b2ap3_thumbnail_mediator.jpgOnce you and your spouse have determined that you are a good fit for divorce mediation, you need to find a mediator who is a good fit for you. In order to find the right mediator for your case, you will need to do some research. Look up divorce mediators in your area and read their reviews online. Schedule a consultation with a few mediators to get a better sense of each of their approaches to the mediation process and how they can help you. Arrive at each consultation with the following questions prepared:

What Will It Cost to Work with You?

The average divorce mediation costs $7,000. That might sound like a lot, but compare it to the average cost of divorce litigation: $25,000 or more.

Ask your prospective mediator what it will cost to work with him or her before you sign a contract to work together. He or she should be able to give you a reasonable quote that you can compare with other mediators’ costs.

How Do You Conduct Mediation Sessions?

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Posted on in Child Support

b2ap3_thumbnail_child-support_20171102-005221_1.jpgIn nearly every divorce between parents, a child support order is part of the divorce settlement. This is the court order that requires one parent to make payments to the other to help cover the costs of raising a child. It is not uncommon for a parent to be curious about how the support he or she pays is used, especially if it does not outwardly appear that the children are benefiting from these payments. If you suspect that your former spouse is not using your child support payments appropriately, talk to your lawyer about potentially modifying your child support order or parenting plan. Violating a court order is contempt of court, and if you can demonstrate that your former partner willingly violated his or her child support order, he or she can face legal consequences.

Child support covers a broad range of needs. Basically, it can be used to help with any costs your child incurs for your former spouse. These costs generally fall into the following categories:

Your Child’s Medical Needs

One parent is required to include the child on his or her healthcare insurance plan. If this parent is the one who receives child support, the money received can be used to help offset insurance costs like copays and premiums. Child support can also be used to cover a child’s uninsured medical needs, like the need for over-the-counter medication.

Your Child’s Day-to-Day Care

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Illinois divorce lawyerNo matter how you approach your divorce, you will need to work through the division of your marital property. When you divorce through mediation, a neutral third party guides you and your spouse through each issue to be resolved and finalized in your divorce settlement. For many couples, the division of their marital property is the most complex of these issues.

Before you begin working with a mediator, talk to your lawyer about how you should approach your property division. You will need to be your own advocate during the mediation meetings, which can be confusing and overwhelming if you do not completely understand why a specific breakdown of your marital assets is in your best interest.

What Are Your Current Financial Needs?

If you do not make enough money to cover your home’s mortgage and property tax payments on your own, it is probably not in your best interest to fight to retain the house. In this scenario, you might see a much greater benefit by selling the home and splitting the profit with your former spouse. If you receive spousal maintenance, this could be a consideration in your property division. If you are a parent, your parenting plan could also be a point to consider when dividing your assets.

Think of the Future

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Yes. But you cannot officially establish your child’s parentage until he or she is born. In other words, though you might know who fathered your unborn child, that man does not have parental rights until the child is born and if you are not currently married to him or were not married when the child was conceived until he officially acknowledges his parentage or the court makes this determination.

It is important to note that although the term “paternity” is often used in this type of discussion, the Illinois Parentage Act contains gender-neutral language. When a child is born, any individual who was married to the child’s mother at the time of conception or birth has automatic parental rights to the child, regardless of his or her gender.

Prenatal Paternity Testing

There are a few different ways to determine paternity before a child is born. The most accurate method is known as Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity (NIPP). It can be performed any time after the eighth week of pregnancy by taking a sample of the alleged father’s blood and the mother’s blood and comparing it to the fetus’ DNA that can be found in the mother’s bloodstream.

Other methods of prenatal paternity testing include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.

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Illinois divorce attorneyDivorces occur between all types of couples for a variety of reasons. Just like no two couples and no two marriages are alike, every divorce is unique in its own way. But this does not mean that there are not measurable patterns and statistics that can help us learn more about which types of couples are most likely to divorce and why couples choose to end their marriages. Data from many different studies can tell us quite a bit about who is most likely to file for divorce and why.

According to a 2015 study of 2,262 adults in heterosexual marriages, women initiate approximately 70 percent of divorces. The most common reason for divorce is dissatisfaction with one’s marriage, which women are more likely than men to experience and take action to address by filing for divorce. This is not a new phenomenon. Women have been more likely than men to file for divorce since the 1940s.

Married Women Report Lower Levels of Marital Happiness than Married Men

The study reported that married women are more likely than their male counterparts to rate their relationship quality as “low.” Interestingly, breakups between non-married couples are initiated almost equally between men and women, so this is not the case of women simply being more likely to become dissatisfied in their relationships and choose to end them. Rather, there are specific demands that come with marriage that weigh more heavily on women, pushing them to seek divorce at greater rates than men.

