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Chicago Gay and Lesbian Family Law Attorneys

LGBTQ+ Family Law in Illinois: A Brief History

In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental illnesses, but it wasn’t until after the historical events at Stonewall that gay rights took a turn in the United States. Through the hard work of nonprofit organizations and liberal political leaders, gay marriage was finally legalized in 2015. Arriving at this moment took many decades of advocacy and should be viewed as a tremendous victory.

Illinois’s same-sex marriage law took effect on June 1, 2014. Couples who entered into civil unions could convert them into marriage licenses backdated to when their civil union ceremonies were held. Those who chose to have a wedding could still convert their unions and have the new ceremony date issued on the license.

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court struck down all same-sex marriage bans in the country. Though same-sex marriage is legal, many laws still threaten equality for homosexuals in fields such as housing, employment, and family building. And of course, same-sex couples face the same difficulties as heterosexual couples when it comes to family conflict.

At Nottage and Ward, LLP, our Illinois family law attorneys provide quality legal representation to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples. We handle a number of legal matters that affect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. We also represent LGBTQ+ individuals on issues such as property division, maintenance, allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time, adoption, pre- and postnuptial agreements, and dissolution of civil unions and same-sex marriages.

We stay abreast of the changing laws that affect your rights. Please contact us at (312) 332-2915 to learn more about how we can help you.

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Services Provided

Nottage and Ward, LLP solely focuses on family law to help people through sensitive situations. Through tireless efforts and expert courtroom techniques, Nottage and Ward, LLP has defended the rights of family members since 1988. Our team of experienced attorneys offers immediate consultations and professional legal guidance.

At Nottage and Ward, LLP, we provide quality legal representation in the following areas:

Prenuptial agreements

We understand that the subject of prenups can be a very difficult subject to discuss, however, the challenging conversation can often build long-lasting trust in the relationship and strengthen the bond of marriage. Often, a prenuptial agreement serves as necessary financial protection for both partners in the relationship and a guaranteed insurance for the future.

A prenuptial agreement can be a valuable tool for opening lines of communication and strengthening your relationship before entering into marriage. This legal document is a written contract between spouses that is signed prior to marriage, and which typically designates how the couple will handle the division of money, debts, investment portfolios, and other financial assets should they decide later to divorce.

While these types of agreements are viewed by many people as unromantic and a signal that one or both spouses expect the marriage to fail, the truth is often the opposite. Couples with prenuptial agreements often find that their marriage is stronger because they took the time to clearly lay out who has control of what assets and provide security for the future.


Same sex adoption became legal when the Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage nationally. Though Illinois accepted civil unions in 2011, same-sex marriages only became legalized in 2013.

Since the historic movement, some courts have pushed back on the allowance and expressed concern that children raised in LGBTQ+ households can experience difficulties in personal and psychological development, self-esteem, and social and peer relationships. This regard made adoption more difficult for LGBTQ+ couples.

We can assist gay couples with the adoption process whether you plan to adopt your partner's biological child or go through an agency – domestic or abroad. We will ensure that bringing a new member into your family is a smooth, pleasant, and memorable experience.

Whether you’re adopting as a couple or as a single person, Illinois law states that any “reputable person of legal age and of either sex” can petition to adopt. The court implies that this also includes same-sex couples and has moved progressively towards LGBTQ+ adoptions.


Whether it involves heterosexual or gay couples, a divorce can be a heartbreaking, emotional process that is also legally complex. We will advocate on your behalf and work to get the best possible results for you. A divorce or separation usually involves a number of contentious issues including maintenance, child allocation, child support, parenting time, and property division.

Gay couples face additional challenges when it comes to divorce. For example, when dividing assets, determining how long the marriage existed can sometimes be difficult. The duration of the marriage versus the cohabitation of the couple can come into question when a separation is necessary and property must be sorted.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Our attorneys have extensive experience in LGBTQ+ parentage issues. Our goal is to ensure that your best interests and the child's best interests are served.

In Illinois, legal allocation is the term used to describe which parent or guardian has the right to make significant decisions on behalf of a child, often surrounding the child’s education, religion, extracurricular activities, and healthcare. Divorcing parents will need to establish who has the right to decide where the child goes to school, where and what form of medical treatment the child will receive, and more. Sole allocation indicates that one parent has the right to make these important decisions, while joint allocation means that both parents have a say in the decisions.


