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Former Illinois attorney may lose child on a legal technicality

Photo of Karen Lavin

After a divorce, many child-related legal disputes can arise. A separating couple must resolve many questions that will inevitably affect their children's future. Where will my kids live? When will I see them? Where will they spend the holidays? These custody and visitation matters are difficult to determine, especially when the separating parents do not get along. In a recent case, a man is trying to gain custody and visitation rights of a boy he raised and financially supported. Nevertheless, the legal system challenges whether the man is technically the father of the child.

According to reports, the man, a former Illinois attorney, raised and supported the boy throughout his former marriage. His ex-wife was in the process of adopting the child when the couple married. The couple divorced, and now the man is being denied visitation because he did not file stepparent adoption papers before the end of the couple's short marriage.

The former wife claims that because the man failed to file the papers, he is not entitled to visitation and custody rights. A Cook County judge agreed, and the man appealed the decision. Sources say the legal battle has been very emotional. However, a panel of appellate judges has questioned why the man did not file the petition for adoption during the months the couple were married.

The man explains that he was busy caring for all of his other children and looking for work in Illinois. He did not expect the marriage to end so abruptly, so filing the final paperwork to adopt the child never occurred. Nevertheless, the woman's lawyer explains that nothing makes this man the father. The lawyer contends that the only thing that makes an individual a father is the law.

The man claims that the child would be emotionally harmed if he could not see him. He also claims that he relied on his wife's promise that the father-son relationship would survive the divorce. Nonetheless, he has not been able to see the boy in more than a year. The appellate court has not made a decision.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "3-year-old adoptee at center of unusual custody fight," Steve Schmadeke, Jan. 29, 2012

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