Marital Dissatisfaction Largely Comes from an Unequal Division of Household Labor and Gender Expectations

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Posted on in Mediation

illinois divorce attorneyIf you and your spouse decide to complete the divorce process through mediation, you will work with a divorce mediator to reach an appropriate, equitable divorce settlement. Although many divorce mediators are lawyers, your divorce mediator will not act in this role. Rather, he or she will act as a neutral third party who does not work “for” you or your spouse, but for a fair resolution to your divorce.

The Mediator Is There to Guide You Toward a Fair Settlement

In mediation, you and your spouse work with the mediator to reach agreements about your divorce settlement. The mediator acts as a guide to these conversations, asking questions about your marriage and divorce goals and helping you and your spouse work through your disagreements. You and your spouse will negotiate with each other under the mediator’s guidance.

A Mediator Asks Questions to Provoke Thought and Gain Insight

Arrive at your mediation sessions prepared to answer questions. The questions you could receive include:

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Posted on in Divorce

Illinois divorce attorneyWhen you are facing difficulties in your marriage, do not jump immediately to divorce. If you and your spouse are willing to put in the work, you can overcome your difficulties and emerge as a stronger couple than you were previously. But this is only possible if you are both committed to trying to save the marriage and even then, sometimes it is simply not possible.

The following four questions can help you and your spouse determine if you can save your marriage. Your answers might surprise you – you could learn something new about yourself or you could find that divorce is the right way to go.

Are You Both Willing to Take Action?

You cannot just stand back and wait for your problems to resolve themselves. You also cannot expect your spouse to do all the work to repair your marriage, even if he or she was the one who cheated or committed another transgression. You both have to be willing to make changes to your lifestyle and seek professional help if necessary.

Are You Both Willing to be Honest?

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Illinois custody lawyerThe short answer is this: it depends on the child and the circumstances he or she is facing. Typically, Illinois courts permit adolescents age 14 and over to weigh in on their parenting time schedule. When a young man or woman expresses a well-developed opinion about his or her parenting time, the court will often consider it alongside other factors to determine an appropriate parenting schedule for him or her. But a child’s opinion cannot be the only thing the court considers, and it is not required to consider the child’s opinion if there are other, more significant, factors present.

Yes, but the Court Can Overrule Your Child’s Choice

When the court develops a parenting time arrangement, it creates the arrangement that it determines to be in the child’s best interest. In most cases, it is in the child’s best interest to maintain a consistent relationship with each parent. One parent could be deemed to be better equipped to care for the child, and when this happens, that parent generally has a greater share of the child’s parenting time.

When the court considers a child’s opinion about his or her parenting schedule, it must determine whether the child’s opinion was logically developed or if he or she is being impulsive. The court must also determine if one parent manipulated the child into voicing such a request in order to receive a larger share of parenting time or “punish” the other parent.

Factors the Court Considers When Determining a Parenting Schedule

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Illinois mediation attorneyWhen you decide to use mediation, rather than litigation, to end your marriage, you and your spouse can save yourself a significant amount of time and money. Although mediation is often “easier” than completing a courtroom divorce, it is not without its demands on the divorcing couple. You have certain responsibilities to uphold while you work through your divorce, which include the following:

Provide All Relevant Documents to Divide Your Marital Assets

Division of your marital assets will likely be the most time-consuming portion of your divorce. Make this part as straightforward as you can by coming to your mediation sessions with all your relevant documents handy. These might include:

  • A recent appraisal of your home;
  • Statements for your financial accounts;
  • Pay stubs;
  • An itemized list of your tangible assets and their values; and
  • Your most recent tax returns.

Acknowledge Your Spouse’s Concerns and Goals

Mediation only works if both parties are willing to work together. One of your responsibilities during mediation is to acknowledge your spouse’s position and even if you do not agree with it, validate his or her point of view. That is the position from which he or she is approaching the divorce and you, as the other party involved, must be willing to acknowledge this and work with him or her to reach an equitable settlement.

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Illinois divorce attorneyFor divorcing parents, talking to their children about the divorce can be one of the most difficult parts of the pre-divorce process. These discussions often include talking to children about the changes that will occur and stressing that they did not cause the divorce.

With adult children, talking about your divorce is different. You no longer have to worry about custody and child support issues or explaining the divorce in an age-appropriate manner. But you naturally still want to protect your children emotionally and continue to have a strong relationship with them, which can make any parent anxious about this discussion.