Divorces can be tough on a couple and during this sensitive time, conflict resolution is vital. Emotions can complicate a divorce and make an already intense situation harder than it needs to be. Nottage and Ward, LLP fairly moderates conversations and helps negotiate terms between separating couples so that each partner leaves satisfied.


Custody battles are painful in general and can be even more complicated with same sex couples. When it comes to determining custody in a same sex union, each parent must plead their case to the judge. The court then elects what is in the best interest of the child. Through mutual agreement and mediation, the parents can come to an agreement which can include equally shared custody or child custody favoring one spouse.

Domestic Violence

In a study conducted by University of Michigan, 46% of homosexuals have experienced some form of sexual violence, emotional abuse, or controlling behavior from an intimate partner. With this number being so high, it is imperative that you get the protection you and your family need. Nottage and Ward, LLP handles each domestic violence case with sensitivity while defending your privacy and we have years of experience in all types of family law.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are there lingering legal issues particular to LGBTQ+ couples?

A: One of the consequences of the legalization of same-sex marriage is that formal or informal relationships that began prior to the change can be affected. In particular, couples that entered into a civil union prior to 2014 who now want to be married cannot get a prenuptial agreement. They will have the option of dating their marriage license to the date of the civil union, which means that any agreement will go into effect after their marriage began. In such a case, a couple may want to sign a postnuptial agreement.

It may sound complicated, but that’s what a lawyer is for - to walk you through the process and make sure that you are fully aware of your options.

Q: Can LGBTQ+ couples be refused by an adoption agency because of their sexual orientation?

A: The short answer is that they shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, such discrimination does happen on occasion.

Several recent cases have protected the rights of LGBTQ+ couples. On March 31, a federal district court ruled against Mississippi's adoption ban on same-sex couples. Then, on June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court reversed an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling and ordered all states to treat same-sex couples equal to heterosexual couples when it came to the issuance of birth certificates. For all practical purposes, these rulings mean that adoption by same-sex couples is legal in all 50 states.

However, when it comes to international adoptions, these rulings do not apply, and other countries and foreign organizations may have their own laws against same-sex couples adopting children.

Q: How is Child Custody Decided for LGBTQ+ Families?

A: Though the Parentage Act allows both same sex parents to sign a child’s birth certificate, it can be complicated to determine guardianship after a divorce. With lesbian parents, however, the courts typically favor the biological partner. Both spouses can legally adopt the child and fight for custody rights. The court will grant either shared or sole custody based on the best interest of the child.

Q: What Are Grounds for Divorce?

A: The only legally acceptable grounds for divorce in Illinois is irreconcilable difference. Like heterosexual couples, homosexual couples must have their partner served with divorce papers and their partner must respond. The spouse filing for divorce must have lived in Illinois for 90 days or more.

Q: What is No-Fault Divorce?

A: A no-fault divorce is a situation where a couple separates due to irreconcilable differences but is not required to prove “fault” of either partner.

Q: Can I Change the Terms of Our Custody Agreement or Child Support?

A: Yes. If both parents agree to a change, then the court can adjust the terms of the agreement. If the parents do not agree on the modification, then one parent can file papers with the court and ask for an adjustment.

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Chicago LGBTQ+ Family Law Lawyers Protecting Your Rights

The LGBTQ+ journey has been a challenging one, but some significant progress has been made. Though same sex marriage and adoption rights have been granted in Illinois, there are still other challenges that face our LGBTQ+ community including custody rights, prenuptial agreements, and divorce arrangements. At Nottage and Ward, LLP, we understand that family law issues may seem similar for all couples. However, we also know that there are a number of important issues and concerns that are unique to the LGBTQ+ community. We work diligently to ensure that your specific needs are addressed and that your rights are protected every step of the way.

To schedule a consultation, please contact our Chicago office at (312) 332-2915. We are here to help you.

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Client Reviews

Five Stars5 Leslie has been the strongest representation I could ask for

Leslie has been the strongest representation I could ask for in a very complicated, emotional matter. She has continuously looked out for my best interest and the best interest of my son. She is always prompt in getting back to me and in keeping me well informed about my case.

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