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Basics about Child Custody and Visitation Rights

 Posted on January 05, 2017 in Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

basics-about-child-custody-and-visitation-rights

Among the difficult questions facing separating or divorcing parents are who will have custody of the children and what visitation rights will be given to the spouse without custody. Here are some basics about child custody and visitation rights that can help resolve these questions.

Child Custody

If the parents agree on who gets custody, the court usually accepts their choice. If the parents cannot agree, the court decides. It bases its decision on what's best for the child and considers various factors, including the child's preference, his or her health and welfare, and which arrangements will provide the most and best contact with both parents.

There are various child custody arrangements to choose from. Here are the main forms.

* Sole custody. In this traditional custody arrangement, one parent is designated as custodian, both legally and physically. The child lives with the designated parent, who has all legal rights and duties for the child and makes all parental decisions (though the other parent may have some input on decisions).

* Joint legal custody and sole physical custody. Joint legal custody means both parents make major decisions about the child together. This arrangement works better when the parents are on cordial terms. In many joint custody arrangements, one parent has sole physical custody.

* Full joint custody. In this arrangement, the separating parents are equal partners in raising the child. This too works better if the parents are on cordial terms. Under joint physical custody arrangements, the child usually spends the same amount of time with each parent.

Variations on these arrangements can be agreed upon by the parents or ordered by the court. Also, existing custody arrangements can be later modified. Changes agreed to by both parents are usually accepted by the court. If the parents cannot agree, the parent seeking the change can ask a judge to make it. Generally, the parent must show that there has been a significant change in circumstances and that the proposed arrangement is in the child's best interest.

Visitation Rights

When one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the other usually gets visitation rights. If the parents cannot agree on visitation privileges, a judge decides for them. Visitation rights typically consist of one or two weekends a month, each parent having the child for some of the major holidays, and several weeks or a month during the summer.

The parent with custody needs good reason to deny the other parent visitation rights. If the parent with custody thinks the other parent's conduct will be bad for the child, he or she can ask the court to stop all visitation rights or to require that a third person be present at all visitations.

As with most matters involving divorce and separation, child custody and visitation rights present difficult issues. Legal assistance should therefore be obtained in resolving such matters. It should also be obtained when parties want to properly enforce or modify existing arrangements.

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Avoid Probate With A Living Trust

 Posted on January 05, 2017 in Estate Planning

avoid-probate-with-a-living-trust

Anyone who thinks about planning his or her estate will hear about "wills," "probate" and "living trusts." A will is a document that states where you want your property to go when you die. Probate is the court procedure that makes sure your will is valid and puts it into effect. But what is a "living trust?" To answer this, you need to know a little about "trusts" in general.

Trust are legal devices that let one person "own" property for the benefit of someone else. With a trust, a person can stop being the "owner" of property while still keeping control over it. A trust is created when someone (a "trustee") agrees to hold and manage property for the benefit of someone else, who may later get the property, or the income or benefits it generates. The person who receives these benefits is the "beneficiary."

A living trust is a special kind of trust which has many estate planning benefits. In a living trust, you can transfer property from yourself (as the full owner) to yourself in a new capacity, as "trustee." After this transfer, you still control the property. You receive the benefits of ownership while you are alive. When you die, a "successor" trustee (someone you selected) distributes the property to the people you chose. This takes place without the involvement of the probate court.

A living trust is created by a written trust document, written with a lawyer's help. Your lawyer can also help prepare other papers used to transfer property into the trust. You can place almost any type of property in it, including money, real estate, stocks, bonds and automobiles.

Use of living trusts has grown because for many people, they offer significant benefits. Here are some of the main ones.

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Advance Directives: Deciding Your Medical Care Before a Serious Illness

 Posted on January 05, 2017 in Estate Planning

advance-directives-deciding-your-medical-care-before-a-serious-illness

Who will make medical decisions for you if you become so ill that you cannot communicate your wishes? What if the person selected chooses treatment you would not want? Fortunately, there are documents - called "advance directives" - you can prepare before a serious illness to help in situations like these.

An "advance directive" is a document that tells how you want medical decisions made if you ever become physically or mentally unable to make them yourself. The two most commonly prepared advance directives are a "living will" and a "durable power of attorney for health care." Here is a brief explanation of each.

  • Living Will. A living will lets you specify the types of life-prolonging treatment you want - or do not want - in the event you were terminally ill. It is called a living will because it can take effect while you are alive.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This lets you appoint someone (such as your spouse or child) to make your medical decisions if you cannot make them yourself..

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