A: First of all, I'm sorry you are dealing with this kind of problem. Not being able to trust your coparent to act in your child's best interests is upsetting, at best.
There is a lot of information we don't know about this situation. I would also encourage you to double-check the information you have learned about the vape, just to make sure it is correct. Who or what was the source of the information? When did this happen? Do you have the vape device itself? What circumstances surrounded her giving the vape device? Did she do other things to encourage or condone vaping? Further, have there been other recent incidents (i.e. within the last few months) where their mom has done questionable or harmful things?
Under Illinois law, parties to a family case can ask a court to restrict a party's parenting time or take other actions to protect a child where a parent has done something that endanger's a child's mental, emotional, or physical health. A court may be willing to grant you some protective relief in this case, assuming you can present adequate evidence about her giving your child the vape. However, it is possible there are other facts or mitigating issues involved in your situation that you did not share, so the vape by itself may not be enough for a court to grant relief.
Another alternative to going to court is to report the matter to the Department of Child and Family Services. DCFS can investigate, determine whether abuse or neglect occurred, and possibly require that the mother comply with certain services to correct any conditions they find to be harmful. In serious enough situations, court cases and temporary removal from a person's care can also take place. However, for the same reasons identified above, DCFS could determine that the allegation of abuse or neglect is unfounded. Also, DCFS involvement can go on for a long time and can subject an entire family to a great deal of stress. It is important to make sure that you are certain that DCFS involvement is something you are prepared to deal with before making that call.
Given how much we don't know about this, I would encourage you to consult with an attorney in person. They can go over the entirety of your situation with you and give you more focused legal advice. Good luck.
A: Under Illinois law, married couples can be held jointly responsible for certain debts that arise during a marriage, even if only one spouse signs off on the debt. Solely waiving your homestead rights would likely not affect or limit this legal rule. Assuming you or your family lived in the home your then-husband purchased, you may still be legally on the hook for the debt.
I suggest that you find the documents and court filings from your divorce case and review them carefully. The circuit court where your divorce was finalized will likely have copies in its archives. Hopefully, the final court orders (either a judgment or approved settlement agreement) contain language stating that your ex is solely responsible for the mortgage debt associated with the home. If so, that is potentially helpful to you. But if the orders don't say that, or if the company still refuses to address the issue for some other reason, you may have more problems.
You may want to hire a commercial attorney or family attorney to assist you. There could be other legal defenses or options out there that are not apparent from the facts you shared in your question. You should act quickly, as some defenses may have time limits, and your credit score will likely continue to drop until this is handled. Good luck.
A: I'm sorry to see you are dealing with this kind of sensitive and challenging issue. In my opinion, your girlfriend's biggest obstacle is that she entered a written settlement that the court approved. When parties make an agreed parenting plan, so long as the plan is not against a child's best interests, the court must accept it. The specific language of that written agreement is what the court is bound to enforce. Even if your girlfriend subjectively thought she would only have to take the kids to CCD classes, if the language is more broad or all-encompassing, she may have agreed to take the kids to Mass as well. Based on the facts you shared, it could be difficult for her to claim she misunderstood the terms or that she signed under duress.
It is somewhat concerning that the court completely barred your girlfriend from taking the kids to other churches, even if she also took them to regular Mass. However, without more details, it is not clear whether there is a viable claim that the court's order violates the First Amendment. An attorney with constitutional law expertise would likely need to review transcripts of the hearings and copies of the written filings to be sure.
If your girlfriend wants to challenge the order, there are a few options. First, if the order was entered less than 30 days ago, she may be able to either appeal to a higher court, or file a motion to reconsider asking the trial court judge to rethink their legal conclusion about the parenting plan. Second, if over two years have passed since the entry of the original settlement agreement, she may be able to file a motion with the court seeking to modify the terms of the parenting plan. Third, if the parenting plan has a mediation provision, following the steps in that provision and obtaining a mediator could be helpful for airing the disagreement with her ex-husband and negotiating an agreed modification to the parenting plan.
This situation will be difficult for your girlfriend to handle by herself. She should definitely contact a family law attorney local to her area for help. Good luck.