At What Age Can a Child Be Left Home Alone?

Child-Safety-at-Home

Illinois is the only state besides Maryland to have a law specifying a minimum age a child must be to be left home alone.  According to Illinois law,705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(d), it is considered child neglect to leave a child under 14 years old without supervision for an unreasonable amount of time.  There are 15 factors (listed below) that the Court will look to when deciding if a child has been left alone for an unreasonable amount of time.

Additionally, the Illinois DCFS publishes a booklet entitled “Parenting Children to Stay Alone” that provides some tips on preparing children to stay home alone. However, it also warns parents that they “are legally responsible for their children’s welfare until they reach adulthood. Part of caring for children is providing adequate supervision.”  Children may be potentially removed from their home and placed in the State’s care until a court decides that the home is safe for the children to return to.

Essentially, parents and guardians must think carefully about many things before leaving their children alone.  This is important, even if a child is left alone for a short period of time.  But if you always put the child’s best interest first, you will make decisions that will benefit your child. When children are placed in situations of independence that they can handle successfully, it can help them learn responsibility and self-reliance and can also build their self confidence.  However, if the child is not ready, it can create a frightening and potentially dangerous situation for both the child and the parent.

15 Factors Courts Look To:

  1. Age of minor;
  2. Number of minors left;
  3. Special needs of minor;
  4. Duration of time in which the child was left;
  5. Condition and location of the place where the child was left;
  6. Time of day or night when the child was left;
  7. Weather conditions (adequate heat or light);
  8. Location of the parent or guardian;
  9. Whether the child’s movement restricted (was the child locked in a room?);
  10.  Whether child was given phone number of a person or location to call in the event of an emergency;
  11. Whether the child had enough food;
  12. Whether any of the conduct is attributable to economic hardship or illness and whether the parent or guardian made a good faith effort to provide for the health and safety of the child;
  13. The age and physical and mental capabilities of the person who provided supervision for the child;
  14. Whether the child was left under the supervision of another person; and
  15. Any other factor that would endanger the health and safety of that particular child.

Written by: Kathy E. Bojczuk, Attorney at Law

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Spring Cleaning After Divorce

The long and cold Chicago winter has finally ended and spring is here. For many, this means a lot of thorough spring cleaning of their homes, garages, and gardens. Whether it’s cleaning every corner of your house, organizing your tools in the garage, throwing away unnecessary items, or deleting old files from your hard drive, it’s that season again. You spend extra time, effort and money cleaning your house and caring for your lawn. Why? Because there is great satisfaction gained from spring cleaning and it’s a nice fresh start to the summer season.

If you recently went through a divorce, your life probably seems very disorganized and muddy. Getting rid of the disorganization, clutter and muddiness that is stuck in your mind and heart is a way to take charge and reclaim your life. You can then be ready to embrace life, whatever comes your way. Get organized, tidy up and avoid any overflow of emotional junk. This way the focus is on you.
Divorce often leaves people with a head full of negative thoughts; bad self-beliefs and feelings of disappointment. The experience is exhausting, clogs your head and makes it very difficult to move forward. However, spring is a perfect time to take the duster and clean up the mess. Take some time alone to take care of yourself and start being positive.

Your past can ruin any shot of you moving forward. Get rid of anything around you or around your house that signifies bad memories from your divorce or past. Remodel a room in your house, treat yourself to some pieces of furniture or decorative accessories, put up new photos of your friends and family. There’s a great quote that highlights this: “To have a good future you have to learn from the past and focus on the present.”
Once your mind, heart and past are cleaned up, you will be ready to embrace your fresh new start in life. There is no time like the present.

Cutting Costs During Divorce

Divorce isn’t a topic most couples like to talk about, especially since it involves a wide range of feelings, but it’s important to be objective. If you and your spouse have tried everything, but just can’t seem to make your marriage work, going your separate ways may be the best option for both of you. Eventually, you’re both going to be happier, and although the effects on any children you may have are likely to be major, they’re ultimately going to be better off as well. Apart from the emotional strains of a divorce, there are also financial issues to consider. If divorce is on the horizon for you, read on to learn how to reduce the overall expenses of this difficult and tenuous period in your life.