Their Age Does Not Mean They Need All the Details

When speaking to a young child about divorce, a parent generally leaves out all the details and focuses on the basics: Mom and Dad are no longer going to be married, they will live in separate houses, and you will spend time in both houses. As kids grow older, parents can fill in more details.

Do not assume that your child needs every detail about your divorce simply because he or she is an adult. Your child will ask questions and they deserve factual answers. What they do not need is all your personal details, such as why an affair occurred.

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Illinois divorce attorneyEvery marriage, and by extension, every divorce, is unique. Some divorces are resolved fairly quickly while others drag on for months, even years. Some couples divorce at the first sign of marital discord whereas others suffer for decades before choosing to end their broken relationships. For many couples, mediation is a positive alternative to the traditional courtroom divorce. With mediation, the couple works with a mediator to reach a fair divorce settlement through a series of guided discussions. A few benefits of mediation are:

Couples Who Mediate Retain a Greater Level of Control

In a courtroom divorce, the partners and their lawyers present their arguments but ultimately, the court has control over the final outcome. This is not the case with mediation. In mediation, the couple works with the mediator to reach agreements for each aspect of their divorce settlement, giving each the opportunity to advocate for his or her goals the other a way to negotiate them.

Mediation Saves Money for Everybody

Lawyer fees are expensive. Generally, divorcing through litigation requires individuals to spend a lot of time with their lawyers, often costing them tens of thousands of dollars by the time the divorce is finalized. Saving money makes the divorce process less stressful, which leads to other benefits like a greater willingness to compromise.

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Illinois divorce attorneyWhen one spouse chooses to leave the workforce to care for the couple’s home and children or takes on lower paying work than he or she would otherwise be able to perform in order to do so, that spouse may seek spousal maintenance, once known as alimony, as part of the couple’s divorce settlement. Spousal maintenance is designed to prevent a lower earning spouse from experiencing financial hardship following his or her divorce.

Permanent vs. Temporary Spousal Maintenance

In the past, it was far more common for one partner to stay home while the other provided the family’s sole income than it is today. Divorced individuals who stayed home during their marriages were also less frequently expected to reenter the workforce or enter it for the first time after their divorces. These individuals were frequently awarded permanent alimony, which ensured that they received support from their former partners until they remarried or their former partners died.

Today, dual-income households are the norm. Individuals who opt out of the workforce often do so with some years of working experience and may have vocational or college degrees. Because these individuals can support themselves after their divorces, they are generally awarded temporary spousal maintenance. This maintenance provides a “cushion” for the receiver, permitting him or her to complete an education or secure employment before having to financially support him- or herself completely.

There are some cases where permanent maintenance may still be awarded, such as marriages that lasted 20 years or longer or cases where the lesser earning spouse cannot realistically return to the workforce due to age or disability.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_domestic-violence_20170816-022611_1.jpgBefore you can divorce your abusive spouse, you might need to get yourself out of your home and into a healthy mental and physical state. You can do this by making use of the resources available to you provided by the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Use its website or call the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline to find a safe way to leave your home and reach your nearest victims’ shelter. Ending an abusive marriage can take time, money, and your mental and physical energy, but it is always worth it.

The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence

The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) is a nonprofit organization that provides resources to domestic violence victims throughout Illinois. These resources include grants for organizations seeking to provide resources to domestic violence victims, safety planning for victims, education and outreach for victims, and training for licensed counselors and social workers who work with domestic violence victims.

Orders of Protection

If you feel you are in danger of suffering more abuse by your former partner, use an order of protection to keep him or her from contacting or coming near you. To do this, file a Petition for an Order of Protection with your local circuit court. There are three types of order of protection available to Illinois residents:

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Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois mediation lawyerIf your marriage has reached the point where divorce is inevitable, do not assume that a lengthy court battle has to be part of your divorce. You and your spouse could be good candidates for mediation, which will make the divorce process less stressful, less expensive, and overall more empowering for you.

With mediation, a divorcing couple works with a mediator, a neutral third party, to reach agreements about their divorce settlement through a series of guided discussions. These discussions cover every aspect of the couple’s divorce settlement, such as the division of their property and how they will handle spousal maintenance. Often, couples who divorce through mediation report higher levels of satisfaction with their divorces than those who divorce through litigation. But mediation is not the ideal solution for all couples. When domestic violence is present in a marriage, mediation is rarely a viable option. Similarly, couples who cannot work together are generally not well suited for mediation. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if mediation is right for you.

