women's shelters are beginning to develop partnerships with veterinary clinics and animal shelters to house pets when victims leave their abusers.

To support the notion of a link, here are some statistics:

One fourth of the women interviewed for one study reported they had delayed seeking protection from their abuser because they feared what would happen to their pet. Seventy percent of the women staying at domestic-violence shelters in another study stated their abuser had killed one of their pets.

Among well-known examples were serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed animals and displayed them on stakes, and Kip Kinkel, who blew up cats and squirrels. Later he killed his parents and then opened fire in an Oregon high school, killing two students and wounding several others. Currently, 28 states, including Illinois, have some felony-level penalties for intentional animal abuse. These convictions call for psychological treatment and evaluation of offenders.

GRANDPARENTS LOSE GROUND ON VISITATION RIGHT

An Illinois statute signed into law this year is much stricter than its predecessor. The new law applies when one of the child's parents dies or when the parents split up. The law now gives grandparents, great-grandparents and siblings standing to seek visitation only if there is an unreasonable denial of visitation by the child's parents. It clarifies that the petitioners must have the support of at least one of the parents in order to proceed in cases where the parents have been divorced.

The old law was declared unconstitutional in a 2000 court decision. The new law states that petitioners must show denial of visitation rights is “harmful to the child's mental, physical or emotional health.” Before, grandparents had to prove that visitation was in the child's best interest. Now, the new law balances the interests that parents have in raising their children with the increased role that grandparents now play in the lives of their grandchildren.

GRANDPARENTS DEALT A BLOW

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the state's grandparent visitation statute was unconstitutional. Although the Court is not unsympathetic to the plight of grandparents who wish to visit with their grandchildren, the State cannot be allowed to impose its power if the parents are fit. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a Washington state law allowing grandparents to file for visitation rights because it infringed upon the mother's interest in raising her children. Therefore, any parent in Illinois facing a petition for grandparent visitation can ask a trial judge to dismiss the petition.

ONCE A FATHER, ALWAYS A FATHER

A man who voluntarily acknowledges that he is the father of a child can't shirk his paternal duties just because new DNA tests prove he is not the father, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled this past September. When men sign this form, they are warned that they could be on the hook for child support, medical expenses and insurance for the child. The form also states, that men waive their rights to an attorney, a hearing and genetic testing.

A case was brought to court by a man who doubted, after he signed the form, that he was the father. He didn't want to pay child support or obtain medical insurance for the child. He tried to terminate his obligations a month after receiving DNA results, which indicated that he was not the father. The court ruled that once a man voluntarily says he is the father, regardless of what happens later, he is the father. Therefore, be warned and think carefully before signing this form.

WHAT GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN SHOULD KNOW

In the United States, more than six million children live with their grandparents or other relatives. The State of Illinois has more than 100,000 grandparents caring for their grandchildren. Statistics indicate that it is primarily the grandmother, under 60 years old, caring for the grandchildren on a long-term basis.

In many instances, the grandparents are providing care giving responsibilities due to the death of the parents, the abuse or neglect of the children, substance abuse, illness, or incarceration of the parents. Many grandparents don't know what resources are available to them. Here are some answers to common questions for people who find themselves raising children again.

Am I eligible for financial assistance? Where can I get it?

  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families is comprised of two types of assistance: Child-Only Grants, regardless of the grandparents'; income, provide a small grant of approximately $100 per month. More importantly, receipt of this grant automatically qualifies the child to receive medical assistance. Working grandparents may also qualify for day care assistance.

Regular Temporary Assistance to Needy Families'; Grants are available if grandparents have a limited income. This amount is greater than the child-only grant. Benefits are limited to a period of five years.

Contact: Illinois Department of Human Services, 800-843-6154 (press option I)) www.dhs.state.il.us.

  • A grandchild may be eligible for Social Security benefits on the work record of a parent. If the child is not eligible for benefits based on the work record of the parent (or the parents are deceased or disabled), the grandchild may be considered a “child” of a retired grandparent for the purpose of benefits.

Contact: Social Security Office, 800-772-1213, www.socialsecurity.gov .

Many other questions arise when grandparents are raising grandchildren concerning medical insurance, school enrollment, and getting custody or guardianship of the grandchild. It is best to consult with your attorney on these issues.

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT TO RULE ON PUTATIVE FATHER REGISTRY

This registry was established by the Illinois legislature to protect adoptive families from a man who may claim to be the child's father who is not married to the child's mother before the child is born or who has not established paternity of the child in a court proceeding before the filing of a petition for the adoption of the child. A putative father who fails to register within 30 days after the child's birth is barred from bringing any action to assert any interest in the child. A lack of knowledge of the pregnancy or birth is not an excuse for failure to register. A case involving a child, who is now 10-years-old, is now before the Illinois Supreme Court.

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT ESTABLISHES NEW RULES FOR CUSTODY CASES

On February 10, 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court issued new rules for dramatically changing procedures in child custody cases. These new rules became effective on July 1,2006. These new rules are designed to coordinate, streamline, and most importantly, speed the resolution of custody cases.

The general rules mandate child custody proceedings are to be scheduled and heard on an expedited basis, in strict compliance with deadlines established by statute or rules. Hearings are to be set at the earliest possible date. Judges are to render decisions not later than 60 days after the completion of the trial or hearing. Furthermore, each circuit must establish a mediation program for child custody and visitation. Even unwillingly, parties must participate-unless good cause is shown. Most importantly, the chief judge of each judicial circuit must consider the judge's background and training before assigning that judge to hear such cases as well as require the judges to attend approved seminars on issues related to child custody.