1. Get a Good Lawyer

While your first impulse may be to go out and hire a top lawyer to get every penny you can from your spouse, that’s probably not the best route to take. The priciest lawyers can cost as much as $500 per billable hour. Instead, let your emotions cool off and find an affordable attorney who you feel comfortable with and one you trust. Your friend’s “killer” lawyer may not be a comfortable fit for you and your situation. Also be certain that your attorney works in family law.

2. Keep Negotiations Amicable

If your divorce is uncontested, billable hours are going to be greatly lower, saving you substantial money on attorney’s fees. If possible, meet with your spouse to discuss if there are any matters where you and your spouse can reach an agreement on (dividing personal property/furniture, or perhaps creating a parenting schedule). Update your lawyers on the results of those conversations, so they can provide more direction.

3. Disclosure All Income and Assets

This may not save you money initially, but can help you stay out of the judge’s way, who can impose serious fines and penalties if you try to hide income or assets. No reputable lawyer is ever going to suggest that you conceal information, and it’s simply not a good strategy to undertake. By being honest in your financial reporting to the court, you’re going to be much better off in the end.

4. Work Efficiently with Your Lawyer

Once you retain a lawyer, ask for a complete list of all documents and any other information you’re going to need for your initial consultation or the following meeting. This will not only save you money, but it will also keep your case moving forward, avoiding any unnecessary delays. Throughout the whole process, remember to always keep your lawyer in the loop, ask relevant questions, be prepared for all meetings, and—most importantly–use your time with him/her efficiently.

5. Check your Bills

Has there been some over-spending after you separated from your spouse? Is your spouse generating expenses which should not be your responsibility? Your bills are very telling about your and your spouse’s expenses and lifestyle. The bills will help you understand what you might need to cut back on if separation and divorce do not leave you with enough income to cover every expense. They will also show you your spouse’s expenditures, some of which might be difficult to justify as reasonable expenses going forward.

Closing

Once the agreement is reached, signed and entered as an official final court order, make sure you live up to it. Being late with child support or spousal support payments will also cost you more attorney fees when your ex takes you back to court. If you agree to make payments on the 1st or the 10th of each month, then do so. The sooner you and your ex can create a stable, amicable post-marriage relationship, the better off both of you, and your children, will be.

Moving Forward After Divorce

Time to grieve is essential. Anyone who has been through a divorce knows that there needs to be time for recovery before a person can move on and start fresh. Here are some helpful tips that may make it easier.

(1) Give Yourself Time to Recover – Even if you know divorce is the best choice, it’s still hard. Recovery is not a process you can rush, and it will probably take longer than you think. Be patient and do not put pressure on yourself.

(2) Embrace Challenges – After divorce, you may have to take on some of the things your partner used to do. Don’t let that intimidate you. Embrace those challenges, but give yourself permission to be less than perfect and be brave enough to ask for help from friends.

(3) Consider Joining a Divorce Support Group – For many people there’s a feeling of isolation, as if you are the only person who knows what you’re going through. If you need support for the emotional and psychological aspects of divorce, consider joining a therapist-led divorce support group that is designed to help you work through your feelings.

(4) Take Care of Yourself – With all of the legal, financial and emotional aspects of divorce, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and your emotional and physical needs.

(5) Be Cautious on Making Life-Changing Decisions – Although it may be tempting to make drastic changes and start fresh somewhere else, you should be cautious. Decisions made in haste, anger, sadness, or worry are often regretted later. Give yourself at least a year to get your equilibrium back before making a major life change.

(6) Make Friends with Other Singles – When you were married, chances are most of your friends you socialized with were also married. Make an effort to meet other singles as soon as you feel ready to socialize. Single friends will be a great resource because they are in a similar place and it always helps to have company when dealing with a new life situation.