Can You Work Amicably with Your Spouse?

If you cannot look at your spouse without wanting to punch him or her, mediation is not for you. Similarly, if you cannot discuss issues related to your marriage in a calm, rational way with him or her, you will not have a successful mediation. Mediation requires a couple to work as a team to determine a fair settlement, which involves putting their emotions aside to work toward the greater good.

Do You Trust Your Spouse?

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Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family lawyerIn the wake of recent political upheavals, it is becoming common to encounter instances when family law questions and concerns acquire an immigration element. Many U.S. citizens hold dual citizenship or are married to foreign nationals. Their children may also be dual citizens. Given that many issues seem to be unsettled, in terms of the new administration’s policies, it is important to be able to react to ensure your family is protected.

Immigrant Status and Family Law

In theory, immigration law is meant to promote the idea of family unity, but in practice, U.S. immigration law can often separate families of different citizenship. Federal immigration law controls where it exists, but there are many loopholes most often filled by imperfect or inexact state laws that are applied unevenly. For example, a battered spouse may apply under immigration laws to obtain a U visa or status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but it is state family courts and family law that govern domestic violence cases.

One does not necessarily have to prove citizenship in any country in order to avail oneself of the courts in Illinois; however, one must prove state residency to be able to dispute certain issues such as parenting time or spousal support. Without proof of state residency, Illinois courts have no jurisdiction to enforce orders regarding these issues. Marriage may also be a question, especially in the context of VAWA claims or allegations of fraud.

Divorce and Child Issues

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Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family lawyerIt is decidedly common for a noncustodial parent to be dissatisfied about the amount of child support that a court has ordered them to pay. However, this does not excuse them from paying it, even while a modification may be pending. If you are owed child support by your former spouse, this is referred to as an arrearage, and it must be paid, regardless of what other obligations your ex-spouse may have. In Illinois, there are various ways to collect on the debt.

Penalties for Non-Payment

If you owe child support and fall behind in payments without working out an alternative with your ex-spouse (or the court), the state of Illinois will be informed, and possibly federal authorities, depending on your location and the amount owed. If you attempt to disappear to avoid obligations, there are entities such as the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) which exist to track down deadbeat parents, and you may be penalized more for attempting to shirk your commitments. In extreme cases, you may be jailed under the Illinois Non-Support Punishment Act.

If you are located, there are multiple ways in which the state or federal government may obtain the amount owed (in addition to any penalties assessed for your failure to pay), including withholding your tax refund to put toward the arrearage or garnishing your wages. In Illinois, a program called the Family Financial Responsibility Act (known colloquially as the “Deadbeats Don’t Drive” program) also has the power to suspend or revoke your driver’s license until arrearages are paid. It is important to remember that these methods are intended to collect the back child support owed, while any penalties assessed on top of that may have to be paid in a different manner.

When Support Ends

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Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family lawyerIllinois family courts tend to follow guidelines and case precedent when issuing divorce decrees, especially absent any input from the spouses themselves regarding disposition of issues like parenting time. However, sometimes a parenting plan will need to be modified, and it is important to realize that there are certain requirements that must be followed before a change will be permitted.

Family Court Has Authority

The most important thing to realize going in is that only family courts may make definitive adjustments to divorce decrees - you are welcome to work out an agreement with your spouse as to parenting time or support, but these agreements do not have the force of law. A court will not abide by them unless you have these unofficial agreements added to your decree. It matters, especially if you and your spouse have a tumultuous relationship, because if you become engaged in a dispute and refuse to abide by your arrangement.

In Illinois, however, the law holds that unless the parties agree or there is found to be an immediate reason in the best interests of the child, any modification of terms may not be made before two years have passed. The rationale behind this is that unless it is a demonstrable emergency, it can be harmful to a child’s emotional and mental well-being to undergo too many changes to their living situation, and the arrangement arrived at initially must be given time to work before it can be amended.

Modifications If You Cannot Agree

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Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family lawyerDomestic violence is one of the most common issues in divorces, especially when dealing with parenting time questions. Because it is so commonly discussed and dealt with, however, many persistent myths have appeared on the topic. If you do not have the right information when you need it, you run the risk of missing opportunities or information that could help you out of a difficult situation.

MYTH: Domestic violence laws in Illinois only apply to mistreatment between spouses. Fact: The Illinois Domestic Violence Act explicitly states that the laws do not only apply to abuse between spouses. 750 ILCS 60/103(6) prohibits any abuse being visited on “family” or “household members,” which casts the net much wider. Past jurisprudence has included ex-spouses, roommates, co-parents of a child who lives in the home (not necessarily married), and disabled people and their caregivers under this umbrella. Essentially, as long as one or both parties to the abuse can demonstrate a relationship to the home, the law will apply.

