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Preparing for divorce as a father

If you are currently struggling in your marriage and you suspect that divorce is on the horizon, your first priority is likely to be your children. As a father, you will never want to lose the strong bond you have with your kids because of divorce proceedings. But the reality is that your children will probably be spending some of their time living with the other parent once parental responsibilities have been allocated.

While you will never be able to predict the challenges that divorce will bring, you can work on preparing yourself for the hurdles that you will likely face. The following are some tips for fathers who are navigating parental responsibility and divorce.

What parental responsibilities come with establishing paternity?

It is far more common than it once was for couples in Illinois to choose to have children without marrying first. There can be personal, professional or even financial benefits to choosing not to marry the mother of your child. However, if the relationship fails, not being married can also cause some potentially serious issues for your family.

For example, your ex could attempt to claim that you do not have a biological link to the children or may simply start denying you access to or time with your children. If your ex won't work with you, you will need to take steps to establish yourself legally as the father of your children.

How to prepare for the Illinois courts to split up your assets

Considering divorce can lead to great uncertainty and feelings of instability. Not only will you wonder about your social future as you leave your marriage behind you, but you will likely also wonder about the financial implications of a divorce.

Divorce is expensive. Even if you negotiate an uncontested divorce, you can anticipate splitting most of everything you acquired during your marriage with your ex. If you have a prenuptial agreement on record, you probably already know how the courts will divide your assets because you set those terms before you even got married.

Steps you can take to make an Illinois divorce easier on the kids

Divorce is hard for everyone in the family, but it can be particularly devastating for young children. Kids may not understand why their parents' relationship no longer works. They may feel intense sorrow or guilt, as children tend to view the world in a very egocentric manner. In other words, they will possibly conclude that the end of your marriage is somehow their fault.

That presumption can lead to a lot of emotional conflict and even serious issues with problems like mental health conditions or addiction. Thankfully, divorce is not inherently damaging, provided you and your ex approach it in a pragmatic and thoughtful manner.

Could you go to rehab instead of jail via Illinois drug court?

An addiction can impact every area of your life, even before you find yourself dealing with legal consequences. Once law enforcement officers get involved and you wind up charged with a crime, your addiction could very well completely derail your future.

A conviction related to addiction, even if you are only accused of possession, could impact your ability to obtain student aid if you want to go back to school and keep you out of a good job. It could even prevent you from volunteering at your child's school as a chaperone for a field trip.

What are your parental rights and responsibilities in Illinois?

Not so long ago, the Illinois family courts referred to determinations about the future of children as custody decisions. However, the term custody implies ownership of an item and does not honor the true nature of relationships between parents and children.

As a result, Illinois lawmakers have adjusted the language of the state's family code to refer to the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities instead of custody. Many divorcing couples find this terminology confusing. That confusion can lead to mistakes in strategy when planning for divorce. After all, how do you learn what your rights and responsibilities as a parent really are?

Mediation can help you file an uncontested Illinois divorce

You know that your marriage is over, but you don't exactly relish the idea of battling it out with your ex in court. If the thought of a public divorce leaves you anxious or if you can't imagine spending the time and money necessary to litigate your divorce, uncontested divorce filings are probably the best option.

Unfortunately, filing an uncontested divorce requires that you and your ex agree on all the terms for your divorce. It is relatively unusual for couples separating to remain in perfect agreement about what is fair and reasonable for their relationship, children and possessions.

Addiction and drug treatment programs

If you were sober, you'd never break the law. You don't have some inherent drive to cause trouble. You're a pretty high-functioning individual. You have a good job, an education, a family and everything else that society expects of you. When it comes to most laws -- theft, assault, etc. -- you never have a problem. You consider yourself a good, law-abiding citizen.

Unfortunately, you are rarely sober. You're an addict. You suffer from a disease. It drives your actions and makes you do things that run counter to everything else in your life. This includes possessing and using illegal drugs and alcohol.

Is it time to move to a new state with your child?

Imagine you only came to Illinois because your ex-husband got a new job. This is not your home. You never liked it, and the only thing you've wanted since you got here was to be closer to your family. But you're a mother and you share a child with your ex, so you're not free to simply pack your bags and go. There are legal procedures that must be followed or you could risk your parental rights.

When parents have shared legal custody -- even if the child lives full-time with one of the parents and the other parent has visitation rights -- the custodial parent (whom the child lives with) will usually need to obtain permission from the other parent before moving away. Without said permission, the noncustodial parent with visitation rights can block the other parent's move. Most child custody decrees and agreements specifically state that neither parent can move to another state without the other parent's permission. Doing so without court approval could cause the parent who moved to lose custody.

The step-by-step process required to establish paternity

Fathers who had children without being married to the woman hundreds of years ago were at a severe disadvantage. Without being married, it was usually impossible for them to prove that the child was theirs without the mother's agreement. These days the situation is different. Fathers can initiate the process of legally establishing paternity, and with DNA evidence, they can show that they are the biological fathers of their children.

If you're a father seeking to establish paternity, here are a few details you might want to understand:

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