(7) Learn from Past Mistakes – People who are healing from divorce may worry that the faults they have will be repeated in the next relationship. This is normal and expected, but it doesn’t guarantee another failure as long as you are willing to look at your issues and address them.

(8) Don’t Put Down Your Ex – After divorce, your relationship with your spouse is over, so focus on your life and your future. Or else, you’ll just sound bitter and vindictive.

(9) Enjoy Being Solo – Being divorced means you are single, it does not mean you have to be isolated. Although it is best not to rush back into another relationship, there are plenty of ways to enjoy being on your own.

(10) Discover Your New Self – One positive aspect of this difficult process is that divorce often gives you the opportunity to reorganize your life and make some changes your inner self was holding back. Whether it’s as simple as changing your wardrobe or as complicated as going back to school, take some time to think about what you would like to do.

(11) Do Not Second Doubt Your Decision – Moving on from divorce almost always includes moments of self-doubt as you begin your new life. If you ever wonder whether you would have been better off staying in your marriage, remember how it was (especially the hard moments) and your reasons for leaving.

For more information on family law matters, contact Attorney Kathy E. Bojczuk at (773) 580-1122.

Top 10 Divorce Issues of the Decade

1. Internet and Social Networking – The computer and the internet had a tremendous impact in divorce. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, and other sites have been used by people to share their innermost secrets with little concern for the consequences of detection by the opposing party. E-mails and texting have had a noticeable impact on divorce, and the way family law attorneys handle their cases.

2. Gay Marriage – Legalizing gay marriage has become the forefront debate in many state legislatures in recent years.

3. Parental Kidnapping – Parental kidnapping, both between states and internationally, has not only been a reality in high conflict divorces, but has had criminal implications as well.

4. Divorcing without a Lawyer – There has been a rise in people filing for divorce and handling legal matters on their own, especially in hard-hit areas where people can no longer afford to hire professional legal services. Legal aid clinics have been dealing with significant budget cuts due to the poor economy, with more and more people having no choice but to represent themselves in court.

5. Parental Alienation – Parental alienation, which courts and state legislatures have recognized as a serious problem, exists in many divorce cases. It happens when one parent systematically alienates the child/children against the other parent, with devastating and long-term results, not only to the child/children, but also to the alienating parent.

6. Displacement of Families – The poor economy and unexpected job losses have forced many people to seek employment in other states, displacing entire families and forcing children into unfamiliar surroundings. This has been occurring more in the last several years than at any other time in prior decades.

7. Fathers obtaining Sole Custody – The significant increase in fathers obtaining sole custody. In addition, there is a considerable increase in the number of couples opting for shared or joint physical custody, sharing their children on an equal or close-to-equal basis.

8. Domestic Violence – In recent years, there has been a rise in domestic violence, especially with the stress caused by the economic nightmare of the past couple of years.

9. Bankruptcy – During the past couple of years, people have been inflicted with a brutal reality: negative equity in their homes, loss of retirement plans, diminishing pension plans, tremendous credit card debt, and job losses. Many couples have stayed married simply because of the financial decay each would face if a divorce action was filed.

10. The Recession – The recession of the past couple of years. Home values crashing, tremendous job losses, and the resulting devastating economic insecurity impacted heavily on divorce.

Credits Reports Can Be Used in Divorce Court

Most people know that credit reports are used with loan applications, sometimes job applications, and in getting phone and other utility services. Recently though, credit reports have been used in divorce court, particularly for alimony consideration.

In a recent Forbes article, a soon to be ex-wife was requesting a large amount of alimony from her husband, claiming that she had limited resources. However, her husband’s attorney obtained a copy of her credit report which showed that she had access to over $50,000 in credit. She had recently been made an authorized user on her new boyfriend’s credit card accounts. This information severely damaged her ability to get the alimony she had requested, even though she was merely an authorized user.

If you’re going through a divorce, beware! The information on your credit report may be used against you.