MYTH: Abuse, for the purposes of charging someone with domestic violence, must be of a physical nature. Fact: As long as it can be shown that one person seeks to harass or control another person and has caused tangible harm in doing so, abuse can be alleged. Physical abuse need not leave bruises - if it causes harm or the imminent threat of harm, it is abuse under the law. Abuse in this context may also be emotional or even financial - essentially any act that seeks power over another person may be held to be abusive if evidence of intent and harm are presented.

MYTH: If you are an abuse victim, there is no one who must help you besides the police. Fact: In each state, there are many people who have, in their professional capacity, a mandatory obligation to report any suspicion of domestic abuse. In Illinois, the mandatory reporting requirement falls on medical care practitioners - any person authorized by Illinois law to “offer health care in the ordinary course of business” must furnish a suspected victim with resources on where to turn. They are also immunized against most (if not all) Good Samaritan actions.

MYTH: If you do not leave your abusive spouse immediately, it will be held against you when you later contest parenting time and support issues. Fact: It is becoming more commonly known that leaving an abusive spouse is not always possible, especially if one has children. To leave an abusive partner, one requires money and time, and given the controlling nature of most abusers, this may be very difficult to obtain. Good faith is generally ascribed to victims of domestic abuse unless it becomes readily apparent that this is misguided.

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Posted on in Divorce

Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois family law attorneyNo matter the circumstances, ending a marriage can be a heart-wrenching experience. Knowing when to call to quits is especially difficult, especially when you have invested a significant amount of time with your spouse. Some couples pull the plug at the first sign of serious trouble, while others may wait months, or even years, for the warning signs to appear. Even after those warning signs begin to surface, however, many couples have trouble letting go.

Knowing When Enough Is Enough

The key to deciphering if enough is enough begins with asking yourself if the bad has begun to outweigh the good in your marriage. This can be hard to figure out, especially when there is a plethora of good memories hidden between the clumps of bad times that continue to pile up. Ultimately, though, divorce experts believe one of the most glaring tell-tale signs that a marriage is in trouble is when the good times slowly become fewer and farther between. Taking it a step further, ask yourself if you have recently made any of the following observations about your marriage:

1. You can (and often do) envision life without your spouse - One big warning sign that your marriage is on the rocks is if you can clearly see, and often envision, what your life would look like if you were single, living without your spouse. Not only does it indicate that you are unhappy with your current relationship, it also highlights the fact that the intimacy you once shared with your spouse - including the sharing of feelings, thoughts, and desires - has dissipated. A lack in these areas naturally leads to distance, and distance is not necessarily always a good thing.

2. You feel your spouse has checked out - Many people who go through a divorce or are about to commonly report that they feel completely alone in the relationship, especially when it comes to whatever conflicts they are facing. If you feel an intense lack of support or feel your spouse has been absent in general, there is a good chance your marriage may be on the rocks. The old adage rings true: It takes two to make things work. If you are the only one working to solve the problems and repair your marriage, you may be fighting a losing battle.

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Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois family law attorneyFor both the custodial and noncustodial parent following a divorce or separation, understanding child support monetary arrangements is very important, as the arrangements affect both parties and the entire family, often for many years to come. From your personal financial standing and your ex-spouse’s paycheck to the everyday needs of your children, a child support order usually brings about significant financial changes for everyone involved.

How Long Does the Financial Obligation Remain in Effect?

In the state of Illinois, the lifespan of the financial assistance custodial parents receives child support depends on various factors. Generally, the state has some very clear guidelines that help clarify when child support officially ends. First, support is ordered until the youngest (or only) child reaches the age of eighteen or high school graduation, whichever last occurs, which is considered by Illinois law to be the legal age of emancipation. Second, the noncustodial parent may be required to make support payments for as long as it takes to pay off any past-due support. This means that even if the child reaches the age of emancipation, payments may still continue until all past-due support has been paid in full.

As the noncustodial parent ordered to pay support, when are you released from your duty? In short, each party's income, along with the number of children you have to support, will determine the amount you are required to pay, and you will be held responsible for those payments until your child is no longer a minor. An exception to this guideline is extended support, which may be ordered by the court in order to wait until the child graduates high school or turns nineteen. Any other exceptions or amendments must be clearly agreed upon in writing or addressed in the judicial order.

Additional Responsibility

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